Remembrance Day at Springwater Park

November 1, 2017

From Springwater Park’s facebook page:

Remembrance Day Ceremony All Welcome!
Saturday November 11

No parking admission required.
Assembling at 10
We welcome veterans and community groups or individuals to join us as we honour the Springwater Park Cenotaph for the Vespra Boys.
Please contact MC Wayne Cameron at 416.948.5637 or wl.cameron@sympatico.ca if you would like to play a role in the day.

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Dr. John Bacher urges Ontario to increase thier influence on Conservation Authorities to stop wetlands destructions.

October 20, 2017

An exceptional article from Dr. John Bacher on the threat that the Midhurst Secondary Plan poses to the Minesing Wetlands and all of Ontario’s great wetlands

Sierra Club of Canada
October 19, 2017

The struggle to protect Ontario’s Great Wetlands show a need to restore provincial appointments to Conservation Authority Boards
Dr. John Bacher

Conservation Authorities since 1946 have played a major role in protecting Ontario’s landscape from deforestation and consequently, rescuing the province from the blights of desertification and flooding… Since changes in 1996 which made municipal councils responsible for the appointment of conservation authority boards, they have been weakened to the threats caused by urban sprawl over critical wildlife habitat.”

The struggle to rescue two of Ontario’s great wetlands shows the need to restore provincial oversight over our conservation authority boards. This removal previously ensured by the appointment of the chair and four other members to conservation authority boards was one of the worst excesses of the “common sense” revolution of Premier Mike Harris. This change needs to be reversed, along with new provisions in the Conservation Authorities Act to provide for an interim provincial supervisor of boards if found necessary by the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.

Over the next few weeks the Ontario Legislature’s Committee on Social Policy will be debating the proposed government legislation to reform Conservation Authorities and the Ontario Municipal Board,  contained in Bill 139, the Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act. What is most significantly missing in the government’s proposals are provisions to restore a measure of provincial supervision over authorities. The need for such measures is vividly witnessed by the struggle to save the Thundering Waters Forest in Niagara and the Minesing Wetlands near Midhurst, in Simcoe County.

Conservation Authorities since 1946 have played a major role in protecting Ontario’s landscape from deforestation and consequently, rescuing the province from the blights of desertification and flooding. Since changes in 1996 which made municipal councils responsible for the appointment of conservation authority boards, they have been weakened to the threats caused by urban sprawl over critical wildlife habitat.

Battle #1: Fighting urban sprawl Minesing Wetlands, Simcoe County
The Minesing Wetlands are frequently called Canada’s Everglades. They are full of amazing wildlife. Unusual species found here include the gigantic Lake Sturgeon, the once endangered Trumpeter Swan, and the threatened Wood Turtle.

There is an endangered species in Minesing Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly, which is found nowhere else in Canada. It is a vernal pool obligate species. In this regards it is similar to the Spring Peepers, Chorus Frogs and Wood Frogs which explode every spring in Minesing in their mating chorus.

The Minesing wetlands are threatened by urban sprawl onto prime farmland around them adjacent to what is now the small village of Midhurst in Springwater Township. The proposed expansion of the village by 30,000 people threatens Minesing with a cesspool of sewage.

The staff of the Nottawsaga Conservation Authority bravely tried to stop sprawl around Midhurst. This resulted in the firings through the municipally controlled board of the General Manager, Wayne Wilson (who had served for 23 years) and a Patti Young, a senior planner.

Battle #2: Fighting development in Thundering Waters Forest, Niagara
Similar battles caused by municipal politicians bullying conservation authority staff are witnessed in Niagara over the 483 acre Thundering Waters Forest. Much like Minesing, most of the wetland is a swamp forest, which in springtime explodes in a musical frog mating chorus. Recently a recent sit-in part of the wetland which still remains vulnerable to development discovered a threatened beautiful prairie wildflower, Dense Blazing Star.

I explained the terrible treatment of the staff of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) in a brief I recently delivered on behalf of the Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society. This was set out a brief to the Ontario legislature’s Committee on Social Policy, concerning Bill 139. In my brief I stressed the crucial work of NPCA staff in securing the protection of the Thundering Waters Forest in a wetland evaluation that went on from 2008 to 2010. This triggered the massive firing of staff by the directors of the conservation authority.

It is a crucial time to send a clear message to the Ontario government and legislators of all parties. This is to amend Bill 139 in two ways – 1. Restore provisions for five provincially appointed conservation authority board members, one of which should be the Chair; 2. The other is to give the provincial government the power to have interim supervisors manage conservation authorities.

