A Vision for Conserving the Former Millbrook Jail Lands
Old Millbrook Jail Lands Association (a program of the Baxter Creek Watershed Alliance)
January 21, 2022
The Township of Cavan Monaghan in Peterborough County is a growing rural community with a blend of agricultural lands and settled areas across a connected natural heritage system. Since the Millbrook Jail closed and was demolished, the local community in the Village of Millbrook has demonstrated a strong interest in preserving the 42 hectare (105 acre) property located within the settlement area for public use.
Early in 2021, a local group of residents with common interest in watershed conservation founded the Baxter Creek Watershed Alliance, a non-government community-based organization. The Alliance, in collaboration with the Kawartha Land Trust, shared an interest in protecting the former Jail lands and so founded The Old Millbrook Jail Lands Association, a stand-alone association of the Alliance, to establish ownership of the lands while keeping them as a publicly accessible urban open green space stewarded under guidance by the Alliance with a Conservation Agreement held in perpetuity by the Trust. It is the vision of the Alliance to see the significant natural ecological features of the Jail Lands conserved for future generations. The mental health and physical wellness benefits derived from publicly accessible urban open spaces has become increasingly important in recent times with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated lockdowns the public has endured.
The former Millbrook Jail property, located within the planningboundary of the Oak Ridges Moraine, is a singularly beautiful property with a diverse landscape of hills and dales, containing significant mature woodlands, pine plantations, springs, seeps, recharge areas, valley lands, cold headwater streams, open grasslands and meadows. It provides panorama views across the Baxter Creek watershed, the Village of Millbrook and over the neighboring diverse Oak Ridges Moraine landscape.
As the area of Millbrook experiences the implementation of a long-term growth strategy there is a lack of publicly accessible open green space within the settlement area that is in proximity to residential and built up areas. Ensuring there is adequate open green space to provide ecosystem services, natural heritage offsetting (e.g., reforestation), and critical environmental values in supporting the physical and mental well-being of the community is paramount. The forested area of the property is recognized as a ‘Significant Woodland’ in the Cavan Monaghan Official Plan and provides crucial carbon sequestration. The open grasslands are important for providing grassland bird breeding habitat – for several that are species at risk – and is also the source headwaters of a coldwater trout stream which is a tributary of Baxter Creek. This tributatary is monitored locally and has a record of Brown Trout as recent as 2021.
In specific reference to Ontario’s Provincial Policy Statement (PPS), protecting the Jail property will:
Preserving and enhancing this property and its ecosystem services, in a natural state, will also preserve the surficial geology of the Millbrook Well Head Protection Area which covers 74% of the property.
The property also has the potential for passive use that would have economic value to the community. The Cavan Monaghan Corporate Strategic Plan 2012-2014 suggests that the property has redevelopment potential. The Alliance’s vision includes the potential for publicly beneficial low-impact institutional or educational redevelopment consistent with zoning of the property in the Official Plan.
The opportunity to protect such a significant publicly owned property located within the settlement area of a rapidly urbanizing community, as an urban open green space and recreational conservation reserve for future generations to enjoy, will come along only once. Once it is gone, it is gone forever.
Entrance to the Old Millbrook Jail Lands (facing south). Image courtesy of Kirk Hillsley.
Copyright © 2022 Baxter Creek Watershed Alliance - All Rights Reserved. Baxter Creek Watershed Alliance (Corporation# 13483819) is a Canadian federal corporation entity registered with Corporations Canada, located in the Village of Millbrook, Township of Cavan-Monaghan, County of Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.
Created by the Baxter Creek Watershed Alliance.