Agricultural society cancels Peterborough show due to dispute with city

A halfway round at the 2016 Peterborough Show. (Photo: Peterborough Agricultural Society/Facebook)

Due to an ongoing dispute with the City of Peterborough, the Peterborough Agricultural Society will not be holding the Peterborough Show at Morrow Park this year.

The annual four-day agricultural exposition ran every year from 1845 to 2019. It was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, hosting virtual events instead.

“At the start of 2022, the council looked forward to returning to Morrow Park again to host a series of in-person agricultural events,” the company said in a press release issued Thursday, June 9. “However, after repeated attempts to work with the city, we have been unable to secure facilities to hold the events we had planned.”

The company says it is moving events to other locations, including Kawartha Downs and Bethany.

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The City of Peterborough has approved the construction of a $62 million sports complex in the western part of Morrow Park, facing Park Street south of Lansdowne Street West. With construction due to begin in the fall of 2022, the complex is expected to open in September 2024, with 633 new parking spaces to augment the existing 594 spaces in the two car parks bordering Roger Neilson Way.

According to the company, it has “attempted to work” with the city over the past 18 months, including arranging several meetings with staff and council members.

“While we supported the future development of the park, we have repeatedly expressed concerns that the proposal does not adhere to the agreement signed in 2017,” the company says. “The park site plan does not take into account the originally negotiated requirement for facilities, including an area for a sand ring and an agricultural memorial.”

“It has become clear that the City of Peterborough has no intention of honoring the agreement. We repeatedly asked the city for a commitment, timeline and budget to address the items listed in the 2017 agreement and they failed to do so in the four years of the seven-year agreement.

An aerial view of Morrow Park on Lansdowne Street West in Peterborough, where the city is building a $62 million sports complex, including a two-skate arena and indoor swimming pool.  (Photo: Friends of Morrow Park/Facebook)
An aerial view of Morrow Park on Lansdowne Street West in Peterborough, where the city is building a $62 million sports complex, including a two-skate arena and indoor swimming pool. (Photo: Friends of Morrow Park/Facebook)

The company also states that it has encountered challenges, obstacles and “reluctance” from the city to allow the use of existing facilities so that the company can continue to organize educational events related to agriculture and to food.

“It has been discouraging and demoralizing for the group of volunteers who are passionate about promoting agriculture and food education.”

“We have a large group of young people and senior agricultural leaders eager to organize events, but we have been met with silence from the city in response to our attempts to plan events in Morrow Park,” said the president of the company, Viren D’Souza. “Despite our best efforts and the agreement we have with the city that provides for our use of Morrow Park, the Peterborough Ex is slowly dying at the hands of the city due to their unwillingness to meet our scheduling requests.”

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The Morrow family donated the 27-acre property to the City of Peterborough in 1938 on the condition that it be available for the use of the Peterborough Agricultural Society, which was reaffirmed in the Peterborough Act of 1984.

The Act states “that the (Peterborough Agricultural) Society, the Corporation (of the City of Peterborough) and the trustees of the RA Morrow Memorial Park Trust believe that it would be in the best interest of the Society and the Corporation that the property be conveyed to the Society to be used for park and recreation purposes and to be used by the Society as a display ground for an annual exhibition and other purposes…in perpetuity,” adding that if the terms are not met , ownership reverted to the Morrow family.

“The Peterborough Agricultural Society has engaged with the city in a positive and constructive manner in relation to the development of Morrow Park and the agreement between the two parties,” the society states. “Repeated requests at every stage were ignored, leading our council to believe the city never intended to honor the agreement and negotiated in bad faith. As such, the Ag Society will consider other options to ensure the agreement is upheld so that we can continue to fulfill the mandate we have served for over 175 years.

Amalia H. Mercado