This article was written by Dr. John Bacher, Greenbelt Campaign leader at Sierra Club Ontario, and a member of the Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society (PALS). This article appeared on the Sierra Club Canada Foundation site, Yvonne Siew Ching Ho, Ontario Chapter Coordinator http://www.sierraclub.ca/en/provincial-appointments-ca-boards

Blog image is a photo of a wetland in the Thundering Waters Forest in Niagara Region, obtained from The Media Co-op website.


Is the Angus Tree Seed Facility to be sold to developers by the Ontario government?

September 26, 2017

The plan was to sell off Springwater Provincial Park for residential development when it was made inactive in 2012.

That’s what the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, MNRF wanted to do in 2012. (rationale) The MNRF is the ONLY ministry that can sell crown land.

 

Same plan, different redeemed wasteland.

BTW: who do you think ensured the quality of the trees that were planted in the 192 ha of Springwater Park and  the 32,000 acres of Simce County forests?

 


Tree-seed collection going to private sector, Anne Learn Sharpe

September 25, 2017

Another forestry cultural jewel is being closed down.

The Barrie Examiner
September 22, 2017

Tree-seed collection going to private sector
Anne Learn Sharpe
Opinion

After 94 years, our provincial government is closing the doors of the Ontario Tree Seed Facility. Why now?

When the Tree Seed Plant was opened in 1923, it was a key part of an ambitious reforestation project in Ontario. The 19th-century lumber industry left acres of stumps and slash that farmers burned to plant crops. With the trees gone, water sources disappeared, soil turned to blow-sand, easily eroded by wind and rain.

A group of far-sighted foresters, politicians, civil servants and farmers pushed forward a long-term tree planting agenda that repaired the devastation and resulted in the Ontario Tree Seed Plant, the Midhurst Tree Nursery, Simcoe County Forests and the planting of two billion trees in Ontario. That’s quite a legacy.

But the challenges that faced those conservationists are still with us. Deforestation continues, due to development pressures and some agricultural practices. Climate change is escalating. With their capacity to store carbon as well as water and to moderate temperature, trees and forests are essential mitigators of climate change.

In 2018, the Ontario government plans to leave tree-seed collection to the private sector. If there is a business plan in place for this transfer, it hasn’t yet been made public.

Tree-seed collection is not a high-profit enterprise. A network of collectors from across the province must be trained to find quality seeds from healthy trees. At the Ontario Tree Seed Facility, exact temperature, humidity and timing must be maintained in each of the stages of processing seeds. Some of the equipment is industrial seed processing machinery and some has been adapted by longtime employees over many years.

This kind of experience can’t be transferred in a year.

Local tree nurseries are concerned about the continuity and quality of their seed supply and storage capacity to compensate for lean years. They have good reason. Will the private sector be able to provide the same consistent and professional service? Is that possible in a for-profit scenario?

Municipal officials were surprised by the closure announcement; the community and stakeholders were not consulted.

Have the impacts been assessed and a transition plan formulated? Have expanded uses for the facility been explored? And what will happen to the beautiful grounds planted with specimen native trees and shrubs?

The Ontario Tree Seed Facility is a positive legacy from politicians who acted for the long-term public good. Its closure would mark an abandonment of those principles.

Anne Learn Sharpe

Is there any provincial politician with ties to Simcoe County that cares two-hoots about trees?


Canada’s Largest First Nations newspaper and the Midhurst sprawl plan’s “junk science”.

June 20, 2017

Ontario continues to encourage Simcoe County as the “wild west of development/sprawl”.

Free download here.

First Nations Drum
April 1, 2017

 

Ontario Planner Struggles to Save Huron-Wyandot Homeland

By Dr. John Bacher (PhD) & Danny Beaton (Mohawk, Turtle Clan)

Opinion

The Turtle Island region of Huronia – otherwise known by its archaic colonial name of Simcoe County – is under environmental assault by urban sprawl. A blockade to stop Dump Site 41, the occupation of Springwater Provincial Park, and sacred water walks along the shores of Lake Simcoe are tactics being used to rescue the traditional territories of the Huron-Wyandot.

Victor Doyle is a senior planner with the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, (OMMAH) and is inspired by the earth-respecting spiritual actions of various Ojibway communities and their many Mohawks allies. Doyle has been with OMMAH for three decades and is at the epicenter of ongoing battles to protect this sacred land with his fighting for provincially-directed land use planning to rescue wildlife, farms, forests and water from human greed.

