Jim Wilson agrees with AWARE Simcoe that Springwater Park should be saved

Very nicely done.

20130116 Wilson AWARE

 AWARE Simcoe’s resolution of November 13, 2012 that Mr. Wilson is responding to.

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At our meeting of November 8, 2012, AWARE Simcoe board members passed the following resolution:

AWARE Simcoe opposes the plan by the Ministry of Natural Resources to close Springwater Provincial Park, and further opposes any possibility of the sale and development of this valuable public resource.

In passing this motion AWARE Simcoe is lending its support to the thousands of people who have enjoyed Springwater Park’s unique attractions in the past and the thousands more we hope will enjoy them in the future.

Loss of amenities and jobs: Springwater Park is one of 10 provincial parks that the MNR is making “non-operational”, i.e. closing, with an overall loss of 28 full-time and 102 seasonal jobs. The other nine are in Northern Ontario and they are being closed for overnight camping. However, Springwater Park is being completely closed
in terms of staffing and amenities; including the animal sanctuary, picnic areas, garbage disposal, toilets and playground.

Loss of a prime asset: With 193 hectares of provincial parkland (adjacent to provincial and county forest as well as CPR land); Springwater Park is an important natural asset for citizens of Barrie and area at a time of unprecedented development pressure. People, and especially children, (in an age where ‘nature-deficit disorder’ is
a routinely observed syndrome), need such spaces to escape the pressures of our increasingly crowded and structured society.

MNR’s poor management: The reason the ministry gives for the closing is that the park is under-used, having seen a fifty per cent drop in visitors in the last decade. We believe this trend is the result of drastic budget cuts to the ministry and very poor management of the park, including failure to monitor and repair the park fee debit machine at the west gate. In fact, for over three years, until repairs were recently effected, visitors were unable to pay their entrance fees to the park there. We believe the trend can be reversed by publicizing the existence of the park and mobilizing the volunteer efforts of local citizens. Although the ministry says it will save $7.1 million a year by closing the 10 parks, we understand that the net operational savings to be realized by the Springwater closing is only $77,000 a year, not including any revenues from logging. A minor increase in revenues could reverse the gloomy financial forecast for Springwater Park.

Logging and sale: We believe that there are presently unannounced plans to log Springwater Park and then sell the land for development for a one-time injection of cash to help address the provincial government deficit. This would constitute a tragic loss to forever astonish the generations that come after us, because it will never again be possible – at any price! – to assemble this kind of natural space in this highly populated part of Ontario.

Unique tourism values: Simcoe County, with its forests, conservation areas, provincial parks and provincial wildlife areas, is within easy reach of major population centers and is well positioned to become a leading wilderness tourism destination for hikers, birders, naturalists, anglers, cyclists, canoeists, cross-country skiers and other rapidly growing nature-related recreational activities. If we whittle away at our heritage by undervaluing it, failing to promote and steward it, and (worst-case scenario) selling it off, we will fall behind other areas of Southern Ontario in terms of the variety and quality of the experience we can offer.

Biodiversity: Natural spaces are becoming increasingly fragmented and thus less useful to wildlife. By virtue of its size and location, Springwater Park is an important component of efforts to foster biodiversity. It is a major headwater to the Minesing Wetland s, the largest intact wetland in Southern Ontario, and recognized as an internationally important feature under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

Sanctuary: Springwater Park is the only provincial park that offers a sanctuary for injured or orphaned Ontario indigenous species that cannot be returned to the wild. As a result it has been an important (although in recent years, poorly promoted) educational resource. There is a need that will have to be addressed to improve the conditions in which the animals are kept. Requests for improvements date back 15 years, but unfortunately the MNR has not taken any action on this.

History: In the early 1900s, the Ontario Government established a tree nursery in Simcoe County and began to distribute trees for reforestation. This was the beginning of the Midhurst Tree Nursery, and Springwater Park was the first important element of the reforestation program. It was spearheaded by one of Simcoe County’s leading historical figures – E.C. Drury, a farmer at Crown Hill in Oro Township and Ontario Premier from 1919-1923; and E.J. Zavitz, Ontario’s first provincial forester. They began a project to help recover the land that had been cleared for agriculture and denuded of trees in the late 1890s and early 1900s, with abandoned farms and open stretches of dune sand making up the northwest portion of Simcoe County. This then became a model for reforestation across Southern Ontario.

Springwater Park’s rich history includes a monument dedicated to the 18 “Boys of Vespra” who died in the Great War of 1914-1918. It stands where a large and beautiful pond was hand-dug in 1924 to provide water to the tree nursery. The Vespra Boys Cenotaph is at the heart of the 90-year old park, which was designed from Day 1 to promote the value of resurrection (tree reforestation). The cenotaph is a continuing memorial of deep significance to many local residents.

Over the years Springwater Park became one of the finest parks in Ontario. It has everything children, families, sports enthusiasts and animal lovers could ask for. Thousands of people have fond memories of their time spent in the park, and hope that future generations will also be able to enjoy this very special and unique place.

Yours sincerely

Don Morgan
AWARE Simcoe chair

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