New life for safety village?

Thanks to a new partnership, the Chatham-Kent Children's Safety Village will again host safety training programs for local youngsters.

The Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority and the Municipality of Chatham-Kent are working together to bring educational programs back to the training facility hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

LTVCA conservation lands and services manager Randall Van Wagner said it's still early in the process, but discussions are underway on how to go forward in 2023 at the 1.2-acre site located at the C.M. Wilson Conservation Area.

The idea is to expand the authority's outdoor education program next year, in addition to offering children's safety programs.

"This will be complementary to the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority's mandate," Van Wagner said, as well as providing educational opportunities for learners of all ages, while being a valuable resource for teachers and the community.

Van Wagner said the initiative will be reaching out to sponsors and supporters of the 20-year-old safety village that includes a main building with classroom and office space. The land where the safety village sits was donated by the LTVCA.

In the past, the village, which has close to 20 buildings, has specialized in providing interactive hands-on learning regarding safety and injury prevention for elementary-age children.

Many big names have contributed to the project over the years with both donations and training, including Hydro One and Pride Seeds, as well as Chatham-Kent emergency and fire services.

Van Wagner said the new committee will be reaching out to supporters and sponsors to kickstart the effort.

It's also hoped that visitors to C.M. Wilson can utilize the village, he said, as between 15,000 to 20,000 people visit annually.

Because of the impacts of COVID-19, the volunteer board that ran the village was unable to bring students in and subsequently lost its non-profit status.

Pam Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chatham Voice