IMPORTANT TALK: Dr. John Bacher and the role Springwater Park played in resurrecting Ontario’s environment

March 10, 2013

This Thursday, March 14th, Huronia Room, Barrie City Hall, 7:30 am


This is a unique opportunity to listen to a nationally-recognized conservationist put into context the important 107 year old story of the Midhurst Forest Station and its now threatened offspring, Springwater Provincial Park:

Barrie Historical & Simcoe County Historical Joint Meeting
Everyone is welcome to join these two local Historical Associations to hear their guest speaker, John Bacher, talk about From Desert to Forest: Edmund Zavitz, E.C. Drury, and the Resurrection of Simcoe County.

John Bacher is a founding member of the Preservation of Agricultural Lands Society, concerned with stopping urban sprawl in Ontario and is currently employed by them as a researcher. This work has caused him to be involved in a variety of local issues of concern to residents of Simcoe County, notably the defeated mega quarry and Dump Site 41 and the proposed closure of Springwater Provincial Park.

John is the author of Two Billion Trees and Counting: The Legacy of Edmund Zavitz.
    When: Thursday, March 14, 2013
    Hours: 7:30 PM to 9:00 PM
    Where: 70 Collier Street, Huronia Rooms A & B (Barrie City Hall), Barrie, L4M 4T5
    Price: Free!

Dr. Bacher is on the SPCC Advisory Council and his latest book-in-process,  Canada’s 100 Environmental Heroes, will highlight Crown Hill’s The Hon. E.C. Drury.



The story of Springwater Provincial Park is a Faith-filled journey

February 13, 2013

From the February Midhurst Newsletter.

Midhurst Community Newsletter logo

The story of Springwater Provincial Park is a Faith-filled journey
Sanctuary, peace and redemption after The Great War
Les Stewart

The forests, lakes and streams of Simcoe County developed over millions of years but very nearly permanently destroyed within 50 years in the mid 1800s by reckless actions. The forests fell, triggering a profound changes and one environmental crisis after another. Land too infertile to farm was left to create dust storms to such an extent that in the 1920s, farmers in Ontario had to plow their lanes in the summer because of the sand drifts. Fires ran unchecked.

Two men, E.C. Drury of Crown Hill and Edmund Zavitz, Ontario’s first forester, were friends that devoted their lives to redeeming this error. Drury as a boy remembers the night sky glowing red at the fires from the Midhurst plains, the water being poisoned, the flash fires. His faith drove him to act. In 1905, Drury and Zavitz surveyed the Angus, Orr Lake and Midhurst areas for the sites of a future tree forest station. The Midhurst plains were chosen because of the abundant springs that have been a significant headwaters to the internationally recognized Minesing Wetlands.

In 1922, the Midhurst Forest Station started and, with it, Springwater Park. The park was proof of the value of reforestation to the municipalities in central Ontario and private landowners. The ponds were hand-dug during the Great Depression for the tree nursery and the Midhurst CPR station, performed by hundreds of local families and lead by practical men like Meth Adamson and Cyril Jackson. At its peak, 10 million trees per year were shipped from Midhurst. Drury and Zavitz put into place the systems where two billion trees were planted in Ontario.

Sanctuary for all creatures: The definition of a sanctuary is a sacred space, a refuge, some place that is safe from harm: an asylum. The Vespra Boys cenotaph stands as silent testimony to the human need for peace, reflection and rejuvenation. The horrors of the Great War found a place for the families of those that fought and died within a living 477 acre Eden. Almost immediately, unwanted animals were kept at Springwater, starting with pheasants, deer, raptors and even generations of wolves because those God-created creatures needed to be taken care of because of a faith heritage that has only recently diminished.

Challenge: The tree nursery closed in 1993, the CPR station is also gone. It seems all we know how to do is build homes without any jobs to go along with it but that’s not community-building: that’s another version of a clear-cutting mentality. Does the story of Springwater Park have to end or is there enough wisdom locally to re-kindle the idea that man as an obligation to care for the weakest in their society? And in that effort, have a chance to find their own redemption?

