Happy American Thankgiving

November 28, 2013


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Jon Stewart 1962 –

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Ontario War Memorials visits and reports on the Vespra Boys cenotaph

November 26, 2013

This memorial is one small obstacle in the future development of these sacred lands, one which will be removed if the current political agenda is allowed to continue. Hopefully the will of the citizens of Springwater can win out over the tax-seeking, developer endorsed politicians of Ontario. 

Excerpt from OntarioWarMemorials.blogspot.ca:

Midhurst (Vespra Township)
Saturday, 2 November 2013

OnWar1

Location: Simcoe County N 44 26.393 W 079 45.723
Located inside Springwater Provincial Park. Follow the signs from Highway 26, park at the front gate and follow the path to the right, for 300 metres.

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This historic memorial represents a story which is much more involved than meets the eye. The area where the memorial was erected is an area of conservation, of remembrance, and currently of conflict.

This area been used as traditional lands of the Native people who have lived here successfully for over 10,000 years, the rich hardwood forests supplying them with the means to survive and thrive. During the years of settlement, the Natives where eventually replaced by settlers and their farms. The land soon became barren, due to the sandy soil which could not support the toils of farming, and turned to a windblown wasteland of desert. Along came one of Ontario’s most prominent conservationists, Dr. Edmund Zavitz, Ontario’s first Chief Forester, who developed the idea of planting pine trees to stabilize the soil and thus helped to save the landscape across southern Ontario. Dr. Zavitz, along with future Premier Hon. E.C. Drury (1919-1922) established Ontario’s first demonstration forest right here, near Midhurst, in an area which had eroded to the point of no return and also contained several life-giving springs to sustain and grow his beloved pines. The springs are an important headwaters for the Minesing Wetlands, an internationally important, RAMSAR Convention wetlands. The Minesing Wetlands is the last, largest continuous wetlands in southern Ontario. For years this area was used by “Zavitz’s Boys” as a training ground for conservation and forestry. Over one million pines were planted in the Midhurst Forest Station, and eight to ten million seedlings were distributed across the province

With the outbreak of war in 1914, many of the local boys headed off to Europe to further serve their country and fight for freedom. Many never came back, and eighteen men from Vespra Township(now Springwater Township) lost their lives in the conflict. Dr. Zavitz arranged to pay tribute to these brave souls by erecting a monument in this forest, among the pines and natural springs, to pay tribute to the Vespra Boys. A stone cenotaph was hand-built in 1929 by local men Robert Mills and Harvey Spence under the direction of Methven A. Adamson, Superintendent of the Forest Station 1929 – 1956, The Vespra Boys cenotaph was the central focus of the Vespra Legion Branch 149 which started in 1929, had over 120 members at its height and was de-commissioned in 1974 because its membership fell below the minimum allowable. Two engraved plaques of limestone where embedded on the stone cairn. The inscription on the white marble front piece is Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori – Latin from Horace meaning: It is sweet and right to die for your country. In 1913, Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori was inscribed on the wall of the chapel of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, UK the British Army officer initial training centre. The phrase can be found at the front entrance to the Arlington Memorial Amphitheater at the Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, USA. On the back of the cairn, originally was a fountain of spring water, the essential element of life, along with a suitable plaque. In front of the memorial was once a small pond and fountain, a symbol of eternal life, now filled in and removed.

After the Second World War, a “V” for Victory was created across the bank of a small stream behind the memorial. The original configuration was made of Yew trees, and later changed to a stone V-shaped garden, which can still be seen today.

The area was designated a Provincial Park in 1958, and continued to grow, not only as a recreation area for the people of this region, but also as an area of continued conservation and appreciation of nature. Springwater Provincial Park is a tremendous asset to the people of Springwater Township and visitors alike.

The current provincial government, in its wisdom decided to close Springwater Park in October of 2012, along with nine other Provincial Parks. With encroaching development from Barrie, and the value of this land as a prospective tax base, the future of this beautiful park is under a severe threat. Shortly after the announcement of the closure of the park, the area was occupied by several Native people, destined to save this historic and unique forest from development. The Natives still occupy the park today, but allow visitors to enjoy the forest and roam freely under the tall pines.

