Is the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry acting in good faith with their aboriginal partners at Springwater Park?

October 28, 2015

Are they treating Beausoleil First Nation fairly: equipment, vehicles, cash, etc.?

MNRF logo

Are the Minister’s intentions being delivered down through the hierarchy?

Or is the bureaucracy setting up the 5 year agreement to fail so the land can be sold for development?

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Official re-opening of Springwater Park

July 31, 2015
reopens

Beausoleil First Nation Chief Jeff Monague, Chief Glen Hare, Chief Roland Monague and Grand Chief Anishinabek Patrick Madahbee open the traditional wampum belt that is displayed at First Nation ceremonies, such as the one at the grand opening of Springwater Provincial Park which will be run by by the Beausoleil First Nation. PHOTO: CHERYL BROWNE

Cheryl Browne reports for the Barrie Examiner Springwater park reopens with ceremony:

Four chiefs carefully laid out the wampum belt on a purple cloth in the pavilion in Springwater Provincial Park on Friday.

After years of negotiating with Ontario Parks and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), the two Beausoleil First Nation chiefs and two Anishinabek regional chiefs placed the wampum in a place of honour at the front table.

“The wampum belt represents the government and us. It represents all people and it’s a reminder that, instead of fighting, let’s work together,” said Deputy Grand Chief Glen Hare, a member of the Loon Clan.

“It is part of our culture, our teachings,” he added. “A lot of these things have come back to us now.”

Hare pointed to the front of the shelter where a traditional Beausoleil First Nation staff stood in the place of honour beside the regional eagle-feather leader stand representing 39 provincial First Nation territories, beside the flag of Ontario.

After prayers were said in Anishinaabe, more than 100 people gathered to be smudged, including Springwater Mayor Bill French, Barrie MPP Ann Hoggarth, Barrie Coun. Rose Romita, several Ontario Provincial Police officers, as well as Scott Thomas of the MNRF.

Thomas worked tirelessly with the Beausoleil First Nation during the women’s occupation of the park from April 2, 2013 until December.

The women left the park once the province ensured the First Nation a deal would be worked out to share the park.

Beausoleil Chief Jeff Monague welcomed the visitors to what is now a partnership between the Beausoleil First Nation and Ontario Parks until 2019.

“We are now going forward, walking that path together for the first time in many, many years,” Monague said. “We want to build a better place for everyone in Ontario, where rights are given to indigenous people across the province.”

The five-year deal will allow Beausoleil staff to run the day-park under funding from the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, with hopes of using the 12 kilometres of hiking trails, picnic facilities and playing fields to teach aboriginal ways.

When the MNRF closed the park gates in 2013, Springwater was home to 29 orphaned animals which were moved to an assortment of wildlife sanctuaries across Canada.

Of the other 10 parks the ministry changed to non-operational status — including Caliper Lake in Nestor Falls, Fushimi Lake in Hearst, Greenwater in Cochrane, Ivanhoe Lake in Foleyet, Mississagi in Elliot Lake, Obatanga near Wawa, Rene Brunelle in Kapuskasing, Tidewater in Moosonee and The Shoals in Chapleau — three parks were kept open by their municipalities, including Ivanhoe, Rene Brunelle and Fushimi.

French, who initially inherited the non-operational park when he became mayor, said he’s delighted to hear of the agreement.

“Welcome everyone to this sacred and precious land in the middle of our wonderful township,” French said.

After winning the mayoral seat last October, French became involved with park, insisting township staff plow the roads during winter and cut the grass in time for a recent powwow.

“I think, as a township, we should have taken more of a co-ordinating role in the discussions, but we didn’t,” he said. “But we will now.”

The Misty River drummers, six men in all, played the traditional, rhythmic flag song on a communal drum, singing in many voices which echoed across the park resounding above the loud thumps of the single drum.

Large tables were heaped with food for the reception following the grand opening, with plenty of food and room at the pavilion tables for all who attended.

cheryl.browne@sunmedia.ca

Twitter.com/cherylbrowne1


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

July 29, 2015

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

Who will the MNR decide to be the best protectors of Springwater Park – Camp Nibi: Elizabeth Brass Elson or Ian Taylor?

January 2, 2014

What is their reputation in protecting land, water and air in Simcoe County?

