North Grenville Council instructed staff at Committee of the Whole on June 11 to work with Kemptville Live to clear more space for the festival on the Kemptville College Campus.
Karen Bedard of Kemptville Live made a presentation at the meeting explaining that Kemptville Live is growing steadily and is in need of more space for the festival to continue to make the Campus its home. “We have seen a growth of 200 per cent over four years,” Karen told council. “If we want to sustain this festival in Kemptville, we do need a little bit more room.”
There is about an acre of land behind their main event field that they would like to have cleared to make room for the growing festival. Karen said that part of the area looks like it was a disposal site, and it doesn’t look like there is anything substantial there in terms of forestry. However, she did add she would encourage that an assessment of the area be done in terms of forestry as part of the process. “My ask of council would be to give us permission to work along with the board, to look for a viable proposal in how to clear the land and work on cost sharing to make that happen,” Karen said. “I think that making that land where it is a little more useful would be useful to the entire community once you have a master plan there at the college.”
Karen says that Kemptville Live hopes that at least part of the area can be cleared for this year’s Kemptville Live festival in July.
North Grenville CAO Brian Carre told council at Committee of the Whole that he sees no reason why council would not allow this to happen. “In fact, I see it as an improvement for the Kemptville Live festival but also for the community hub,” he said. It would allow for more green space on the campus and make it easier for them to care for a path that currently runs behind the property that has proven difficult to manage. “From the financials that Karen has presented with respect to the dollars spent in our community over those four days, it’s certainly something we need to keep in mind when we’re working in partnership with the festival,” he added.
A couple of residents voiced their concern about the clearing of the area at the council meeting of June 18. “What I am wondering is how well that piece of property, small as it is, has been studied? Are people aware of how rare some of the trees and shrubs on it are? What birds and small animals live there?” resident Michael Whittaker asked at the meeting. “I just felt that this thing was being pushed ahead and if the Kemptville Live is looking at another five years, what’s another year to wait? Or if it’s going to max out in five years, what is the point of clearing the property?”
Michael also noted at the meeting that there were several rare and native trees on the property, including the Honey Locust, a large Black Cherry and an American Elm. “And I am simply reporting back on the flora,” he said. “As much as possible should be preserved, conserved and protected.”
Mayor Nancy Peckford responded to Michael, stating that they have been assured that nothing will happen with the land without it coming back to council first. “We’ve received assurance from staff that nothing will happen without it coming back to us now that we recognize that there may be more biodiversity than we had initially understood,” she said at the meeting.
Mayor Peckford also stated that they have directed Brian Carre to get in touch with the Eastern Ontario Model Forest so they can get a better understanding of the trees and shrubs on the property and do some analysis before any decision is made.
Resident and local biologist Aleta Karstad echoed Michaels concerns, saying that she hopes that if anything is done, it is done carefully and thoroughly. “It would take more time than just doing some clearing this summer,” she said.
Aleta said that her and her husband, biologist Fred Schueler, would be willing to make a presentation to council about the plants and the trees on the property. “I think if you have the time and capacity, we can certainly consider it in the deliberations about next steps,” Mayor Peckford said.