Picton Town Hall continues tradition of providing accessible, affordable space for community

Picton Town Hall. (Jason Parks/Gazette staff)



The upper level of the Picton Town Hall (PTH) is once again a hall for all, with affordable bookings now available to groups and community members who wish to use the historic space.

Already, the PTH has been used to house the weekly farmers’ market, attracting over 5,200 people this past season.

Currently, the hall is managed by a group of local volunteers with experience in community engagement, public space, facilities management and local issues. The Picton Town Hall Board of Management is appointed and approved by Prince Edward County Council. The Board is comprised of: Leslie Smail-Persaud (Interim Chair & Secretary), Marilyn Taylor (Treasurer), Laura De Vrij, Kevin Reid-Morris and Phil St-Jean (Council Rep).

“Our weekly Farmers’ Market has animated the hall by attracting over 5200 residents and visitors this year alone, coming from every ward of the County,” said De Vrij.  “This has supported nearly 50 County small businesses as vendors at the market!  As well, local storefronts benefit from the market traffic shopping and supporting downtown business. All in all, our analysis shows that PTH is positioned to contribute as much as $7.7M annually in economic and community value.”

HAVING A VISION- Local artist Tim Snyder draws a representation of Picton Town Hall during a Community Visioning session in January of 2018. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

Speaking with the Gazette, De Vrij noted the upper hall of PTH is a bookable community space and supports groups of all kinds that bring community members together, including BIAs, fitness and wellness classes, writers’ groups, youth gatherings, recreation committee, social support organizations, private gatherings and parties, remote working, small business sales and indoor markets. It’s a welcoming, affordable, and beautiful spacious facility that’s accessible for anyone looking for a space for their event or gathering, she said.

With COVID-19 as a stern reminder that the health and wellbeing of one is often that of all, De Vrij stressed the importance of maintaining the town hall as a public space that, in myriad ways, benefits the wellness of the community.

“Public space is key in reducing stress, improving mental health and wellbeing, and contributing to children’s development,” said De Vrij, quoting the 2020 United Nations Policy Brief. “The pandemic has revealed substantial gaps in public space accessibility, flexibility, design, management, maintenance and connectivity.”

Though dormant for several years, the PTH has been a cornerstone of the community since it’s founding in 1866. De Vrij pointed out that it has played a critical cultural and economic role in the community. From the days when the county was considered “Canada’s Garden Capital” and the hall was used as a farmers’ market to it’s use as an arts venue, the town hall has been an important local destination.

Situated not far from Main Street, on the corner of Ross and King Streets, the land was originally donated to the community by W. Ross, a former councillor, mayor, and MPP who requested that the land be used as a farmers market, explained De Vrij.

She is certain Ross’ original vision for the Picton Town Hall still holds true for the people of Prince Edward County.

“It serves as a vibrant resource and community asset for all who live and visit the county,” expressed De Vrij.

Currently, the PTH Board of Management is focused on three initiatives to help maintain and expand on Ross’ original vision for the space. As per De Vrij, these include: continuing to grow and operate a thriving farmers’ market, providing an accessible upper-level hall rental for the community and commercial use and providing a sustainable, vibrant lower-level occupant that is community-focused.

The process to look for a partner to occupy the lower-level has, reportedly, been going well with an announcement as to its occupancy to be made in 2022.

When asked why it was important to revive the use of the Picton Town Hall, De Vrij made note of the growing trend for public spaces to be consumed by private entities.

“We are at a critical time in history where public spaces are being sold to private owners at an alarming rate,” she emphasized. “What we fail to recognize is that value is not only measured in dollars. The value of a community that is engaged with each other through new learning and other activities cannot be measured in dollars but can be observed by its healthy residents.”

For contact, and other information, please visit: https://pictontownhall.ca/