Simcoe County forestry history to be told in new interpretitive building

April 21, 2017

A new building to tell an important old story.

Kelley Swift-Jones, curator of the Simcoe County Museum, and Graeme Davis, county forester, hold up local forestry artifacts. The museum and forestry department are building a forestry Interpretive centre to educate the public on our nearly 100-year-old forestry history. – Sara Carson/Metroland

Wandering through a Simcoe County forest surrounded by towering trees and thick leaf coverage, it’s hard to imagine 100 years ago the land could best be described as a barren desert.

“If you went back 100 years in this area you would have very, very little forest cover. It’s surprising to people that there was much less forest 100 years ago than we have today,” said county forester Graeme Davis.

The rich history of Simcoe County Forests will be told with stories and artifacts inside Simcoe County Museum’s new forestry interpretative building.

Construction will begin on the 1,000-square-foot EcoLog home this spring.

It will be located on the museum grounds in Minesing in a forested section on the edge of a small embankment.

“It’s going to be beautiful when it’s all finished,” said museum curator Kelley Swift-Jones.

Simcoe County Forests celebrates its 100th birthday in 2022.

These woods played an important role in our history, Davis said.

In the early 1800s when the first European settlers arrived, much of the county was covered with valuable forests of both softwood and hardwood species, including huge stands of natural white pine.

For 100 years, the forests fell to the lumberjack’s axe.

Timber barons harvested, milled and shipped the wood to England with little thought for the future.

“The thinking at the time was ‘My goodness, there is so much forest we could just cut forever,’” Davis said.

The remaining trees were seen as an impediment to farming and vast areas were cleared and burned.

By the early 1900s there was little timber left and the once abundant forested areas had become dry, sandy wastelands.

“They had to plow the roads in the summertime for the sand,” Davis said.

When E.C. Drury, a longtime resident and community leader of Simcoe County, became Premier of Ontario in 1919 he was instrumental in establishing the Agreement Forest program.

The County of Simcoe was the first to take advantage of this program and acquired the wasteland for marginal prices. It was then turned over to the Ontario Department of Lands and Forests for protection and forestry development.

The first trees were planted May 8, 1922, at the Hendrie tract in Vespra Township.

In the mid-1990s, management was turned over to the county.

Today, Simcoe County Forest is the largest and one of the most productive municipal forests in Ontario, totalling nearly 33,000 acres. Timber sold from the forests is reinvested to buy more land, Davis said.

Construction on the forestry interpretative centre should be complete by summer’s end.

Davis hopes the building makes people think about the future of our environment.

“It’s to get people to understand some of the poor decisions made in the past. It’s important to remember that stuff and recognize decisions on what we do with the broader landscape have implications. We don’t want to go back there again,” he said.

The building will host nature-based educational programming.

Donations are welcome. Contact the Simcoe County Museum at 705-728-3721.

https://www.simcoe.com/community-story/7241960-simcoe-county-s-rich-forestry-history-to-be-told-in-new-interpretive-centre/

 


Pope Francis’ environmental and human ecology encyclical speaks directly to Simcoe County, says Dr. John Bacher

August 13, 2015

It is our great pleasure to present an original article from John Bacher PhD, entitled Pope Francis’ “Laudato si’” Speaks to Simcoe County: pdf

In his Encyclical Letter, “Laudato si’”, (On Care for Our Common Home), the Holy Father Francis has made an urgent call for humanity to reverse the process where, “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.” To realize Francis’ vision of a healed global ecosystem, it is important to look at what we can do in our own communities. Few places on the planet speak so immediately to his plea for action as Simcoe County.

Springwater Park 1922

What Springwater Park land looked after it was clear cut and before pine planting in 1922.

One of the most vivid but disagreeable aspects of the history of Simcoe County is how quickly a landscape dominated by lush forests of towering pines was transformed into a desert. This took place with as astonishing speed between 1830 and 1900 when native peoples lost control over this territory.

In Laudato si’, Francis stresses the role of indigenous people and their role in protecting the earth, so recently happily demonstrated in the Ojibway occupation that rescued Springwater Provincial Park. He notes that for these peoples, “land is not considered a commodity but rather a gift from God and from their ancestors who rest there, a sacred space with they need to interact if they are to maintain their identity and values. When they remain on their land, they themselves care for it best.”

Springwater Park rescued by the Ojibway was itself created as a demonstration site of what could be done to reverse the brutal consequences of Euro-Canadian occupation of the land that created widespread deserts. Its creation was the work of the provincial Premier, E. C. Drury and Edmund Zavitz after they toured the region’s bleak deserts. They were amazed to see in the desert water surging forth from a spring and realized that this area, the headwaters of the Nottawasaga river was an excellent place for a tree nursery.

White Pines settler effect

Once the white pine were cut, the light soils of Ontario were eroded from underneath: a manmade wasteland by 1905.

In their horse and buggy tour of the wastelands created from massive forest fires that sought to clear land for farming and destructive logging, Drury and Zavitz might have felt the same agony as expressed in one of the most eloquent passages of Laudato si’. This is that, “God has joined us so closely to the world around us that we can feel the desertification of the soil almost as a physical ailment, and the extinction of species as a painful disfigurement.”

The accomplishments of Drury and Zavitz are also well commended in Laudato si’. Francis in point 58 of the Encyclical Letter, notes that, “In some countries, there are positive examples of environmental improvement: rivers, polluted for decades, have been cleaned up; native woodlands have been restored; landscapes have been beautified thanks to environmental restoration projects”

Francis sees past restoration efforts such as the greening of the deserts of Simcoe County as proof that “men and women are still capable of intervening positively.” He sees that, ‘For all our limitations, gestures of generosity, solidarity and care cannot but well up within us, since we were made for love.”