The memorial itself is also under threat of being removed, with a group called Springwater Park Citizens Coalition trying their best to protect not only the park, but also to protect the memorial and keep it here in its chosen location, rather than have it moved to another location and possibly being damaged in the process. Recently the memorial was subjected to a severe sand-blasting of the stonework and several of the adjacent flowerpots and decorations were damaged in the process. The work done to the memorial has vastly changed the look, destroying the attractive patina acquired from years of weathering, and also caused cracks in the mortar, which will be destructive once the cold weather and ice wreaks its havoc. Why the Ministry of Natural Resources used such a destructive method is scandalous, although they claim they are trying to restore and preserve the cairn, they seem to have caused more damage than good. This memorial is one small obstacle in the future development of these sacred lands, one which will be removed if the current political agenda is allowed to continue. Hopefully the will of the citizens of Springwater can win out over the tax-seeking, developer endorsed politicians of Ontario.

This year on November 11th, a traditional Remembrance Day ceremony is scheduled to take place, despite the current situation, which will also include a tribute of the Native contribution to our nation in times of conflict. In the past, the MNR had placed a wreath at the cenotaph, but there had never been a proper ceremony. Now with the closing of the park, the local people are taking it upon themselves to do what is right.

OnWar3

The names of the eighteen Vespra Boys lost in the Great War:

· Arthur Bell
· Frederick Benson
· Ernest Cloughley
· Lewis Cole
· Ernest A. Finlay
· Wilson Greaves
· Wilfred Higgins
· Herbert Roy Hodgson
· George Hodgson
· Arthur Jacobs
· Wallace Key
· William Lang
· Garnet Maw
· John Muir
· William Parker
· James Henry (Harry) Priest
· Stanley Reynolds
· George Selkirk

OnWar4

Marker text:
Front:
LEST WE FORGET
1914-1918
IN MEMORY OF THE
VESPRA BOYS
WHO DIED IN THE
GREAT WAR
DULCE ET DECORUM EST
PRO PATRIA MORIUM

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Back:
THROUGH SACRIFICE
WE DRINK OF LIFE

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*Special thanks to from Mr. Les Stewart MBA, of the Springwater Park Citizens Coalition, for providing a guided tour of the site and for his never-ending quest to save Springwater Park. His notes and knowledge helped greatly with this posting.

Mr. Tim Laye was invited to document the war memorial at Springwater Park in the summer and the visit happened on October 18, 2013, one week after the sandblasting happened. Words and pictures: Tim Laye


Sprawl that threatens Springwater Park & Minesing Wetlands demands provincial Growth Plan enforcement.

September 12, 2013

Looking the other way will destroy south Simcoe County, the “jewel in the crown” of Ontario.

Black Creek Estates sign

A timely and extremely powerful article welds the Midhurst sprawl plan, the degradation of Willow Creek and Minesing Wetlands and the abandonment of Springwater Park issues together. Dr. John Bacher of the Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society, PALS in St. Catharines writes: Provincial Action Puts Springwater Park at Risk: Occupiers Stand Up For the Land pdf newsletter

Excerpt:

The ongoing April 1st 2013 native occupation of the 193 hectare Springwater Provincial Park in Springwater Township, Simcoe County, was a dramatic response to a Provincial down grade of this wonderful park’s status from “operational” to “non-operational”. These First Nations leaders, led by Elizabeth Brass Elson of the Beausoleil First Nation, have taken a dramatic stand which illustrates how the conservationist achievements of the past are being put at risk today. Their action presents a beacon of hope to those who care for the predominately agricultural landscape of Southern Ontario, appropriately afforested to secure ecological balance by Edmund Zavitz, the “Father of Modern Forestry”.

What the change of status for this park means, is that the gate to the park is locked and vehicles cannot enter. The magnificent picnic pavilion, which in the past was used as a showcase for the wonders of a recreational forest in a former blow sand desert, would have become the parks equivalent of a ghost town if not for the occupation. There is no longer any maintenance of the 12 kilometres of wheelchair accessible trails, 11 of which are designed to facilitate cross country skiing; garbage collection in the park has ceased; and, all the comfort stations have been closed.

