Prince Edward Heights
|Prince Edward Heights|
|Opened||1970 (Mental Facility)|
|Building Style||Cottage Plan|
|Peak Patient Population||456 in 1975|
The base at Picton originated as part of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. An airfield was built on a high plateau overlooking Picton and the Royal Air Force's No. 31 Bombing & Gunnery School officially opened in April 1941. Five bombing ranges were also created to allow the students to practice. Aircraft flown at the base included the Avro Anson, Fairey Battle, Bristol Bolingbroke and Westland Lysander. The school offered six week courses in bombing, navigation and air gunnery until it was disbanded in November 1944. After the Bombing & Gunnery School was disbanded, the Royal Canadian Air Force established the No. 5 Reserve Equipment Maintenance Unit at Picton. This unit was responsible for aircraft storage and maintenance of the airfield itself. This unit operated until January 1946 when its functions were absorbed by a unit at RCAF Station Trenton.
After CFB Picton was closed, much of the base housing was sold to the Government of Ontario. Originally run by the Ministry of Health, it was later transferred to the Ministry of Community and Social Services, and was named Prince Edward Heights. In June 19, 1971, the Belleville Intelligencer reported that the facilities could accommodate 1,500 people, and would be a "centre for the care of mentally retarded children." In fact, the institution dealt mainly with adults.
The "Heights" as it was known locally, at its peak was home to approximately 450 individuals with developmental disabilities, and employed just as many staff. In 1975, the institution held 456 patients, the most it would ever house (Intelligencer, May 7, 1992, in an article by Henry Bury). Robert Mackenzie, its first administrator referred to older institutions in Orillia and Smith Falls as "factories." In 1996, continuing efforts were made to close the place. Accusations were made that the government was dragging its feet. In that year, there were 240 residents and 320 staff members. The institution, with a payroll of $19 million per year, was the area's biggest employer.
There was also resistance to closing the facility, particularly from employees. In 1996, PEH contributed $102,000 in property taxes for the year (Intelligencer, July 24, 1996). With no large-scale support, the facility was closed in September of 1999.
A developer has since purchased the homes, renamed the development "Macaulay Village" and resold them as individual properties. Much of the main base also remains, with some of the original buildings in use for assorted industrial and institutional purposes. The airfield remains in operation as Picton Airport.