2020 and 2021 have been challenging years for many in our community. COVID 19 has certainly made all our lives with family, friends and work look very different. The pandemic has without doubt created medical, financial and emotional difficulties for so many. Gravenhurst has experienced many challenges and opportunities during the past couple of years and the light at the end of the tunnel is definitely looking brighter.
Among the challenges the community faced during COVID were: no COVID assessment centre; no COVID vaccination centre; businesses struggling to stay viable; families and individuals trying to manage bills, food, unemployment, working from home, managing children with on-line learning; businesses trying to operate virtually; limited face to face contact; Ontario Fire College closing its doors; along with many other personal and professional challenges.
Although Gravenhurst did experience difficult times there were some significant highlights of our community working together:
- Gravenhurst Against Poverty (GAP) rallied many volunteers to help hundreds within our community dealing with financial challenges by providing food, transportation, etc.
- The District of Muskoka funnelling Provincial funding to organizations within our town
- Caretagian volunteers created to assist with food delivery
- Masketeer volunteers joining together to create over 3000 masks for citizens in our community
- Special Terrance Haight funding available through the Town to assist community groups
- Chamber of Commerce & BIA assisting members to get through some tough times
The first half of 2021 has seen some positive signs. The Town was able to pass both Operating and Capital budgets prior to the end of December 2020 with a slight increase of 1.5% on the tax bill for 2021 and survived the previous year in the black as a result of careful staff planning and with Provincial financial assistance. On the housing front, the demand for housing is greater than ever. Sales of in town and waterfront properties continues to experience quick sales and over asking prices. However, we are seeing some great housing projects develop throughout the community. Attainable homes are now on the market, two projects providing rental apartments, one with 236 units and another with 24 units and two other projects looking to develop condominiums and townhomes are on the horizon.
The Town continues to work with the District and the Province and look forward to finally having a new plan for the Muskoka Regional Centre property after trying for over 25 years. Unfortunately, with the Ontario Fire College closing we will once again be engaging the provincial government in a process to seek out a new proponent for the property.
In the fall of 2021, as the protocols for COVID 19 are reduced, the Town looks forward to opening our indoor facilities to the public once again. It will be great to see the community enjoying the renovated Library, performances at the rejuvenated Opera House, skating & swimming at the Centennial Centre, and returning to the many programs offered at the Seniors Centre.
We have all experienced so many challenges during the pandemic, but by working together Gravenhurst will see many brighter days ahead.
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