Springwater Township ponies up $10,000 to help re-imagine Springwater Park – Camp Nibi

February 21, 2014

An economically sustainable plan is what has always been needed.

Honour treaties park 20131226

It is appropriate that a 177 year old municipal township gets the ball rolling in welcoming back our 10,000 year old neighbours for what will become an internationally-important, cross-cultural treasure.

From today’s print edition of the Barrie Examiner by Cheryl Browne, Money possible to help Springwater Park pdf:

SPRINGWATER TWP. – The gates of Springwater Provincial Park may be pushed a little more open as council sets aside $10,000 for its re-opening this year.

Although the park remains technically locked up, Springwater Township council has voted yes to Coun. Sandy McConkey’s motion to set aside $10,000 to help re-open the provincial park that’s been in limbo since the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) changed its status to non-operational last year.

“I can’t say how the money will be used,” said McConkey, Thursday. “We just want to be able to have access to it in case the user groups need it.”

Coun. Jack Hanna, who also voted in favour of the motion, said the money would be set aside from the economic development fund, but won’t be approved until the township’s budget receives final approval Feb. 25.

“I know negotiations are ongoing with the MNR and First Nations who are considering making it a training centre,” he said, but added he doesn’t know the current status of the talks.

After 107 years in operation, the 193-hectare day-use park’s status was unclear last year after the MNR locked the gates. The 29 orphaned animals that were receiving care in the park were removed and sent to other wildlife sanctuaries across Canada.

Elizabeth Brass Elson and several other First Nations people quietly moved in to occupy the park in early April and remained there for the duration of the year, leaving just days before Christmas 2013.

Brass Elson named their campground Camp Nibi – the native word for fresh or spring water – and ran instructional classes on native culture, sweat lodges and full moon ceremonies, which continue monthly.

The also cleaned up after walk-in only visitors and called police when teenagers started fires and vandalized buildings.

Talks with the MNR and Beausoleil First Nation continued, and in December, Brass Elson said they were assured they would be given a voice in the planning and development of the park lands for the continued use of all.

“We were told we would be in a partnership with the MNR,” said Brass Elson. “It was a shaking-hands deal with Beausoleil council. I was told to stand down and go home and warm up, so I did.”

Although the gates have been chained shut since last April, Les Stewart of the Springwater Park Citizens’ Coalition said dozens of people took to the trails on Family Day.

“People are still enjoying it, so councillors setting aside some money for its re-opening is a positive step forward,” Stewart said.

Mayor Linda Collins, who voted against setting the money aside, confirmed if the budget passes, it would go towards the re-opening of the park this year.

“Nothing is determined yet. I’m not opposed to nurturing Springwater, but the County of Simcoe is taking the lead there, frankly because they have the bigger purse,” Collins said.

She says the county has been assisting the township by hosting meetings between the First Nations and the MNR.

“We’re not a big enough player so we need to join hands with the County of Simcoe,” she said.

Spokesperson for the MNR, Jolanta Kowalski, wrote in an e-mail ‘the ministry is pleased to be working with Beausoleil First Nation to discuss a future partnership for the operation of Springwater Provincial Park.’

Kowalski also wrote that ‘the ministry is not considering selling Springwater Provincial Park. Maintaining public ownership keeps the park regulated under the Provincial Park and Conservation Reserves Act and ensures this land is protected for future generations.

Brass Elson said she and several First Nations friends will go the park for an anniversary ceremonial sleep-over April 1.

“It will be nice to spend some time in the park again.”


Come on out.

Sun park vertical 20140228 2

It’s about the land.

Sun Park 20131210It’s about the water.

Park spring

It’s about time for spring, I’d say.

Please distribute.


The $10,000 budget was approved on Feb 25th. Thanks to those on Council who voted for it (4 “yeahs”, 2 “nays”). This amount represents about 0.04% of the township’s 2014 operating budget.

Proportionally, the County of Simcoe should be in the $161,200 range. Annually.


Premier Kathleen Wynne suggests native education centre at Springwater Park – Camp Nibi is reasonable.

August 10, 2013

The need for sustainability is essential, but Premier Wynne wants the door kept open for Camp Nibi land use.

Kathleen Wynne2

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne sat down with the Examiner’s Cheryl Browne during her visit to our region, Friday. MARK WANZEL PHOTO

A very good article from The Barrie Examiner’s Cheryl Browne, Premier sheds light on issues during Barrie visitpdf download

A summary of important local concerns (agri-food, Local Food Act, growth), and then for the last part, Springwater Provincial Park. The Premier’s brief speech later in the evening’s BBQ,  focused on education, youth unemployment and infrastructure. Her Grade 4 teacher even showed up for support!