Springwater Park Citizens’ Coalition SPCC: The purpose of the Springwater Park Citizens’ Coalition is to support the sustainable operation of Springwater Park . We will provide a supporting role to the professional management of the park, water and forest and will assist where and when appropriate.

In co-operation with the Ministry of Natural Resources, municipal governments, public and private landowners, the Nottawasaga Conservation Authority, water experts, First Nations, CFB Borden, veterans’ groups, and the faith, business and development communities, we hope to help:

  • develop a multi-year strategic business plan,
  • document the story of the park, tree nursery and CPR station (Midhurst Plains),
  • encourage public participation through relationship building with existing community groups (service, faith, environmental, other),
  • retain, restore and renew the animal sanctuary and Vespra Boys cenotaph,
  • help promote the parklands and programs that may be developed,
  • establish a L’Arch community for Simcoe County,
  • promote the park as a version of Simcoe County’s “High Park”, and
  • establish a Springwater Park Auxiliary.

The SPCC looks forward to joining with our neighbours in the future realization of E.C. Drury’s faith-based dream of reconciliation and atonement; in this world and the next.

What did The Hon. E.C. Drury think of speculators?

February 6, 2013

They were thieves who became rich while impoverishing others.


Thievery has always been the curse of humanity, and to it may be ascribed many of our economic and social ills. Theft may be defined as the process of taking something, whether from individuals or from society at large, and giving in return nothing, or less than its true value. 

Thieves may be divided into three classes. First, those who operate outside the law: pickpockets, highwaymen, burglars, forgers. Their depredations are annoying, but in the aggregate not fatal: we catch many of them and put them in jail.

Second, those who steal within the law: land speculators, stock manipulators, price fixers. Their take is very much greater than that of the first class, but since they break no existing law they cannot be punished. I recently read a magazine article by a highly respected multimillionaire who told how he had acquired his wealth. Unlike doctors, waitresses, carpenters, teachers, ministers of the Gospel, he had produced nothing and given no service: he had simply devised a foolproof method of playing the stock market. Other men were poorer because he was richer, and this, I think, is the acid test.

In other words he was a thief.

— Farmer Premier: The Memoirs of E.C. Drury, E. C. Drury, McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1966, p. 197-8.

At the southeast corner of Highways 11 and 93 (Penetanguishene Road).

Hon. Ernst Charles and Ella A. Partridge Drury.

Mrs. Drury taught in Midhurst before marrying on January 11, 1905 (see S.S. No. 6, 1901 class photograph).

Jim Wilson agrees with AWARE Simcoe that Springwater Park should be saved

January 16, 2013

Very nicely done.

20130116 Wilson AWARE

 AWARE Simcoe’s resolution of November 13, 2012 that Mr. Wilson is responding to.


At our meeting of November 8, 2012, AWARE Simcoe board members passed the following resolution:

AWARE Simcoe opposes the plan by the Ministry of Natural Resources to close Springwater Provincial Park, and further opposes any possibility of the sale and development of this valuable public resource.

In passing this motion AWARE Simcoe is lending its support to the thousands of people who have enjoyed Springwater Park’s unique attractions in the past and the thousands more we hope will enjoy them in the future.

Loss of amenities and jobs: Springwater Park is one of 10 provincial parks that the MNR is making “non-operational”, i.e. closing, with an overall loss of 28 full-time and 102 seasonal jobs. The other nine are in Northern Ontario and they are being closed for overnight camping. However, Springwater Park is being completely closed
in terms of staffing and amenities; including the animal sanctuary, picnic areas, garbage disposal, toilets and playground.

