The story of Springwater Provincial Park is a Faith-filled journey

From the February Midhurst Newsletter.

Midhurst Community Newsletter logo

The story of Springwater Provincial Park is a Faith-filled journey
Sanctuary, peace and redemption after The Great War
Les Stewart

The forests, lakes and streams of Simcoe County developed over millions of years but very nearly permanently destroyed within 50 years in the mid 1800s by reckless actions. The forests fell, triggering a profound changes and one environmental crisis after another. Land too infertile to farm was left to create dust storms to such an extent that in the 1920s, farmers in Ontario had to plow their lanes in the summer because of the sand drifts. Fires ran unchecked.

Two men, E.C. Drury of Crown Hill and Edmund Zavitz, Ontario’s first forester, were friends that devoted their lives to redeeming this error. Drury as a boy remembers the night sky glowing red at the fires from the Midhurst plains, the water being poisoned, the flash fires. His faith drove him to act. In 1905, Drury and Zavitz surveyed the Angus, Orr Lake and Midhurst areas for the sites of a future tree forest station. The Midhurst plains were chosen because of the abundant springs that have been a significant headwaters to the internationally recognized Minesing Wetlands.

In 1922, the Midhurst Forest Station started and, with it, Springwater Park. The park was proof of the value of reforestation to the municipalities in central Ontario and private landowners. The ponds were hand-dug during the Great Depression for the tree nursery and the Midhurst CPR station, performed by hundreds of local families and lead by practical men like Meth Adamson and Cyril Jackson. At its peak, 10 million trees per year were shipped from Midhurst. Drury and Zavitz put into place the systems where two billion trees were planted in Ontario.

Sanctuary for all creatures: The definition of a sanctuary is a sacred space, a refuge, some place that is safe from harm: an asylum. The Vespra Boys cenotaph stands as silent testimony to the human need for peace, reflection and rejuvenation. The horrors of the Great War found a place for the families of those that fought and died within a living 477 acre Eden. Almost immediately, unwanted animals were kept at Springwater, starting with pheasants, deer, raptors and even generations of wolves because those God-created creatures needed to be taken care of because of a faith heritage that has only recently diminished.

Challenge: The tree nursery closed in 1993, the CPR station is also gone. It seems all we know how to do is build homes without any jobs to go along with it but that’s not community-building: that’s another version of a clear-cutting mentality. Does the story of Springwater Park have to end or is there enough wisdom locally to re-kindle the idea that man as an obligation to care for the weakest in their society? And in that effort, have a chance to find their own redemption?

Springwater Park Citizens’ Coalition SPCC: The purpose of the Springwater Park Citizens’ Coalition is to support the sustainable operation of Springwater Park . We will provide a supporting role to the professional management of the park, water and forest and will assist where and when appropriate.

In co-operation with the Ministry of Natural Resources, municipal governments, public and private landowners, the Nottawasaga Conservation Authority, water experts, First Nations, CFB Borden, veterans’ groups, and the faith, business and development communities, we hope to help:

  • develop a multi-year strategic business plan,
  • document the story of the park, tree nursery and CPR station (Midhurst Plains),
  • encourage public participation through relationship building with existing community groups (service, faith, environmental, other),
  • retain, restore and renew the animal sanctuary and Vespra Boys cenotaph,
  • help promote the parklands and programs that may be developed,
  • establish a L’Arch community for Simcoe County,
  • promote the park as a version of Simcoe County’s “High Park”, and
  • establish a Springwater Park Auxiliary.

The SPCC looks forward to joining with our neighbours in the future realization of E.C. Drury’s faith-based dream of reconciliation and atonement; in this world and the next.


One Response to The story of Springwater Provincial Park is a Faith-filled journey

  1. John Bacher says:

    Thank you for your inspiring plan to rescue Springwater Park. This should be a place of pilgrimage where people can be inspired what can be done to heal the wounds of human abuse of the earth. This is what E. C. Drury had in mind when he described reforestation as an act of repentance for human sin.


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