One of the basic motivational reasons for the occupation has been the fate of other down graded Provincial Parks, which are now effectively unregulated and empty Crown Land, in heavily populated southern Ontario, where intensive park patrols and maintenance have been removed. In such circumstances Crown Lands have been vandalized by criminal elements such as motorcycle gangs. This can be especially damaging in a forest planted on top of re-claimed desert sand and vulnerable to being ripped up by off road vehicles. It is quite reasonable to expect that in such circumstances, situations can arise to encourage the sale of degraded park land.

Most of the 200 “non-operational parks” in Ontario are in the north, where pressures for vandalism are less severe because of the much lower population density. In this regard, it is astonishing that of the 10 provincial parks originally proposed to be closed by the Provincial government in 2012, Springwater was the only southern park that was closed and while the Province backed down on its proposal to make four northern parks “non-operational”, it refused to alter its stance in this case.

Severe Development Pressures in the Springwater Park Area
There are also severe development pressures around Springwater Provincial Park. As I noted in the Spring newsletter I viewed these quite vividly a few weeks before the park closure. Immediately across a road from the park there was a sign on a piece of private land announcing the new development of Black Creek Estate [of Snow Valley], which had also been afforested into White and Red Pine by the Provincial Government. It is 261 acres in extent, more than half the size of the provincial park. The sign indicated that the zoning was to be changed from environmental protection to residential and it is designated for 101 units, all of which is in direct violation of the Provincial Growth Plan. Development on this scale would require sewers, where there currently are none, a problem resolved through a “pre-servicing agreement.” This illustrates the concern of Midhurst Ratepayers Association which is battling sprawl in the area, for fear that development here would pollute Willow Creek and the Minesing Wetlands.

The proposal for a subdivision in a forest next to a Provincial park is just one element in the massive urban sprawl proposed in the Midhurst Secondary Plan. This threatens both the park and other areas of land afforested by the provincial government’s conservationist actions over many years and now being poorly managed as Crown Lands. The Plan proposes urban development on 1,700 acres of agricultural land, which would boost the population of the village of Midhurst from 3,500 to nearly 28,000. The Provincial Government did appeal this document to the Ontario Municipal Board, (OMB), however, it did not show up at the hearing this summer, and the Midhurst Ratepayers Association was defeated by the Township of Springwater, Simcoe County and developers.

Bacher Springwater Wilson Drive Black Creek

Mess in Midhurst Reveals Non-Enforcement of Growth Plan.
The First Nations occupation of Springwater Park and the hammer blow of the OMB against the Midhurst Ratepayers Association this summer, reveal the biggest problem with land use planning in Ontario. This is the non-enforcement of the Growth Plan, which was brought in simultaneously in 2005, when the Greenbelt was proclaimed by the Province.

The basic reason behind the Growth Plan is to prevent leap frogging beyond the areas that are supposed to be protected from sprawl by the Greenbelt. It applies to southern Niagara Waterloo Region and Simcoe County. Last month the Provincial Government brought in a slightly amended version of the Growth Plan, which drew the ire of some environmentalists and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture who felt the Plan was being diluted. However, from the viewpoint of those such as PALS, who are engaged in the struggle to protect agriculturally and environmentally zoned land from sprawl, the towering barrier to these ends, has been the nonenforcement of existing growth plan policies.

For instance, a cornerstone of the Growth Plan was supposed to be confinement of any urban expansion to the urban centre of Barrie. There was an Amendment One to the Growth Plan introduced, but this was only to provide more room for the Town of Alliston. The Province, in violation of the Growth Plan’s provisions, through the blunt instrument of a Ministerial Zoning Order, then rammed through an urban expansion in Bradford to facilitate box stores along an expressway.