It is the challenge of he current generation of residents of Simcoe County to show that they are still as Francis puts it “capable of intervening positively.” To do this we need to show the threats to this positively legacy-massive urban sprawl and clear cutting of forests through by-law suspensions, can be stopped.

John Bacher is author, lecturer and environmental expert witness. His latest book is Two Billion Trees and Counting: The Legacy of Edmund Zavitz, Dundurn Press, 2011. Bacher can be reached at JohnBacherPhD.ca.

John has been a valued member of our Advisory Council since Oct 2012.


First Memorial Zavitz-Drury bike ride, this Sunday, October 5

October 3, 2014

A very good way to celebrate our magnificent county forestry heritage

drury-zavitz-a

What: First Memorial Zavitz-Drury bike ride

When: Sunday October 5 at 10:30 am (weather permitting)

Where: meet at Spence Ave and Hwy 27 (ball diamond parking lot, Midhurst) and ride to Finlay Mill Rd, across Wattie Rd, down St. Vincent, left onto Pooles Rd, right onto Old 2nd S, left onto Partridge Rd. then down Penetanguishene Road to the plaque that marks the original Drury farm in Crown Hill. More info 705-424-7589

Alliston Herald article

Alliston Herald
September 22, 2014

Perfect season to bike through Simcoe County forests
Letter to the Editor
Anne Learn Sharpe

LETTER – The season is turning, leaves are showing hints of brilliance against the backdrop of dark pines — and it’s the perfect time for a bike ride. The story of the pine forests of Simcoe County begins with a very long bike ride.

In October of 1905, Edmund Zavitz, who was teaching forestry at the agricultural college in Guelph, set out on his bicycle and rode to Crown Hill north of Barrie to meet E. C. Drury, farmer and fellow conservationist. Their collaboration over the following decades led to the reforestation of Ontario.

In his book Two Billion Trees and Counting, John Bacher describes what the cutting and burning of trees had done to Ontario in the early 20th century: farmland had turned to blowsand and was drifting away, water sources had dried up and serious floods were becoming more common. Edmund Zavitz started planting trees. During E. C. Drury’s term as premier, 1919 to 1923, along with a team of colleagues, the two men created policies and projects to involve farmers and land owners in planting hardy red and white pines as pioneer species. These trees gradually held the soil in place and stored water to nourish further growth and prevent floods.

This is history we don’t hear enough about. What better way to commemorate it than with a bike ride? This October before you put away your bike for the season, plan a ride to one of the many places in Simcoe County where Zavitz and Drury left their mark. Any of the county forests would be a fine destination. Springwater Park was once the Midhurst Reforestation Station. Here in Angus, we have the Ontario Tree Seed Plant, and across the road Angus Community Park, once a part of the plant. In Crown Hill on the Penetanguishene Road, a plaque marks the site of the original Drury farm.

Zavitz and Drury left us a legacy of natural spaces that sustain our lives in countless ways. And they left us a strategy: don’t cut too many trees and be sure to plant many more than you cut—in other words, conservation. Their gift was meant to be enjoyed and passed on to next generations—it’s up to us to see that it is. Like Edmund Zavitz, we could start with a bike ride.

Anne Learn Sharpe,
Angus

Posted on iLoveMidhurst.ca.


They’re coming for the Simcoe County and MNR forests…once again.

May 18, 2014

In the 1800s, the great hardwoods forests were clear cut. Starting in 1905, men like Hon. E.C. Drury and Dr. Edmund Zavitz worked to help Mother Earth heal us.

Jung1

Cancerous sprawl cannot stop itself by just destroying the land and water: the parasites are after the air.

The earthly manifestations of “God’s world” began with the realm of plants, as a kind of direct communication from it. It was as though one were peering over the shoulder of the Creator, who, thinking Himself unobserved, was making toys and decorations. Man and the proper animals, on the other hand, were bits of God that had become independent. That was why they could move about on their own and choose their abodes. Plants were bound for good or ill to their places. They expressed not only beauty but also the thoughts of God’s world, with an intent of their own and without deviation. Trees in particular were mysterious and seemed to me direst embodiments of the incomprehensible meaning of life. For that reason, the woods were the places where I felt closest to its deepest meaning and to its awe-inspiring workings. (MDR, PP. 67-8) PP. 28-9

The Lungs of the GTA

pdftree-lungs

 

Posted on iLoveMidhurst.ca.


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.

OnWar2

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

OnWar5

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


Former Ontario premier, Hon. E.C. Drury must have taken pride in Springwater Park.

May 21, 2013

A legacy of the”Farmer Premier” from Crown Hill helping turn tens of thousands of acres of Ontario wastelands into sustainable forests.

Sign EC Drury

Among many other accomplishments, establishing the forest station system in Ontario that resulted in 2 billion trees being planted.

Sign EC Drury2

Springwater Park was established across the road from the Midhurst Forest Station to demonstrate the value of re-forestation to central Ontario farmers, townships, and municipalities. The forest station was chosen in 1905 and started in 1922.

Drury plaque

Another commemorative plaque on the west side of the Old Barrie Road. An important one highlighting his forestry work.

Bacher Mary Lou

Dr. John Bacher (seen here with his wife, Mary Lou) has chosen him one of “Canada’s 100 Environmental Heroes”.

A visit and  by John and Mary Lou to Springwater Park on March 15, 2013.

Mary Lou

John Ferley

A walk along the Orange Trail.

Walk2

Walk3

Walk4

Walk5

Walk6

Walk7

A walk along the Orange Trail.


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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