Doyle’s most avid opponents are twofold – corporations, and the powerful minions of developers who run Simcoe County (politicians). Doyle’s determination to stand up against their pressure has earned him their enmity. One such politician is former Mayor Doug White of West Gwillimbury, who as far back as 2010 dismissed Doyle’s defense of Ontario’s land use policies as the mere rantings of “one unelected provincial bureaucrat.”

Waawaasaegaaming (Lake Simcoe) Water Walk 2015, The Narrows, Orillia, ON. Photo by Les Stewart

Chief Planner of Toronto, Jennifer Keesmaat, has made Doyle the public voice on the issue, commanding media attention on the research of agronomists, foresters, conservation biologists, land use planners, hydrologists and municipally-controlled conservation authorities. Though no official title accompanies Doyle’s point-man position, his stature and prominence should be effective in forestalling or preventing further encroachment.

Two brave conservationists, Wayne Wilson and Patti Young, are no longer with the Nottawasaga Conservation Authority due to their opposition to urban sprawl from the booming City of Barrie spilling over into its watershed and into the community of Midhurst in Springwater Township. In 2014, both Wilson and Young departed under the guise of an NVCA “efficiency audit.” Young vacated her position first with Wilson following suit.

While such relatively obscure figures cannot get the media’s attention, Doyle’s warnings about violations of provincial land use policy ravaging Huronia have been published in two of Canada’s leading newspapers, the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail. Doyle’s first warnings about Huronia appeared in the December 12, 2009 edition of the Toronto Star. The newspaper characterized his warnings as “a damming memo from Ontario’s senior planner” that paints “a stark picture of unsustainable sprawl, congestion and skyrocketing infrastructure costs if the province proceeds with a controversial strategy to urbanize large swaths of Simcoe County north of the Greenbelt.”

Waawaasaegaaming (Lake Simcoe) Water Walk 2015, Tudhope Park, Orillia, ON. Photo by Les Stewart

When penning his 2009 warnings, Doyle worried about schemes promoted by corporations to turn the small hamlet of Bond Head, a village of 500 people served by septic tanks, into a city of 114,000 persons. This threat still endures, although now in a more modest scale of a 30,000 hectare proposal. A new danger emerging is the construction of 10,000 housing units in Midhurst. The biggest problem posed by this development is the polluted runoff spilling into Willow Creek, which is a major source of water flowing into the Minesing Wetlands. The wetlands are an important refuge for rare, endangered and ecologically significant wildlife including the endangered Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly, Sturgeon, Bald Eagle, Trumpeter Swan, Sandhill Crane, Blue Winged Warbler, and various turtles.

As Doyle took to writing his second citizen report this spring, Ontario’s land use planning system’s “Co-ordinated Review” appeared to be on the brink of collapse. A freeze on urban boundary expansions – a key principle of both the Greenbelt and the Lake Simcoe Protection Plan – was under attack by media, developers and municipalities.

The Toronto Globe and Mail provided a link to Doyle’s full 27 page report titled “The Growth Plan and the Greenbelt Plan: Settling the Record Straight” where he vigorously defends urban boundaries. This led to a modest expansion of the Greenbelt on urban river valleys and on grape and fruit tree growing lands in Grimsby. While “Setting the Record Straight” saved the Greenbelt, it has not yet rescued Huronia. The warnings in the report do show why Midhurst, Bond Head and all of its remaining rural land need the protection of the Greenbelt.

Nonsense used to justify the urbanization of Willow Creek, such as the claim urbanization does not harm streams, is junk science, and has been refuted by Doyle using data from the watershed report cards assembled by conservation authorities. Using a study by the Credit River Conservation Authority, Doyle demonstrates how surface water in urbanized areas is always rated, “Very Poor” or “Poor” and explains that damaged watersheds are without any native fish, turtles or frogs.

Doyle said the main threat posed to Minesing Wetlands wildlife refuge from urban sprawl is “the major issue of habitat loss, which, in turn, is the key loss of bio-diversity.” Doyle warns refusal to extend the Greenbelt into Simcoe County is causing a mass sale of farms purchased by land speculators. His report states, “development interests continue to be speculatively buying or securing huge land assemblies tens of thousands of acres beyond the green belt.” The speculation in Simcoe County has led to farmland to commonly sell for $54,000 dollars an acre. In contrast, in the better regulated Waterloo region, farmland cost $14,000 an acre.

Doyle’s report illustrates the necessity of the struggle to protect Huronia inside the Greenbelt – a struggle made more difficult by the hostility we received while walking around Lake Simcoe with Ojibway environmental leaders in the “Walk for the Water.” My experience includes a driver of an animal control vehicle angrily scowling at us for taking a rest near a bicycle trail.