As mentioned before, the Province, to its credit, did launch an appeal of the Midhurst Secondary Plan. However, in a black day for land use planning it withdrew part of its appeal to permit the construction of 5,000 new homes. As a result some 300 hectares are now eligible for urban expansion. In response, the Midhurst Ratepayers Association made an appeal to the OMB, and hired the former director of planning for Simcoe County, Ian Bender, (a former St. Catharines City planner, who PALS had often worked with ), as their expert witness.

Bender’s testimony to the OMB vividly illustrates how Midhurst’s carefully restored landscape of farmland and forests are at risk from sprawl. He indicated that until now “development has generally expanded the settlement area to its limits as defined by the adjacent highway and surrounding agricultural and environmental lands.” He also testified how the proposed boundary expansion would far exceed the allocations that the Province has established for the area under the Growth Plan.

In making its decision dismissing the Midhurst Ratepayers Association appeal the OMB did not dispute any of Bender’s conclusions regarding the violation of the Growth Plan, but threw his strong evidence out on procedural grounds.

The Midhurst fiasco shows the inherit weakness of the assumptions behind the Growth Plan. This is the folly of relying on the OMB to regulate local municipal planning in the countryside . The only way that these landscapes can be protected is through provincially developed planning as shown by the Niagara Escarpment Plan, the Oak Ridges Moraine Protection Act, and now, the Greenbelt Act. The Growth Plan’s reliance on the OMB is simply a fog under which behind- the- scenes the machinations of developers are hidden.

Bacher Springwater Black Creek Estates

The basic reason why all of the currently agriculturally and environmentally zoned lands that are supposed to be protected by the Growth Plan should be incorporated into the much stronger Greenbelt, emerged unexpectedly in 2009 comments by Victor Doyle, a planner with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, and what happened as a result. In his role commenting on proposed zoning and official plan changes under the Growth Plan, Doyle made the following comment: “South Simcoe County, long known as the ‘jewel in the crown’ is completely ill-suited for major urbanization on the Lake Simcoe and Nottawasaga Basins that are small and slow moving receiving bodies which simply cannot sustain the environmental impacts associated with what is a Greater Toronto Area scale of subdivision.” Shortly after these comments were penned Doyle was shuffled away from supervising land use planning in Simcoe County.

Dr. John Bacher is a member of the Advisory Council of the Springwater Park Citizens’ Coalition.

Cross-posted from SpringwaterParkcc.org.

Cross-posted to iLoveMidhurst.ca.


To protect 193 ha. from development, is it really necessary for the ladies to freeze this winter?

September 6, 2013

“We all want to see this land taken care of.”

Kim Beth

Kim Rose left, and Elizabeth Brass Elson are working to help grow a native healing centre at Springwater Park Laurie Watt

There have been 153 days from April 1 to September 15, 2013.

  • 153 days to figure out a way to keep the 15 kms. of cross-country ski and snow shoe trails cleared, groomed and open this winter,
  • 153 days to renew the contract for snow removal on the roads in the park,
  • 153 days to winterize the cabin and deal with the mold, and
  • 153 days to have a place to change a diaper out of the cold (ie. open the comfort station for goodness sake).

Laurie Watt from the Barrie Advance asks an important question in today’s article, Aboriginal camp prepares for winter in Springwater: Is it necessary for the ladies to endure a full winter camping?

Brass Elson said she already feels the cool winds of fall and relit the fire in the cabin Tuesday. She plans to stay through the winter and continues to talk with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Parks Ontario.

“We all want to see this land be taken care of,” she added.

And what’s so special about Springwater Park – Camp Nibi?

Brass Elson, an initiate at the Midewan Three Fires Lodge, has brought in an elder to bless the land and the growing community that unites people of many aboriginal heritages.

“This is a place where there’s a lot of different First Nations, rich in history, because it’s such a beautiful, spiritual place,” said Brass Elson.

“The man who designed this (park) said it should be a template for forestry in Ontario. His energy is still here. He started the tree nursery and his vision lives. It’s a shame the Ministry (of Natural Resources) doesn’t want to sustain it. This land has lots of offer everybody.”

NOTE: The flag behind Kim and Beth is the only Canadian or Ontario flag at the park anymore.

The ladies hung them up last Saturday along with a few others at the main pavilion.