Loss of a prime asset: With 193 hectares of provincial parkland (adjacent to provincial and county forest as well as CPR land); Springwater Park is an important natural asset for citizens of Barrie and area at a time of unprecedented development pressure. People, and especially children, (in an age where ‘nature-deficit disorder’ is
a routinely observed syndrome), need such spaces to escape the pressures of our increasingly crowded and structured society.

MNR’s poor management: The reason the ministry gives for the closing is that the park is under-used, having seen a fifty per cent drop in visitors in the last decade. We believe this trend is the result of drastic budget cuts to the ministry and very poor management of the park, including failure to monitor and repair the park fee debit machine at the west gate. In fact, for over three years, until repairs were recently effected, visitors were unable to pay their entrance fees to the park there. We believe the trend can be reversed by publicizing the existence of the park and mobilizing the volunteer efforts of local citizens. Although the ministry says it will save $7.1 million a year by closing the 10 parks, we understand that the net operational savings to be realized by the Springwater closing is only $77,000 a year, not including any revenues from logging. A minor increase in revenues could reverse the gloomy financial forecast for Springwater Park.

Logging and sale: We believe that there are presently unannounced plans to log Springwater Park and then sell the land for development for a one-time injection of cash to help address the provincial government deficit. This would constitute a tragic loss to forever astonish the generations that come after us, because it will never again be possible – at any price! – to assemble this kind of natural space in this highly populated part of Ontario.

Unique tourism values: Simcoe County, with its forests, conservation areas, provincial parks and provincial wildlife areas, is within easy reach of major population centers and is well positioned to become a leading wilderness tourism destination for hikers, birders, naturalists, anglers, cyclists, canoeists, cross-country skiers and other rapidly growing nature-related recreational activities. If we whittle away at our heritage by undervaluing it, failing to promote and steward it, and (worst-case scenario) selling it off, we will fall behind other areas of Southern Ontario in terms of the variety and quality of the experience we can offer.

Biodiversity: Natural spaces are becoming increasingly fragmented and thus less useful to wildlife. By virtue of its size and location, Springwater Park is an important component of efforts to foster biodiversity. It is a major headwater to the Minesing Wetland s, the largest intact wetland in Southern Ontario, and recognized as an internationally important feature under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

Sanctuary: Springwater Park is the only provincial park that offers a sanctuary for injured or orphaned Ontario indigenous species that cannot be returned to the wild. As a result it has been an important (although in recent years, poorly promoted) educational resource. There is a need that will have to be addressed to improve the conditions in which the animals are kept. Requests for improvements date back 15 years, but unfortunately the MNR has not taken any action on this.

History: In the early 1900s, the Ontario Government established a tree nursery in Simcoe County and began to distribute trees for reforestation. This was the beginning of the Midhurst Tree Nursery, and Springwater Park was the first important element of the reforestation program. It was spearheaded by one of Simcoe County’s leading historical figures – E.C. Drury, a farmer at Crown Hill in Oro Township and Ontario Premier from 1919-1923; and E.J. Zavitz, Ontario’s first provincial forester. They began a project to help recover the land that had been cleared for agriculture and denuded of trees in the late 1890s and early 1900s, with abandoned farms and open stretches of dune sand making up the northwest portion of Simcoe County. This then became a model for reforestation across Southern Ontario.

Springwater Park’s rich history includes a monument dedicated to the 18 “Boys of Vespra” who died in the Great War of 1914-1918. It stands where a large and beautiful pond was hand-dug in 1924 to provide water to the tree nursery. The Vespra Boys Cenotaph is at the heart of the 90-year old park, which was designed from Day 1 to promote the value of resurrection (tree reforestation). The cenotaph is a continuing memorial of deep significance to many local residents.

Over the years Springwater Park became one of the finest parks in Ontario. It has everything children, families, sports enthusiasts and animal lovers could ask for. Thousands of people have fond memories of their time spent in the park, and hope that future generations will also be able to enjoy this very special and unique place.