Just to the north of Barrie, Wynne said she’s been kept abreast of the current occupation of Springwater Provincial Park by the Beausoleil Island First Nations women.

The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) changed the park’s status to non-operational at the end of March and moved almost 30 once-orphaned animals to other sanctuaries around the county. Several First Nation women have been camping in the park since April 1 and Wynne said she has heard of their hopes for a native education centre at the park.

“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 its an unrealistic suggestion, as long as those other factors can be put in place.”

Welcomed news for all past, present and future lovers of the park lands.

Cross-posted on iLoveMidhurst.ca.

First Nations is the only power willing to stand in the way of having Springwater Park turn into more Midhurst McMansions.

June 16, 2013

Two and one-half months after the “abandonment” of 193 ha., the sentient understand that our aboriginal sisters and brothers were the only ones willing to oppose the big money sprawl interests.

Wanzel Idle No More concert

A group of native dancers perform a traditional round dance outside Springwater Provincial Park near Barrie, Sunday as part of a benefit concert in support of the Idle No More protest movement. Mark Wanzel /The Barrie Examiner /QMI

Not one $ budgeted: only lipservice by the county, township, City of Barrie,  MP and MPP, Ministry of Natural Resources.

And from Premier Wynne’s office?

  • More retrograde, demeaning-to-both-sides and inevitably futile waiting game.

Another article in the Barrie Examiner, this one Idle No More concert held at Springwater Park:

“We all came here together, to work together to protect mother earth,” Beth Brass Elson said from the stage to the assembled 50 people who had trekked into the park to enjoy the afternoon concert.

“We are Cree, Micmac, Cherokee, Ojibwa, Mohawk and settlers. Thank you for coming to celebrate Camp Nibi with us.”

Brass Elson is one of native women who began their occupation of the park the day after the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) changed its function from operational to non-operational status on March 31 of this year.

After taking over an old ski lodge, friends of all nationalities have helped occupy the park, named ‘Camp Nibi’ after the native word for spring or creek, while negotiations to change its status back to operational continue.

Organizer Tori Cress:

“We did a round dance at the MNR and we managed to get all the equipment down here, so it’s all working out,” Cress said.

Asking visitors at the gate for a donation will help bring more people to Ottawa on Friday, she said, as will proceeds from the half-a-dozen vendors who sold native wares and food onsite.

National Aboriginal Day is happening this Friday, June 21st on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

Journey for Earth walkers show support to Springwater Park – Camp Nibi

June 11, 2013

From Saskatchewan to Ottawa — 3,448 kilometres — April 6th to June 21st — to draw attention to attacks on Mother Earth.

Mother earth

Walking from Saskatchewan to Ottawa to protest the dumping of nuclear waste on their lands, Sharon Veley, left, Rueben Roy, Bryan Whitstone, Geron Paul and Nancy Greyeyes stopped by the native camp at Springwater Park on Tuesday. The group expects to be in Ottawa by the end of June.

The Barrie Examiner and Cheryl Browne write today, Journey for Mother Earth:

Feet bruised and bleeding, Sharon Veley sits beside the sacred fire in the healing lodge in Springwater Provincial Park and looks out at the grey threatening sky.

Running 20 kilometres a day in sore feet is bad. Running in the rain is harder.

“It’s so humbling this journey,” Veley said with tears shining her eyes. “Your spirit just gets so full, sometimes it pours out of my eyes.

Twenty kilometres a day of running for the Journey for Earth (or Nishiyuu)

After meeting Elizabeth Brass Elson at the Serpent River Robinson Huron Treaty Gathering just south of Sault Ste. Marie one week ago, the four walkers turned south with a mind to visit the Anishinaabe women at Camp Nibi, their name for Springwater Park that means fresh or spring water, in their language.

Several Anishinabe women, including Brass Elson, moved in to occupy the park the day after the Ministry of Natural Resources changed its function from operational to non-operational status on March 31.

Only a few deer and the trumpeter swan remain at the park.

Brass Elson, the women’s water commissioner for the south east region and lead occupier at Camp Nibi, welcomed the foursome with open arms, impressed with the 2,800 kilometres they’ve already travelled to bring awareness to water issues in northern Canada.

“This really is a call out to all Canadian natives and allies – anybody who cares about the water and the land – that it’s time to take responsibility of our resources and to start protecting our lands, water and air,” Brass Elson said.

 — Journey for Earth Facebook page

Springwater Park has an extremely important and valuable heritage as a place of learning

April 21, 2013

Is anyone surprised that county children  would come to the park to be taught and learn about the natural world?


