An unsupervised Springwater Provincial Park is a predictabe fire hazard.

October 15, 2012

The insurance underwriters may force the demolition of all park structures including playground equipment, pavilions, buildings, washrooms, etc .

At “The Pit,” a popular youth drinking spot at Milton Cemetery, teens have set up a sofa, chairs and a fire pit. Photo by Scott MacKeen. Milton Times article.

A good article in the Orillia Packet and Times by David Hawke called Closing park a bad gov’t decision Word pdf:

Not only have the captive birds and animals been given the boot; so, too, have the washrooms, playgrounds, picnic tables (of which I estimate to be about 200 in number), buildings and roads. It is to be designated an “inoperative park” and be devoid of any government support. It will, unfortunately, become another Copeland Forest, soon to be claimed by the mountain bikers and bush-party gangs as their secluded playland.

The Simcoe County Forests are mentioned.

The immediate area was 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. Starting in 1922, the Midhurst Tree Station (later to be called Springwater Provincial Park) was the birthplace of our world-renowned Simcoe County Forests; trees planted in those early years remain growing there today, quite tall and very impressive.

The first mention of the Vespra Boys cenotaph in the mainstream media:

There is such a rich history within Springwater Park, including a monument dedicated to the “Boys of Vespra” for giving of their lives in the Great War; it stands beside a large and beautiful pond that was hand dug in 1924 to provide water to the blossoming tree nursery.

Fires: There are many buildings made from wood: pavilions, cabins, animal pens,  and washrooms. Uncut grasses can ignite quite easily not to mention 400 acres of 90 year-old trees and several nearby residential houses.

The costs of fighting these fires will be borne by the taxpayers of Springwater Township and Barrie.

Province wants to close Springwater Park next spring.

October 4, 2012

The Barrie Advance reports today that Springwater Park is to be effectively closed in 2013: no animals, no maintenance and no staff to keep an eye on things.

Birth, growth and death of community cohesion possible through local employment:

  • Vespra township, 1837 – 1994,
  • Midhurst Forest Station (tree nursery), 1922 – 1993, and now
  • Springwater Park, 1935 – 2013.

See Midhurst timeline, some of my vintage park postcards and a current petition to stop the closing.

Many memories for many families. After 25 years of working as a shipping clerk at the Tree Nursery, the park was the logical spot for my mom’s retirement party in July 1989.-

The nursery, park and ministry district office were mostly about the people. People like Joe, Ted, …

Judy and Carl.

Ken and Rid.

The superintendents’ house across from the park entrance on Highway 26.

Reminder :: Petition presentation to Springwater Township council

April 15, 2012

Petition opposing reckless Sprawl in Springwater township.

Monday (tomorrow) April 16, 2012. At the Springwater Township centre, Nursery Road (just off Hwy. 26 opposite Springwater Park). 5:30 pm

A special invitation to former reeves, mayors and councillors from Springwater/Vespra and surrounding townships. Your participation would be much appreciated.


Click to listen to Side Two, Track 2 from Terry Craig’s 1975 album,  My Birch Bark Tree: The Nine Mile Portage

Lyrics and music by Terry Craig. Registered with SOCAN. Digitally engineered by David Strachan.

The Midhurst Tree Nursery creation story

April 3, 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.

The people who propose this must worship at the altar of ugliness!

March 2, 2012

Thoughtful, intelligent and caring communities build on the past. Don’t they?

Are we so short-sighted and lacking in confidence? Have we forgotten that today, we stand on our ancestors’ shoulders and hold the future in trust for our children?

In The Midhurst Secondary Plan: Let’s think again!, Word pdf Bill Nieuwland is able to compress and express forty years of beauty and folly in a wonderfully elegant manner:

When I moved to Vespra Township more than forty years ago, it was an area of beautiful natural and agricultural landscape. Midhurst was a small village of mostly modest homes scattered along a few quiet streets. For the most part, residents wisely relied on the wooded terrain to enhance the settings of their homes. Subsequent small developments took their cue from the examples set before them. Thanks to the foresight of those who have come before, this village is a jewel of Simcoe County. Word of this bucolic hamlet soon spread. New arrivals were drawn to it because of the opportunities for a wholesome and healthy family and community life. However, it seems that some powers decided that all this was more than its residents deserved. And so, they imposed on it a planning regime that would overwhelm the community.

On the Midhurst Secondary Plan:

Now Midhurst is to be drawn and quartered. The streets that were laid in the heart of the village more than a hundred years ago are to become busy thoroughfares with tens of thousands of vehicles per day. There will be very few local employment opportunities for the thousands of new residents. The mass of commuters will need to go as far afield as Toronto. They will leave bleary eyed in the early morning and return exhausted in the evening. Commuting by public transit or bicycle will be all but impossible. Old Midhurst will become a pedestrian and cycling nightmare.

Bill’s writing reminds me of stories I’ve been told of people I’ve heard of and known, like Meth Adamson, Ike Merritt, Charles Bowdery, George Monteith, Rid Groves, Harvey Spence, Les Willis, Charlie Day, Dick Pierce, and Dick Brown.

If you want to see what Midhurst’s spirit can build, look to Springwater Park.

Springwater Park was planned and crafted out of a desert of sand when everyone thought it was of no value. So was the Midhurst Tree Nursery.

They  used to call it the Commons. It wasn’t worth anything. Alan Johnston

Every pond was man-made working in concert with the gift of abundant water.

Bill Nieuwland expresses an elegant alternate view to the present slash and burn mentality.

All work has dignity if done with the right attitude

March 2, 2012

No one can demean what you do unless you give them permission to do so.

A hoeing gang in 1934, working at the Forest Station, (l. to r.), Adrian Wallwin, Les Willis, Cecil Frankcom, George Monteith (foreman), Mel Wattie, George Ayres.

Working At The Forestry

I drove Dad’s team from the top of Paddy Dunn’s hill to work at the Reforestry, and I’d be there at 7:00 am. It was 25 cents an hour for labour, and $3.00 per day for the team. Five dollars a day for man and team. This was about 1929.

Lorne Orser

Early 1930s

I worked at the Reforestry – planting trees, digging, seedling, pulling weeds, doing carpentry work, at 27 cents an hour – a ten hour day.

Morley Schandlen

 — A History of Vespra Township, The Vespra Township Council, Allan Anderson & Betty Tomlinson Anderson, Editors, 1987, p. 152.

Springwater people have valued trees for a very long time

February 10, 2012

Trees have provided work, warmth, shelter and recreation.

Trees do some extremely healthy things for us.

Springwater people, many of them off-season farmers, worked to ship up to 11 million seedlings per year around this province for 70 years last century.

The Midhurst Tree Nursery (1920-1993) was a keystone institution in the development of Vespra township and a provincially-significant contributor in environmental remediation of predatory forestry practices.

That’s something to be proud of.

Something to remember because in 1905 the Nursery Lands used to be called the “Midhurst Wastelands”: a barren, blow sand moonscape of worthless land.

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