Yours sincerely

Don Morgan
AWARE Simcoe chair

Springwater Park Citizens’ Coalition tries to forge alliance of the respectful.

January 13, 2013

The SPCC’s first public communication of our research.

Farmers Market

We’ll continue for the next 2 Saturday’s at the Barrie Farmers’ Market, 8 to noon, Barrie City Hall.

Click here and go to 5:13 for a quick summary of the power in linking together existing environmental, service, First Nations and faith communities.

We never stand taller when we stoop to help God’s most vulnerable creatures. In so doing, we invite our own redemption.

E.C. Drury and Edmund Zavitz stood for these values when they chose the land of ever-lasting springs in 1905. It is now our time to continue their legacy.

Could Springwater Park become to Simcoe County what High Park is to Toronto?

January 9, 2013

Or will we let the 107 year old dream of people like Drury and Zavitz be unfulfilled?High Park Toronto Canada

High Park Toronto (161 hectares/400 acres)

High Park [Wikipedia] is Toronto’s largest public park featuring many hiking trails, sports facilities, diverse vegetation, a beautiful lakefront, convenient parking, easy public transit access, a dog park, a zoo, playgrounds for children, a couple of eateries, greenhouses, picnic areas, a bunch of squirrels and various events throughout the year.

On this website you can find information about High Park to help you plan your visit and to learn what makes this beautiful park a true gem in the Southwestern part of Toronto. You can also view pictures of the park either on the photo gallery page or using the image slideshows located on every page.

In addition to almost all that, we have Springwater Park at 193 hectares or 477 acres:

The Midhurst Tree Nursery creation story

October 27, 2012

Clear-cut logging had turned Simcoe county into a  sand dune by 1900.

E.C. Drury and Edmund Zavitz worked to make a huge difference.


In early October 1905 the newly appointed Provincial Forester, E.J. Zavitz had paid us a visit of several days duration at the farm. It was the first time I had met him, and I liked him at once and was very favourably impressed with him. We became friends and have so remained, though we have not been able to see each other often. We discussed the problem of reforestation in older Ontario very thoroughly, and with our horse and buggy drove over the pine plains at Angus (now Camp Borden) and Midhurst. At Orr Lake Zavitz told me of the plan to establish a forest nursery and demonstration area, and for that purpose he seemed to favour either Angus or Midhurst. Both areas were suitable, both had ample supplies of water, and both were easily accessible to the public. A year or two later a Provincial Forestry Station was established, but it was located in Norfork country in an area which, while otherwise suitable, was difficult of access, so that few people saw it, and some of its educational effect was lost. Some sand land was reforested and some seedlings were distributed. And there the matter of reforestation stood until years later Zavitz and I got together again. [See The Man who Planted a Billion Trees] p. 54-5.

Shortly after I took office [1919], E.J. Zavitz, the Provincial Forester, and I got together on the subject in which we were so interested: reforestry in older Ontario. After the establishment many years before of the first Provincial Forest Station at St. Williams in Norfolk County, the Government had lost interest in the matter and very little progress had been made. Zavitz and I laid plans to reinvigorate the project. We proposed to establish two more tree nurseries an demonstration areas, one at Orono, adjacent to the sand barrens of Durham County, and the other at Midhurst, in Simcoe County. We proposed also to try to stimulate the arrangement by which, when such land was acquired, the province would undertake to plant it and administer it for thirty years. At the end of that period the municipality would be given three choices: (1) it could pay the province what it had cost for planting and care, and take over the forest, (2) it could require the province to take over the forest, paying the municipality what the land had cost, or (3) it could go fifty-fifty with the province in the ownership of the plantation. It was too late in the season to do anything about the nurseries, but the next year, 1920, land was purchased at Midhurst and Orono and the nurseries were established. They have since produced many millions of trees for public and private planting. p. 99

– Farmer Premier: The Memoirs of E.C. Drury, E. C. Drury, McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1966.

Originally posted on on April 3, 2012.

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