The Thunder Bay agricultural research station officially closed its doors as planned Thursday afternoon, but a deal being finalized in Queen’s Park may re-open it for at least the end of this season.
“While the details of a plan to keep the research going are still being worked out, I was assured that a call would go out from the minister [of Northern Development and Mines] office today that would provide verbal confirmation that the research station will not be shut down today,” Superior North MPP Michael Gravelle had announced Thursday.
He explained the ministry of Northern Development and Mines was acting as a liaison between the University of Guelph and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food, who run the station in partnership.
“The minister has been convinced that this is a worthwhile project which deserves to be maintained at least until the research that is currently underway is completed and yields results,” Gravelle said.
But by the close of the day Thursday, Gordon Scheifele, research co-ordinator for Northwestern Ontario and crop technology advisor at the Thunder Bay research station, had not received notification of any confirmed deal.
“Officially we are closed,” he said late Thursday.
“If this is true, then tomorrow [Friday] is a new day. If they have a deal, they would be re-opening the station,” Scheifele added.
Tannis Drysdale, president of the Northwestern Ontario Chambers of Commerce, said Friday morning that after talking to the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines ministry, to her knowledge no deal had been finalized though they still are working on the issue.
While he would be pleased with a last-minute deal, Scheifele said even if the University of Guelph and OMAF work out a short-term solution, some damage already has been done.
“We took two truckloads of trials to the dump,” he remarked.
Staff waited until the last possible day to destroy materials such as grain trials.
“It was devastating. It was material we could not process in time and we weren’t able to just leave it here because the mice would get it,” said Scheifele.
Other materials, such as samples from the hybrid poplar project, were carefully measured and wrapped so someone else could finish analyzing the data.
Preparing equipment, harvest samples, and the station for closure yesterday was a challenge for the three staff there.
“It has been emotionally exhausting,” Scheifele said. “This has been an unfortunate, tragic disaster.”
Still, he said with word a deal is in the works, he remained hopeful yesterday.
“It will be a new day tomorrow [Friday],” he remarked.