Saving Springwater Park is a provincially-significant, “remarkable environmental victory”.

A Dr. John Bacher article published on Sierra Club Ontario’s weblog.

John Bacher

Springwater Victory

Ontario’s environmental movement should be celebrating a remarkable victory won by a two year struggle for the re-opening of Springwater Provincial Park in Midhurst, 10 kilometres north of Barrie. Springwater is a 193 hectare forested park, with picnic grounds and 13 kilometres of hiking trails.

Springwater Park was created through afforestation in the 1920s as a demonstration project of conquering spreading desert sands by planting trees. These sand piles emerged through the burning off of woodlands for agricultural clearance.

white_pine_planted_1924_sign

Springwater Park is named after the gushing springs of pure water that made it an appropriate site for the launching of one of the province’s first reforestation stations. Its powerful pure waters nourish the adjacent Minesing Wetlands, themselves now threatened by urban sprawl. Spring fed ponds in the park helped create habitat used by the province in the past to restore populations of the once endangered Trumpeter Swan.

On July 3, 2015 the Chief of the Beausoleil First Nation Roland Monague, signed a five year agreement with representatives of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests. The agreement is for a five year management of the park for day use by the Beausoleil First Nation. Under this the native community will assume responsibility for staffing, maintenance and operation. It will be assisted financially for three years by the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs through an economic development program.

native_occupation

The agreement was the happy conclusion of a long occupation by women of the Beausoleil First Nation, led by Beth Elson. It began on April 1, 2013 when the park was designated “non-operational.” The occupation was doggedly supported by Midhurst environmentalist, Les Stewart, a dedicated blogger.

honour_treaties_park_occupation

Elson is a veteran of campaigns against both Dump Site 41, which protected the underground aquifer and the Dufferin mega-quarry. She named the occupation, Camp Nibi, which in Ojibway means “uncompromised water.”

The rescue of Springwater Park is an important battle in protecting the ecologically restored landscape of Midhurst from urban sprawl in defiance of the norms of Ontario’s Growth Plan. One of the most disturbing evidences of this was its approval just before the occupation of a development on privately afforested lands directly across from Springwater Park, the Black Creek Estates of Snow Valley. Until an official plan and zoning amendments approved after the passage of the Growth Plan, the land had been zoned as designated as Environmental Protection.

Photo Credits (All taken by Les Stewart)

  • Header Photo — Springwater Park across road from new development Black Creek Estates
  • Photo 1 — White Pine planted in 1924 sign
  • Photo 2 — Native Occupation
  • Photo 3 — Honour Treaties Park Occupation
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