Cedar boughs

In today’s Barrie Advance, Groups working to keep Springwater Park open:

The closure prompted the creation of two local groups which have worked to get the ministry to reverse its decision.

And last April, Anishinaabe First Nations member Elizabeth Brass Elson and some friends moved into the park, founding Camp Nibi, where they have lived ever since.

In July, a teaching lodge and traditional Midewiwin sweat lodge were erected and Brass Elson hopes to eventually turn the area into a First Nations education and spiritual centre, which would be open for everyone to experience.

“The traditional territories of Beausoleil First Nation will be protected and our teachings and ceremony will continue,” Brass Elson said. “Camp Nibi and Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge will have a voice in the planning and development of the park lands for the continued use of all in the future.”

Meanwhile the Friends of Springwater Park is meeting with the ministry Jan. 8, but it’s unknown if a second partnership will be struck.

Has the Teaching Lodge or slide been made off-limits to anyone since April 1, 2013?

Teaching lodge

Has anyone been denied access to the Midewinin Sweat Lodge or tipi that wanted to learn?

Sweat tipi

What group has done the physical work necessary to keep the trails open since April 1st?

Clearing trees

And continues to do so now?

Plow 4

***

Plow 3What group has always favoured the light, life and inclusiveness while saving the land for everyone?

here comes the sun

Which group has chosen another path?

Posted on voteLesStewart.ca.


NEWS: Ontario government, First Nation agree on joint partnership at Springwater Park – Camp Nibi

December 20, 2013
beth-kim-sylvie-nahuis

Elizabeth, Kimberly Rose and Sylvie (l to r). Photo: Anne Nahuis

Ontario government, First Nation agree on joint partnership at Springwater Park – Camp Nibi

Springwater Provincial Park – renamed Camp Nibi by a group of First Nations women who have occupied it for nine months – is to be a partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Beausoleil First Nation.

Beausoleil First Nation and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources are in discussions which ensure the interest of Camp Nibi/Midewiwin Lodge for their continued traditional, cultural, spiritual education will continue to be provided for on these lands of Springwater Park, Elizabeth Brass Elson said today.

“The traditional territories of Beausoleil First Nation will be protected and our teachings and ceremony will continue. Camp Nibi and Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge will have a voice in the planning and development of the park lands for the continued use of all in the future,” she said.

An agreement between the Ministry and the First Nation is good news for all, Brass Elson said.

“We are satisfied that our vision for Camp Nibi has been recognized. Camp Nibi and the Eastern Doorway of The Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge will be working together with the First Nation to bring traditional spiritual teachings on the land of Springwater Park.”

The past nine months at Camp Nibi have been the scene of ceremonies, teachings, potluck suppers and – most important – connection with the land and the surrounding community.

It’s been an important journey for Brass Elson, known to many in Simcoe County for her leadership role in the battle to stop Dump Site 41.

She turned her attention to Springwater Park – part of the traditional territory of Beausoleil First Nation – after the Ontario government declared it non-operational as of April 1, 2013.

“I found my true spiritual connection with the land here,” she said. People came from all over Ontario to camp with the women who were in the park through the high heat of summer and the recent bitter cold. Locals were generous with support and donations.

“Chi Miigwetch, a big thank you to all those who supported us, our friends and our allies,” Brass Elson said. “And special thanks to Beausoleil First Nation and Ontario Parks for recognizing our vision for these lands.”

Two women joined Brass Elson – an Anishinabek from Chimnissing (Beausoleil First Nation) – in a steadfast determination to ensure that the land remains protected in an area north of Barrie that’s being subjected to intense development pressures.

They are Kimberly Rose Edwards, a Richmond Hill resident from the Mohawk community of Oka, and Sylvie Simard of Kapuskasing, a Mi’kmaq from New Brunswick.

“This has been my destiny,” said Edwards. A seer, she found her native roots a decade ago and saw the Camp Nibi lands long before she arrived to support Brass Elson in April.

“I came to learn,” said Simard. “My ancestors were calling.”

News release from Camp Nibi

Cross posted on iLoveMidhurst.ca.

NOTE: A very similar article appeared in the Springwater News on January 2, 2014. pdf


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.


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.


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