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
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The latest in “signs of things gone bad” at Springwater Park evokes another offer of welcome and accommodation by First Nations allies.

May 18, 2015

Are Barrie and Midhurst residents willing to let the “morons” define their communities?

Beth Ian McInroy

Elizabeth Brass Elson, of Beausoleil First Nation, looks over the remains of a ceremonial teepee which was destroyed by vandals Saturday night at Springwater Provincial Park, located north of Barrie. IAN MCINROY/BARRIE EXAMINER/POSTMEDIA

Ian McInroy reports for the Barrie Examiner in Teepee set on fire at Springwater park:

A ceremonial Anishinaabe teepee in Springwater Provincial Park north of Barrie was destroyed by vandals over the weekend.

Huronia West OPP and Springwater Township firefighters were called to the park at approximately 7 p.m. on Sunday after learning the teepee had been burned.

There were no injuries and no other damage to property.

Elizabeth Brass Elson, of Beausoleil First Nation, said it’s the fourth incident of racist-related vandalism in Springwater park in Midhurst.

She was one of several Anishinaabe women who occupied the park the day after the Ministry of Natural Resources (now the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) deemed the 193-hectare facility non-operational in March 31 2013.

“The teepee being burned is another sign of things gone bad here,” she said, standing next to the scorched frame that once made up the canvas teepee.

“They are all racist comments,” Brass Elson said. “People are not educated about aborginal treaties and native rights. This is a very spiritual place.”

How can those that say they love Springwater Park show their appreciation to our ancient land stewards?

Brass Elson said there is a way for area residents to show support for Springwater park and the Beausoleil First Nation’s efforts to manage it during an event at the park on Saturday, May 23. It will celebrate the victory over proposed landfill Site 41 north of Elmvale in September 2009 as well as Camp Nibi — the Anishinaabe name for fresh water, or spring water — when women occupied the park after it was deemed non-operational.

“We’re having a potluck on Saturday. People can bring their families and food,” she said. “In times like these, allies are needed to save the land and save the water.”

The potluck gets underway at 5 p.m. All are invited.

Is this really the way to welcome back our new neighbours?

Supplied photo

Vandals burned down a First Nations teepee at Springwater Provincial Park sometime Saturday night or Sunday morning. Provincial police are investigating. Photo supplied

Stupidity has a certain charm — ignorance does not. Frank Zappa

Michelle Hardy

Michelle Hardy and Stewart Patterson, along with little Elle, walk through Springwater Provincial Park Monday afternoon. Hardy was shocked that vandals would destroy a First Nations teepee Saturday night in the park, located north of Barrie. IAN MCINROY/BARRIE EXAMINER


Saturday May 23: Pot luck dinner at Camp Nibi / Springwater Park

May 17, 2015

from Beth Brass Elson (Wabiska Myiingan)

Round dance Main Pavilion

We will be having a Pot Luck Dinner on Saturday, May 23rd 2015 at 5:00 pm at Camp Nibi / Springwater Park at the main pavilion. It has been a long time since we had a Pot Luck at Nibi so I am hoping all who came and stayed and those who supported us return for a very exciting afternoon of fun and catch up! We are taking apart the old lodge and doing a ceremony for it earlier on this day also. Looking forward to chatting it up and hugging with you all!

Posted on AWARE Simcoe


Ministry of Natural Resources “pleased to be working with” Beausoleil First Nations in re-opening Springwater Park.

April 17, 2014
20140417 Stan Howe

Members of the Beausoleil First Nation plan to return to Springwater park this spring. Stan Howe

Laurie Watt in the Barrie Advance reports: MNR talks with native group to re-open Springwater Park

The Ministry of Natural Resources is talking with the Beausoleil First Nation about reopening Springwater Provincial Park as a pair of warring citizens’ groups wait to hear if they’ll be included.

But while the ministry is “pleased to be working with” Beausoleil, the ministry isn’t yet ready to release details on what’s being discussed, ministry spokesperson Jolanta Kowalski said.

As partnership talks began just before Christmas, Camp Nibi — founded by a group led by Elizabeth Brass Elson as an outreach and healing initiative — packed up and left for the winter. Brass Elson plans to restart the group’s activities and ceremonies in the park this spring, although snow still covers the ground in the 193-hectare park that opened in 1927 and was shuttered by the ministry a year ago.

However, things are getting confusing. There are three community groups, two of them (#1 and #2) both claiming control of over $100,000 in community donations while the the third, is waiting for the MNR/Camp Nibi discussions to be completed.

In summary:

  1. Mr. Ian Taylor, Friends of Springwater Park,
  2. Mr. Jack Garner, Springwater Park Foundation who recently seems to have split off from #1, and
  3. Mr. Les Stewart and the Springwater Park Citizens’ Coalition. SPCC split from #1 in Oct 2012.

The SPCC and Advisory Board: Our experience shows it is premature and can be potentially very problematic to raise funds or pledges before the management and ownership issues were first sorted out by between the more senior levels (ie. MNR and First Nations).

The SPCC has sought a sustainable business model.

In our opinion, sustainability can only come primarily from long-term, government-underwritten, publicly-funded budgets which may arise from aboriginal and non-aboriginal sources.

As a simple sign of encouragement toward that partnership, we asked our municipality (Springwater Township) to budget some 2014 $ for the park’s re-opening. Township Council responded generously by providing an allocation of $10,000 which will only be spent if an agreement is reached. Public money does not run nearly as “hot and cold” as does individual or corporate donations do.

Summary: Agreement first (resources will be included in that plan anyway.) Then onto further public and private funding.


Springwater Park – Camp Nibi draws thousands of winter visitors….and +$110,000 in private and public support!

April 10, 2014

The winter is an exceptionally busy time at Springwater Park – Camp Nibi: both inside and out.

Honour treaties park 20131226

In the Barrie Advance, Group raises cash to help reopen Springwater Park:

A year of uncertainty about Springwater Park’s future has sown the seeds — and cash — for meaningful talks on a partnership to reopen the facility.

The Springwater Park Foundation has so far raised $103,000 and it’s putting its cash where its mouth is as it plans talks with the province’s Natural Resources Ministry.

Springwater resident Nancy Bigelow:

Now that the money’s set aside, Springwater Park Foundation chairperson Nancy Bigelow said she’s working to set a date to meet with the ministry. She can tell stories of people who have come to appreciate the park, which the ministry had said was experiencing a drop in visitors.

“You have to walk in, but it’s absolutely gorgeous. There are trails and plenty of people. On the weekends, it’s packed. All through the winter, there were snowshoers and cross-country skiers. It’s been impressive,” Bigelow said.

P1000747

Our Anishinaabe friends continued their ceremonies all winter long:

“There won’t be so many overnight times. We’re not moving back in, but we’ll be doing ceremonies and teaching,” said the group’s Elizabeth Brass Elson. “We’re Camp Nibi and we plan on staying there forever. We haven’t finished our initiative.”

 

Snow clear 93

And finally:

Springwater Park Citizens’ Coalition founder Les Stewart said talks are still ongoing and Springwater Township has set aside $10,000 to help reopen the park if an agreement is reached.

Running for deputy mayor of Springwater, Stewart said he’s keeping a keen eye on the park and efforts to reopen it.

“The park is in great shape and people have been using it all winter. We’re looking forward to an announcement from the MNR,” he said.


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.”

cheryl.browne@sunmedia.ca
Twitter.com/cherylbrowne1

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.

UPDATE:

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.


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.


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