Flag 1These are the Anishinabe Nation,  United Nations and Haudenosaunee Nation flags (l to r).

Flag 3


NOW Magazine Toronto picks up the Springwater Park – Camp Nibi reckless development defense story.

September 5, 2013

Will the Ontario government continue to allow Springwater Provincial Park to unthinkingly slide into sprawl?

now Bacher

An article in NOW Magazine’s News Frontlines section called John Bacher on Wild West sprawl wrecking Ontario parks will be appearing on September 5, 2013.

Excerpt:

Those who love Georgian Bay and its tributaries are getting accustomed to bizarre schemes threatening its sanctity. First there was Dump Site 41 in Simcoe County, and then the Melancthon mega-quarry – both stopped in their tracks by massive protests, marches and cook-ins.

Now there’s the Ontario government’s plan to abandon Springwater Provincial Park, 10 kilometres north of Barrie. Since April 1, women from the Beausoleil First Nation near Midland have been occupying Springwater, protesting the park’s changed status from “operational” to “non-operational.” The closure is one of six.

It’s not a coincidence that the action’s spokesperson, Beth Elson, is a veteran of both the Dump 41 and the mega-quarry fights. She’s learned a thing or two about forming alliances with non-natives – and about winning.

The province points out that even though the gates are locked, visitors can still stroll the 193-hectare green space. But the reality is, the 12 kilometres of wheelchair-accessible trails, mostly used for cross-country skiing, will no longer be maintained; comfort stations are closed, as are the buildings; and the lovely stone water fountains and picnic pavilions will presumably be left to moulder.

The women have named their occupation camp Springwater Nibi, “nibi” being the Ojibway word for “uncompromised water,” a vivid reminder that the park’s beautiful ponds are fed by underground springs – it sits on the headwaters of the Minesing Wetlands. Those gushing waters allowed park officials to restore habitat for the elegant trumpeter swan, a species once wiped out in eastern North America.

Occupiers, who have set up a sweat lodge and given smudge blessings to the park’s zoo animals before their relocation to other sanctuaries, say the land traversed by old trading routes has deep roots in Ojibway history. They worry that the Ministry of Natural Resources’ withdrawal will leave the space vulnerable to trashing.

First Nation occupiers have strong relationships with the Springwater Park Citizens’ Coalition. Native environmentalist Danny Beaton, an anti-Dump 41 mainstay, is an official SPCC adviser. The group is deeply troubled by the sprawl wreaking havoc in Simcoe County in defiance of the weak policy supposedly protecting land on the fringe of the Greenbelt.

Contrary to the Growth Management Plan, development is encircling Springwater. A few weeks before the closure, I noted a sign across a road from the park indicating proposed zoning changes from environmental protection to medium-density residential. The Coalition fears construction is poised to pollute the Wetlands.

The province says it has no intention of selling the land, but the SPCC is skeptical that the government can resist building pressures.

Parks Ontario’s Jolanta Kowalski tells me parks are being closed as a cost-saving measure, part of a “transformation plan to make the ministry more modern, efficient and sustainable.’’ Springwater, she says, “returns only 53 cents on the dollar” and gets half the visits it did a decade ago. Changing its status, she says, will provide savings of $70,000 and avoid a capital investment of $1 million.

It depends on what you value, of course. The Beausoleil women say they are taking over the space from a ministry that has left it to ruin, and they want an aboriginal healing and heritage centre established on site. Will the Liberals see the light?

John Bacher is the author of Two Billion Trees And Counting: The Legacy Of Edmund Zavitz.

news@nowtoronto.com

Dr. Bacher continues to serve on our SPCC Advisory Council.


Premier Wynne restores 57.1% of the Ministry of Natural Resources planned cuts to its base funding.

August 23, 2013

But does the MNR reverse its decision to abandon Springwater Park?

Wynne mnr

In opting to restore $40-million of a planned $70-million cut to the ministry’s base funding in 2013-14, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne saved approximately 400 jobs mostly in Northern Ontario, says Natural Resources Minister David Orazietti
(Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail)

No.

