The second of three consultation sessions on the development of the Trent Lands took place last Tuesday, January 29. Around sixty people engaged in discussion about how the lands plan should proceed in the development of the area. Donna Hinde, the project manager, expressed that the second consultation session was about reporting back information from the first session and building on previous ideas.

The Trent University Endowment Lands include around 226 hectares, or twenty-seven percent, of the university’s total land holdings in Peterborough. Participants were asked to sit around tables and work on the different development possibilities on maps that specified the areas to be developed. Table discussions were extremely productive and demonstrated the community’s interest in raising their voice.

One of the main issues discussed was how to enhance the university’s potential and activities, while at the same time accommodating the community’s interests and needs. The consultation sessions was also an opportunity for the organizers to get valuable ideas.

The motto “imagine the possibilities” has a certain imagery attached to it. It presents the plan as an engaging and adventurous endeavor in which we all must embark. However, the development plan is still at an early stage and the final destination is not yet visible.

The organizers have recognized that the current plan builds on a number of previous plans, including the Trent Master Plan (1964), the Peterborough Biotechnology Park Study (2004), the Athletics Master Plan (2004), and the Endowment Lands Master Plan (2006). It will indeed be a challenge to come up with a unified final version of a concise plan of action to undertake.
Some participants seemed anxious over the kind of development that will take place. The agricultural lands surrounding campus have been a focus for discussion. The presentation by the organizers showed many examples of sustainable development and sustainable agriculture.

In fact, the word ‘sustainable’ was used as a buzzword  and had contradictory meanings in some occasions. One of the main concerns was how to accommodate these agricultural lands and their interests with the needs of the community and the university.

The ideas presented relied on possibilities of sustainable agriculture. Again these were represented by images of eco-farms building upon “green” ways of producing. We must be skeptical when these types of words are used because they mean a whole array of different things, and when they are not used in a specific manner they could lead to confusion.

Other examples of “eco-villages” were shown as possibilities. For instance, places such as Dockside Green in Victoria, British Columbia, and the UniverCity in Simon Fraser, British Columbia were upheld as feasible scenarios. Other ideas included having research projects associated with the agricultural lands in which the university could directly engage.

Another locus for concern had to do with the scale of the development. Many participants were concerned that any development that takes place should do so in an adequate scale. The scale would be adequate as long as it did not disrupt the natural flow of the Otonabee River ecosystem.

For example, the organizers presented the possibility of building a hockey arena/community center, and the participants were concerned about the scale of such project. Every idea discussed had the issue of “proper” scale attached to it.

In addition, others were concerned about the connectivity within and outside campus. Organizers posited the need for a more connected environment between campus and the community. Many ideas around a walking friendly environment were also discussed.

There seems to be a general feeling of trying to take into account all interests and actors at play. The comprehensive way in which the plan was presented and the manner in which community participation was encouraged, demonstrates a desire for general consensus. However, will the development of the lands please everybody? Land issues have always been a center of tension when it comes to exploiting their benefits.

Exploring new ideas and engaging in productive debate is needed for the plan to succeed. General consensus will be needed to develop a concise and visionary project that takes into account everybody’s needs and interests. Hopefully, the three consultation sessions will provide valuable and specific ideas for the organizers to take into account.