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Filmmaker producing a video about the Thunder Bay Conservatory (2 Photos)

Filmmaker Torin Gunnell supports the conservatory but says he wants to hear from opponents too.

THUNDER BAY — Supporters of Thunder Bay's Centennial Botanical Conservatory hope a new documentary will add momentum to their push to keep the facility open.

Freelance filmmaker Torin Gunnell wants to complete the 40-to-60 minute video in August, before city council meets again to consider the conservatory's future.

Consultants recommended last month that the 53-year old conservatory and production greenhouses be closed as part of a series of municipal cost-cutting measures.

Built by the former City of Fort William to mark Canada's 100th birthday in 1967, the Dease Street attraction requires an estimated $2 million to $3 million in improvements.

Gunnell was approached to take on the documentary project by the Friends of the Thunder Bay Conservatory.

"I was really excited when they approached me. I've never actually produced a documentary. This is not only a cause I care about, but it also gives me experience and time to refine my skills," he told Tbnewswatch.

Gunnell has volunteered to produce the video for no compensation.

He said he felt it was more productive to contribute the skills and equipment that he has rather than "planting flowers or signing petitions" for the conservatory.

"I feel it's important because it's a historical site in Thunder Bay. We need to keep legacy projects in this town," Gunnell said.

Raising public awareness of the significance of the conservatory, he said, is essential before council makes a final decision.

"Whether you're on the side of keeping it, or closing it for good, I hope the documentary will educate people on the good that it does, because once you close the conservatory, it's very unlikely we will ever get one like it again."

Gunnell added "We need to appreciate the little things in our community, not just the things that generate a lot of money."

Nonetheless, he stated, he wants the documentary to include a variety of perspectives, not only the views of people who want to prevent the conservatory's closure.

"We will have some people who are against keeping it open. Their thoughts will be shared as well," Gunnell said.

Individuals interested in speaking about their experiences at the conservatory and their opinions about it can apply via email to

Gunnell said respondents will go through an approval process before they are invited to take part.

"What I'm looking for is those who may have had unique experiences, maybe with some photos.  For those who aren't chosen, the best way is to voice their opinions in the community."  

He expects the video will open some eyes about the conservatory's role.

"I think when people watch it, they'll come to realize that there's a lot more history to it than they know, and it's a lot more than just the 'bubble' that everybody goes in to visit," Gunnell said, noting that flowers grown in the greenhouse are planted in parks around the city.

Gary Rinne

About the Author: Gary Rinne

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Gary started part-time at Tbnewswatch in 2016 after retiring from the CBC
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