Minister David Orazietti refuses to admit they made a mistake about Springwater Park, despite the $40-million reprieve given to his ministry by Premier Wynne. Minister Orizetti (MPP Sault Ste. Marie) decides to lessen the pain of northern communities. There should be no shame in simply hitting the reset button and restoring full-staffing to Springwater Park.

Instead, the park has to rapidly deteriorate over the MNR’s artificial minimum time table of April 2014 for re-opening.

For details on an opportunity missed, see Globe and Mail article Wynne’s scaled-back cuts part of plan to reconnect with rural regions:

While the change in plans will not have much impact on the province’s $10-billion deficit, it is indicative of the softer touch Ms. Wynne has brought to running the province, and in particular of her attempt to rebuild bridges with regions that felt mistreated by Mr. McGuinty.

Laurels to Premier Wynne. Not so much to the Minister and his senior staff.

Remind us again how abandoning Springwater Park would be a material step in hitting the MNR mandated 2013-14 $30-million belt-tightening?

Shuttering a 90 year-old, 477 acre facility would only yield 0.2% (2/10ths of 1 per cent) of that goal (ie. $60,000 annual “deficit” divided by $30-million).  Using this logic, the Ministry of Natural Resources would only have to abandon another 500 provincial parks.


Since abandoning Springwater Park 4.5 months ago, the Ministry of Natural Resources still cannot find a partner that they are happy with.

August 21, 2013

Maybe some of  the Algonquin, Cree, Hopi, Mi’kmaq, Mohawk and Ojibwe First Nations people at Camp Nibi can introduce them to someone with a plan that has community support?

inside-agenda-header

A good article on TVO’s Inside Agenda blog, Aboriginal Protesters Move into Springwater Provincial Park After Ontario Parks Leaves. pdf

Has Springwater Park been abandoned by the Ministry of Natural Resources?

“As far as I’m concerned, it was abandoned,” says Elizabeth Brass Elson, who currently resides in Camp Nibi in Springwater Provincial Park. “When a government facility takes down its flags, what does that mean? It’s kind of like a retreat.”

Even thought he MNR says they won’t sell the land…

However, Elson is unconvinced, “There’s that little thought in the back. You know how things happen really quickly and are sold off and given away to, like, counties. And the county can do whatever they want with it.”

She further said, “I think the government shouldn’t rely on community members to come up with money to maintain lands that [the government] is responsible to maintain.”

Elson claims that there is a strong First Nations history in the Springwater Park area, as it was on aboriginal trading routes. She says aboriginal artifacts can be found throughout the park.

Who has a sustainable use for this very important community resource?

The Future of the Park

Elson hopes that Springwater Park will become a First Nations education and spiritual centre (she stressed that this is her personal opinion and that she isn’t representing any organizations when saying that).

A week later, Ontario Premier (and former Aboriginal Affairs Minister) Kathleen Wynne was in Barrie. When asked about the idea of a First Nations centre at Springwater Park, the Barrie Examiner quoted Wynne saying,

I don’t think it’s unrealistic. I think it’s a matter of how we would do that, where the funding would come from and it would be sustainable. I don’t think it’s an unrealistic suggestion, as long as those other factors can be put in place.

MNR has made it clear that they are looking for partnerships to reopen Springwater Park and there is at least some interest among local First Nations people to have a greater role in the park. As a cash-strapped government steps back from the park, will First Nations people take on a greater role? Would that improve the park’s physical condition? And what would non-aboriginal users of Springwater Park think if it became a First Nations centre? We’ll wait and see.

Comment on article:

waterfall10 • 14 hours ago −
What a wonderful idea to have Springwater Park become a native education and spiritual centre. We could all benefit from this contribution to a stronger understanding of our connections with the natural world, and to learn, share and grow in our strength for the transitions we need to make for the future.

Entrance to the park, after closing this spring without any flags

Flags gone
Springwater Park’s annual operating budget (including the animals, now gone) was $240,000. This is about 13.3% of the cost of running a single Tim Hortons store. Tim Hortons opened their 4,00th store in 2011.

I wonder if they’d consider taking over Ontario Parks?

Ontario Parks


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