Stories to watch
By Jenn Watt
Published Jan. 3, 2017
In Haliburton County, 2016 offered a relatively even-keeled year, despite fireworks on the international stage. In most cases, challenges were met with creativity and tenacity by residents. Many of the year’s biggest local stories give us a sense of what will capture our attention in the year to come. Here are a few of them.
Scotiabank to leave Wilberforce – The countdown is on to the closure of the only bank branch in the hamlet of Wilberforce. The people there were understandably livid that Scotiabank would leave for Bancroft, taking the convenient services with it. The township promised to take its money elsewhere and a group called People Before Profits searched for an alternative, perhaps a credit union. This year will reveal whether those efforts bore fruit and how the community will cope with the nearest full service branch 27 kilometres away.
Palliative care suite underway – A much-needed service in the community, the expansion of Haliburton hospital’s capacity to deliver end-of-life care is finally underway. Haliburton Highlands Health Services Foundation has done well to raise nearly all of the dollars necessary, but learned when the paperwork came in that more would be needed. (Donations would surely be appreciated.) This project started in December will continue to be a story in the year to come as strides are made yet again for our local health-care system.
Transportation – The quiet work of many came together in 2016 with the Ride Share website up and running and a recent transportation summit organized by a passionate crew. While there is no concrete plan (yet) for how to get the county moving, the fact that there is no public transit system will continue to hobble local residents in everything from shopping to medical appointments.
Pinestone changes – It’s been a whirlwind year at Pinestone with the new ownership, the Aurora Hotel Group, making plenty of changes. Last year, they announced they had purchased Wigamog Inn, which has been sitting empty for years on the shore of Kashagawigamog. No word yet on the fate of the building or plans. Perhaps 2017 will tell. (The Aurora group also owns the old garage on 21, which is soon to transform into A&W – another change on the horizon this year.)
Haliburton Forest – The huge outdoors business at the north reaches of Haliburton County gave us plenty to think about this year. From the dispute between the Forest and Dysart et al over building permits to the cancellation of the Forest Festival last summer to the biochar facility application making its way through formal processes, the Forest was one of the local newsmakers in the Highlands of 2016. This year promises more with ongoing discussion of biochar, the return of the Forest Festival and the exciting first-time appearance of the Winter Sleddog World Championship Jan. 24 to Feb. 1.
Dogsledding – Besides Haliburton Forest’s big race, this year we will also be cheering on Winterdance’s Logan McCready-DeBruin as he competes in the Junior Iditarod Feb. 25. Along with the local dogsled derby, we’re all going to be armchair mushers by the time this year is through.
Expect 2017 to bring plenty of our past to the fore. Not only is 2017 the sesquicentennial of Canada, Dysart et al is celebrating the same birthday. This weekend the municipality has a special party planned (see story on page 4) with another bash in the works for this summer.