By John E Walker
Presentation to Haldimand County Council re Court House Grounds as Parkland.
They dragged the prisoner from the Haldimand County Jail and marched him up the steps to the raw wooden platform. They placed a noose around his neck and tightened the knot. The excited crowd jeered and yelled. The trap opened. The crowd hushed. Just another hanging day in Cayuga on the Court House Grounds!
My presentation today speaks to preservation of our Cayuga Court House Grounds as a municipal park in Haldimand County
Imagine, if you will, the ebb and flow of our Haldimand history through the Court House Grounds from 1851, when the land was first deeded to Haldimand County, until today. Beginning with the erection of the original Courthouse, the CHG have witnessed the rule of law, famous trials, the administration of justice and punishment including a few hangings, canal horses on the Ouse River, registry and housing of deeds, many county fairs, militia and troop training and in the twentieth century a new Courthouse and additional buildings to house Haldimand’s history and the County Administration.
Successive councils over 165 years have honoured the Trust written in the original 1851 deed and kept this land only for public buildings. Until this current council.
In January, 2016, this council adopted a recommendation to consolidate and centralize services in a new building in Cayuga. To support this project, the present Cayuga Administration Building and property including lands up to the Courthouse were intended for sale.
In the October 2016 report “Accommodation Review Haldimand County Museum & Archives” by Craig Manley, it was stated that “The HCMA property is landlocked”. This was wrong and the error had a devastating effect on staff, council and public attitudes about the future of the museum lands. ITEM 4 on the original Accommodation Review stated, “cost implications …relating to the future …of the CAB property and HCMA property as one combined land parcel.
QUESTION: Will this council investigate, identify and discipline the staff member or members who were responsible for this devastating error and misrepresentation to the citizens of Haldimand?
Removal of all Buildings from the CHG in order to facilitate a sale became a priority. Hasty condemnation of the present admin building as a structure requiring exorbitant expense to repair, resulted in its being slated for demolition rather than repurposed.
The false reports of the museum and archives and log cabin being “landlocked” and a cobbled together “new cultural service” report permitted this council to approve demolition of the HCMA, CAB, and disposal of the 1835 log cabin.
On December 12, 2016, council in a vote 6 – 0 ratified the revised Accommodation Review Report PED-GM-10-2016. It stated in part, “The county maintain public ownership of PIN #0140 and #0144 (CAB lands and museum lands) for public purposes following the closure and demolition of the building on the lands in 2019.”
Note that this statement is contrary to the original deed and Trust. It does not refer to “public buildings”. In 2019 we would be in the same position as we are now. The County would still own the property minus the building and with no restrictions. If the county is serious about preserving the CHG as green space, repurposing of the existing buildings makes total sense. If the property is not for sale, why remove all buildings? The expense of demolition and remediation of the buildings footprints will be considerable.
Also, removal of the buildings opens the door for a native land claim to obtain ownership of this land. You can see the results of these native actions currently and in the past in Caledonia.
QUESTION: Will the council publicly state that the county will adhere to and honour the covenant in the original CHG deed to keep the land “In Trust for public buildings”.
These publicly owned lands have served as park and green space for citizens of Cayuga and Haldimand for 166 years. The Official Plan designates these lands as residential along with all other parks in Cayuga. However, while the CHG are used by the public and have been for 166 years they are not part of the formal park system or classified as a municipal park. They are not inventoried as parkland in Haldimand County’s Strategic Master Plan for Leisure Services and Facilities.
In the minds of the citizens of Cayuga and Haldimand County, these lands are now – and always have been – parkland.
QUESTION: Will council direct staff to immediately add the county-owned portion of the Cayuga Court House Grounds to the inventory of parkland in Haldimand County’s Strategic Master Plan for Leisure Services & Facilities.