Bracebridge could soon be home to a scenic riverside gazebo above Bracebridge Falls, as part of the overall redevelopment plan of Woodchester Villa.
Tomorrow evening the Bracebridge planning and development committee will consider whether to issue a tender for a viewing platform on the Muskoka River. The viewing platform would be located east of Woodchester at the top of the river embankment and be positioned to overlook the Muskoka River and the lands above the Falls. It would be connected to the adjacent walking trail by an accessible pathway.
The motion calls for an upset limit of no more than 5% over the expected cost of $35,000. In January 2022, the Town received notice that a provincial funding application was successfully approved up to a maximum of $47,500. The viewing platform is just one of a number of upgrades to Woodchester Villa, expected to cost roughly $158,000.
The viewing platform will be constructed of pressure-treated lumber and feature railings and bench seating. A large White Pine has been selected to form the centre point of the 18 m2 wooden platform.
Built in 1882, Woodchester Villa is one of the oldest residences in the Town of Bracebridge. Its octagonal shape and picturesque location on top of a hill and surrounded by trees make this an iconic building that has been recognized for its unique qualities.
In 1978, Woodchester became a designated heritage building under the Ontario Heritage Act, and in 1981 the Ontario Heritage Trust secured a heritage easement on the building. Furthermore, a portion of the surrounding forest was donated to the Town as a public park, to permanently remain as a bird sanctuary and preservation area. These measures help to protect the Woodchester site from redevelopment but the building has suffered significant damage over the years, forcing its closure at various points.
The building was also closed for the past two years due to the pandemic but re-opened in May of 2022. Since that time, two events have been hosted at Woodchester – a celebration of life and a bridal shower, both held in June.
In June 2022, the Town’s new Collection and Events Coordinator began working part-time out of Woodchester to offer tours to the public, coordinate event bookings, and primarily, to undertake a review of the collection and identify options for its future use.
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