A revitalization project to bring the Ravenscliffe Community Centre back to the vibrant and happening place it once was is getting underway.
More than 80 years ago, the historic building was used as a small schoolhouse for children who resided around the Ravenscliffe Road area. Over the last few years, interest in maintaining the building, which is in need of some repairs, has dwindled. One could easily drive by it and not give it a second look. It appears abandoned. But behind the scenes, a small group of like-minded individuals who make up the Ravenscliffe Community Centre Association’s board of directors are now working together to give the hall a new lease on life.
“We’ve done quite a bit of work there, it’s just as slow as molasses,” said board president Rick Keevil, a longtime resident of Ravenscliffe Road. “As a teen, I used to play the guitar at square dances that were held there regularly. The previous president retired and was looking for someone to help keep it alive… to keep it in the community and from being sold. So it’s sort of become a hobby of mine.”
The roof underwent a total repair around 20 years ago and is still in good shape. The soffit and fascia needs to be replaced as well as the ceiling and insulation inside the building. The centre has only a small kitchenette and no running water, but government grant money that is available “can be pretty widespread” for those upgrades. Downstairs provides perfect storage space for pressure tanks and plumbing equipment, and an electric furnace to replace the current oil one has already been donated. When Ravenscliffe Road recently underwent improvements, Keevil made a deal with the construction company to allow them to store their equipment and fill on the property if they put new gravel in the driveway.
“It’s better than it’s ever been,” he said.
Keevil indicated that the community centre is entrusted to Trillium Lakelands District School Board for community use. And it’s his goal to help ensure it stays that way and that it continues being used by the public to avoid it being shut down.
Hopefully we can prevent someone from taking it over or selling it. That’s my main concern, so it’s left to people. Ravenscliffe Community Centre Association’s board president, Rick Keevil
Keevil and secretary/treasurer Wanda Sawyer have been instrumental in getting the ball rolling on the project. Keevil recently hired an engineer to conduct an assessment on the state of the building who discovered that even after all these years of hardly being used, it still maintains a solid foundation. A new electrical system has been installed underground with a 200-amp breaker. A local company has agreed to donate time and materials for a new well that is needed, and a septic system will also be donated.
“We would like to put some washrooms inside which, of course, would be wheelchair accessible,” said Keevil, pointing out that the community centre has only ever had an outhouse located behind the building. “We put in an application for an Ontario Trillium grant, and there is money available to upgrade washrooms. We’d really like to have a meeting where we gather public input but the idea is to take the back wall out and put in a step-up stage, because we want to have more music there.”
He said he estimates the cost for the community centre repairs and addition to be around $100,000, a figure that is highly obtainable when taking into account the generousity of the local community. Bringing the hall back to life is something the entire community will benefit from. It’s situated on an ideal piece of property, with ample parking space, and is located within close proximity to town.
“We have about $8,000 right now. That’s enough to fix up what we have, go for some grants, and with donations of labour and time, I think that’s pretty good. We’re hoping that maybe for the addition, we could get some recycled brick to go with what’s already there.”
Keevil added a future goal of his for the community centre is to have an open dome structure with a concrete floor that could be flooded, similar to the one the Town of Kearney has, and used as a skating rink during the winter months.
The centre has a long past considering that more than 80 years ago it was a schoolhouse for the children who resided around the Ravenscliffe Road area. It then became a lively hall that was often used as a venue for weekly bible school and bingo, dances and benefits, special celebrations like family reunions, stag and doe parties, and even wedding receptions. Ravenscliffe’s St. John’s Anglican Church is a two-minute walk away from the community centre and, in the past, church members used the building and property for various fundraisers like bake sales, concerts and an annual yard sale. Last year was the last time it was used when hunter safety courses were held there.
“I’d be really sad to see it close,” said Lois Stead, who has been a mainstay of the hall for over 40 years and just retired as secretary/treasurer last year. She was instrumental in organizing the yard sales and church bazaars at the community centre.
“Back in the day, it was a popular spot. I know not much has been going on there lately, but Wanda and Rick are working on that.”
Anyone who is interested in learning more about the revitalization project, making a donation or becoming a volunteer can contact Rick Keevil at 705-783-9499.