Supporters of Springwater Park sing with pupils from Cookstown Central Public School, Friday. The pupils came to visit the women occupying the park, protesting the province’s decision to make it non-operational. J.T. MCVEIGH/QMI AGENCY/BARRIE EXAMINER

Children have become knowledgeable about indigenous animals, ecology, the sacrifice of war and forest for the last +90 years at the park. What is more appropriate to open it up as a place of sharing knowledge about our first nations brothers and sisters?

Cheryl Browne of the Barrie Examiner more than picks up the thread in the latest article, First Nations protesters offer insight to Cookstown students:

The women laid out sage, sweet grass, native tobacco and cedar on the table to teach the students about spiritual smudging.

Birch bark they’d carefully collected throughout the week would be used to help them create booklets.

Drums and shakers were brought out to teach the students native songs, and as the women addressed them in Anishinaabe dialect, they translated between phrases so the teacher, parents and children would understand the words.

An opinion from Christian, 11, about the ladies camping in the park to focus leaders’ attention:

“I know they’re not going to leave until it’s settled,”…“Everybody can use it now, but if they leave, we couldn’t enjoy it anymore.”

Christian was one of approximately 16 students who toured the park, visiting some of the 29 orphaned animals still housed there.

The native women moved in April 1, the day after the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) changed the park’s status from operational to non-operational.

Springwater Park Camp Nibi: a new name being reborn for a new future from ancient roots.

“We are calling it Camp Nibi,” said Watts. “That stands for fresh water, or spring water in Anishinabe.”

Thoughtful Ontarians trust Dale Goldhawk and Dale backs the Springwater Park aboriginal protest

April 5, 2013

Canada’s wealth comes from the land. Degrading the land’s ancient stewards, poisons everyone’s future.


Cheryl Browne writes in today’s Barrie Examiner. Dale Goldhawk backs Springwater Park protestpdf

Two First Nations women moved into the log cabin nestled amongst the pines five days ago and have settled in comfortably for the time being.

“We’re not leaving until this is done,” said Patricia Watts, sitting in a chair beside the warm wood stove.

“Until there is some form of memorandum of understanding with our leaders, we’ll stay,” echoed her roommate, Elizabeth Brass Elson.

Camping out as a peaceful but powerful means of insisting on treaty rights.

On Wednesday, the women welcomed an old ally, Dale Goldhawk of AM740 Zoomer Radio, who protested alongside Watts and Brass Elson in 2009 during their fight to save the natural aquifer under the proposed Site 41 landfill.

They recorded a quiet interview for his Goldhawk Fights Back radio show, and further taping of the episode will continue at the park between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday.

“He’s got such a big following – so many people listen to him – we need to hear their voices now,” said Brass Elson.

And about the politicians that Dale would like to talk to?:

Sitting in the log cabin with the women on Friday, Les Stewart of Springwater Park Citizen’s Coalition said he’s invited all local politicians.

“(Simcoe-Grey MPP) Jim Wilson said he’s coming, but I’m not sure who else is going to come,” Stewart said.

Brass Elson added, “They should come and listen to the people who are paying their salaries.”

See you on Saturday.

Dr. John Bacher adds a much-needed perspective to the squandering of Springwater Park’s heritage

March 14, 2013

Free lecture tonight: Dr. John Bacher, Huronia Room, 2nd Floor, Barrie City Hall, 7:30 pm, March 14th.

Bacher University College

Dr. Bacher spoke at University College, University of Toronto on January 17, 2013.

Cheryl Browne writes for the Barrie Examiner today about tonight’s talk and Friday’s park tour in Group will be touring Springwater Park on Friday:

“Springwater Park used to be a bleak and barren landscape, made up of mostly sand,” Bacher said. “The park was created as a demonstration of what could be done with a wasteland.”

In 2011, Bacher and his wife biked from the Agricultural College at Guelph University to former premier Ernest Charles Drury’s farm — who was Ontario’s provincial leader from 1919 to 1923 — in Crown Hill. Their ride mirrored the path Ontario Forester Edmond Zavitz travelled in 1905 to persuade politicians, like Drury, to develop a strategy for reforesting the province.

Bacher said Zavitz’s ride began the One Billion Trees drive, when the province grew its forested land from only 8% to 20%.

“Springwater Park is the sort of inspiration that causes other people to do reforestation in other places, such as Grey County and Dufferin County,” he said.

Dr. Bacher will be addressing the joint meeting of the Barrie Historical Association and the Simcoe County Historical Association.

And at the end of the article:

MNR officials have said no part of the park will be sold.

Two Billion Trees

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