Those in Huronia that care for the earth should not be treated with contempt, but with the honor given to one standing-up for the sake of the entire community and the life web supporting it. The province must rescue Huronia by extending the Greenbelt.

The province must rescue Huronia by extending the Greenbelt.

Dr. Bacher and Elder Beaton continue on our Advisory Council.

Originally re-posted on iLoveMidhurst.ca.


Sacred Farmland/Aquifers article: The Midhurst Secondary Plan = monstrous developers’ greed + ecocidal idiocy

June 3, 2017

Part 1 AND 2 of a devastating critique of this grotesque sprawl proposal in Simcoe County.

Danny Beaton John Bacher Niagara

An excellent summary published by the Springwater News (p. 6) of the lunacy of the Midhurst Secondary Plan: a desecration of Mother Earth and her creation. Click here for a free pdf download.

Sacred Farmland/Aquifers

Elder Danny Beaton and Dr. John Bacher

Few Canadians know or appreciate the watershed of Midhurst’s Willow Creek, which while marvelous in itself as a wildlife migration corridor and a template for wise ecological recovery, is even more important for its downstream outlet, the Minesing Wetlands. The Minesing Wetlands provides a sense of the beauty and sacredness of an environment guarded by native peoples since the retreat of glaciers over 10,000 years ago. This wonder, however, is now at risk from the massive urban sprawl blessed by the monstrosity called the Midhurst Secondary Plan. The Willow Creek watershed is on the eve of becoming the focal point for bitter battles over subdivision proposals at the Ontario Municipal Board. (OMB)

The Minesing Wetlands which Willow Creek feeds is Ontario’s Lost World. The famous fictional book and movie, which imagined explorers deep in the Amazon discovering giant species from a distant past, approximates the reality of this 6,000 hectare refuge for native species. It gives a glimpse of what Ontario was like before the ecocidal invasion of what is now our province by Euro-Canadians.

The word Minesing in Ojibway language means island. This illustrates how it is a haven for wildlife in a denuded and biologically sterile environment, at risk of being washed over by shock waves of urban sprawl unleashed by a storm of developers’ greed.

Minesing is the last home for entire ecological communities in Ontario, such as the Burr Oak and Hackberry swamp forests. Such ecosystems are a refuge for rare plants as the Beaked Spice-Bush and the Eastern Prairie and White Fingered Orchids. Minesing has southern Ontario’s largest Fen, providing refuge for the rare Least Bittern. Its large expanse of forest makes it a breeding home for the Threatened Cerulean Warbler. Careful documentation has found that 135 species of birds nest in the Minesing Wetlands.

The Minesing Wetlands provides nesting places for some of the most spectacular birds to be found in Ontario, such as the Bald Eagle, Trumpeter Swan and Sandhill Crane. The two heronies of this refuge are the oldest documented breeding grounds for the Great Blue Heron in Ontario. Minesing has a breeding colony for the threatened Black Tern. One of the biggest and most threatened fish in Ontario, the Lake Sturgeon, swims through the wetlands. While the Snapping and Painted Turtle are abundant here, it is also a refuge for threatened Wood, Map and Blanding’s Turtle. It is a staging post for the return of the river otter to southern Ontario. It mingles with another restored shaper of wetlands, the beaver, and the muskrat.

While the big birds, fish, reptiles and mammals of the Lost World of Minesing are impressive, the glory of the wildlife refuge is its being a haven for threatened insects. The wetland is so vast and formidable that it was never burnt out and subsequently farmed, like the ecologically restored, but originally once desertified landscape of Willow Creek around Midhurst. Now insects are threatened by agricultural pesticides. These are not used in a refuge which is controlled by public agencies and the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Minesing is haven for the rare Giant Swallowtail Butterfly. It is the largest Butterfly that lives in Canada. It is most significant for being the only place in Canada where an Endangered Species, Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly lives. It was thought to have been extirpated from Canada, but was discovered here in 2007 and listed as Threatened in 2012. It is also Endangered in the United States. The nearest population of this species is 180 kilometres away in Michigan.

Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly endangered status in both the United States and Canada is illustrative of the idiocy of European colonization and exploitation. This did not take place through the rigours of contemporary environmental reviews. It survived in Minesing since the tough wetland was too difficult and wet to be burned away, like the surrounding source contributor of Willow Creek. Its forest were burned away for ashes to make soap. The species has quite exacting needs for its survival. These were only discovered in recent decades by scientists working to rescue the shining emerald green dragonfly from extinction.

Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly is what scientists in the last forty years have become to appreciate as a vernal pool obligate species. Vernal pools are specialized environments that dry up usually by August. They provide habitat for tree frog species, such as Wood and Spring Peeper Frogs, which in the early spring, turn Minesing into an astonishing symphony of musical calls. During the late summer when the pools usually dry up, Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly survives by crawling into damp excavations made by crayfish.

The Willow Creek watershed that pours its flow into Minesing, had its population of Hine’s Emerald dragonfly wiped out by Euro-Canadian invaders. By 1900 most of the land here had been stripped of forests and degraded to marching sand dunes that threatened to bury Barrie, as they had done to an earlier seat of Simcoe County, Angus. However, through determined political leadership, guided by expert scientific advice. this was reversed. The lessons of history are now being ignored however. The watershed of Willow Creek, once buried by sand from burning trees, is now at risk of being covered
over by the cement of sprawl.

In October of 1905 the future Premier of Ontario, Ernest Drury, and the future Chief Forester of Ontario, Edmund Zavitz, went on a tour of the sand dunes of Simcoe County. While walking through the desert they came upon an important contributor to Willow Creek, a bubbling spring. With an abundant aquifer of pure clean water, similar to that which spawned the struggle to stop Dump Site 41, lead by Danny Beaton, (Mohawk Turtle Clan) Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians, Stephen Odgen and Elizabeth May, they decided that the spring provided an excellent place for a tree nursery to reforest the spreading desert. This nursery eventually become the 192 hectare Springwater Provincial Park. The park became a staging place for the reintroduction of the Trumpter Swan and Beaver, which now restored, thrive in nearby Minesing.

The battle to rescue Springwater Provincial Park from closure is illustrative of the difficult struggle ahead to stop sprawl in Midhurst. Following closure a year round Objiway struggle led by Beth Elson of occupation followed. It eventually, successfully resulted in the park being reopened under an arrangement between the provincial government and the Beausoleil First Nation.

Springwater Park is only one example of how Willow Creek watershed has benefitted from one of the most massive efforts at ecological restoration in Ontario. It has 21 Simcoe County Forests, which restored 2,039 hectares of blow sand wastes. The forested corridor along Willow Creek is substantial enough to provide a migration corridor for daring bear and moose to enter Minesing. This corridor could expand if it was properly protected from sprawl. The landscape is now an excellent example of how nature and agriculture can co-exist well, with an astonishing mosaic of Class One farmland and interconnected and slowly growing forests. The forests are especially thick in protecting Willow Creek and its tributaries.

The wonders of the struggles of ecological protection and restoration of the past are now threatened by the sinister prescriptions of the Midhurst Secondary Plan. As it stands currently, the plan calls for the construction of 10,000 housing units enough for 30,000 people, on +1,000 acres of the Class One and Two farmlands in the Willow Creek watershed. This will have an enormous environmental impact. Storm water will be dumped, laced with road salt, oil and other toxins into Willow Creek and eventually into Minesing. Building on top of the aquifer that provides recharge water discharged into the Minesing wetland, will also help to dry it up.

The struggle that stopped Dump Site 41 gives an appreciation of the magnitude of the effort to rescue Willow Creek and Minesing. The public servants who attempt to guide the provincial politicians with ecological folly know that it is folly to permit sprawl in Midhurst. The Growth Plan that is supposed to
guide land use planning in the most rapidly growing part of southern Ontario, originally attempted to confine urban growth in the Simcoe County region to the current municipal borders of Barrie. This would have kept sewage pollution out of the Minesing wetland.

The Growth Plan’s provisions were not changed on any rational basis, but simply to bow to potential developers. An aroused Ontario public would convince provincial politicians to listen to their land use planning advisors to impose a Ministerial Zoning Order under the Planning Act, to stop sprawl in Midhurst.

Part 1 and 2, published on June 1st and 15th.

Elder Danny Beaton, Mohawk Turtle Clan is an internationally recognized protector of Mother Earth. Dr. John Bacher is a researcher for the Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society (PALS). Danny and John were central in the successful defense of Dump Site 41 and the Mega-Quarry in Melancthon, ON and denying the residential development of Springwater Provincial Park. They continue as important members of the Advisory Council of the Midhurst-based Springwater Park Citizens’ Coalition.


2017 Barrie Native Friendship Centre Pow Wow at Springwater Park

May 15, 2017

June 10th and 11th

Celebrating Resilience & Renewal


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