There’s a whole community waiting … we just need vision to move in

When I started writing this column, I promised myself that I wanted this space to reflect the positive, exciting, pro-active side of life in the Barrie region. There are enough words and airwaves devoted to the negatives in our lives.

This week, I want to venture outside Barrie, to the north and the east a little, and let us all dream about what could be with some vision and effort. I’m thinking about the old radar station that lies near the village of Edgar. After World War Two, the radar station became Edgar Occupational Centre and by the province it was developed into a community of caring for profoundly intellectually handicapped adults.

Today it sits empty.

It is an entire community, with 55 homes and duplex residences, administration buildings, maintenance buildings, vocational workshops, recreation space, a swimming pool, church, health services location, and learning centre. There’s a greenhouse, a cable tv tower, walking paths, wooded areas, a ball diamond and tennis court. It is a completely secure community, with entry gates and an independent fire hall. Most of the homes are heated with natural gas.

Why couldn’t this marvellous acreage, nestled in the Medonte Hills, close to the Horseshoe Valley complex and its associated amenities, be home to senior citizens?

Economist David Foote, when he spoke in Barrie last spring, warned every school board and municipal official that the schools being built today should have every classroom plumbed and wired to become independent living units for seniors tomorrow as our Baby Boom bulge moves from middle to old age and its associated echo generation moves from childhood to adulthood. Since Canada now has the lowest birth-rate in the world (1.4 children per family), it makes sense that our real housing pressure in years to come will be that same population that has commanded attention since the first baby cried out at the first birth after May, 1945 when the war ended and the fighters came home.

Here we have sitting a complete community, capable of housing hundreds of people. It doesn’t have to be built. It doesn’t have to be re-wired or re-cabled. It housed for years adults in a community setting, in single family homes or in group residences, similar to our retirement homes with full service options.

What better use could be made of a facility in a county bursting at the seams with need for elderly residential care?

This facility has been operated for years by the provincial Ministry of Community and Social Services; in fact, it was this ministry that closed the facility. Is this not the same ministry responsible for care of the elderly?

I’m not suggesting that “Edgar” continue to be run by the public sector; I believe that a private operator would be interested in buying this and continuing its usefulness. Or, a cooperative of individuals interested in developing a “life lease” situation for elderly people wanting to make a move to a facility which will be able to provide them with independence while they need it, and dependent care when that becomes necessary. Sort of a “park and fly” concept!

It takes someone with vision to look at this facility and then it takes energy to join with vision to move this forward. I believe this makes practical, common sense.

How about you?