BURK’S FALLS – Pipers, a colour guard and plenty of OPP and ministry brass kicked off the grand opening celebration for the Almaguin Highlands OPP detachment grand opening on Sept. 21.
Staff Sgt. Stacey Whaley cuts the cake at the grand opening of the OPP's new office.
Master of ceremonies, Const. Louise Maki, says that OPP first located in Burk’s Falls in 1929 at the intersection of Main and Yonge Streets. That building still stands today, however it is now a residence.
In 1972 the detachment moved to the property where it now stands and, in May of 2012, the new building was erected and the old one torn down to make way for a parking lot.
Allan Gunn, the assistant deputy minister of Corporate Services at the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, says it was his department that was instrumental in bringing this project to the communities in the Almaguin Highlands as part of the OPP Modernization Project.
“This is a great celebration to be a part of,” he said.
Gunn says he stood with Staff Sgt. Stacey Whaley overlooking trees and swamp, telling him that was going to be the site of their new facility.
“Surprisingly enough, he was a bit skeptical,” said Gunn.
Township of Armour reeve Bob MacPhail says the neighbouring communities rallied around the site after a difference of opinion surfaced as to where the station should be located.
“The communities lobbied heavily to keep it here. It was a group effort,” he said. “It’s still the hub of the Almaguin Highlands...it’s the perfect location.”
The current location, according to MacPhail, is centrally located in the detachment jurisdiction that covers South River to Novar on the Highway 11 corridor as well as points east and west including McMurrich/Monteith and Kearney.
“We all feel we have an excellent working relationship with all the police officers and all the staff here,” he said. “It’s our wish that we can continue working together to make Almaguin Highlands a safe place to live and work.”
OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis noted the number of retirees attending the grand opening celebration, stating that those officers made the organization the way it is today and adding that the OPP family relationship never goes away.
Lewis commented on the rise of the building and the impact construction had on the officers and staff working at the detachment.
“The folks at the old building could see it coming, they could see it rising and that brought hope,” he said,
Lewis said that new, modernized facilities were needed.
“Now you all have the space and resources to carry out your jobs efficiently,” he said.
“We are enjoying the fruits of this labour now,” said Staff Sgt. Stacey Whaley, highlighting the importance of the community. “You are very well deserving of this state-of-the-art facility.”