Ontario Premier Wynne and AWARE Simcoe and park community activists discuss Springwater Park – Camp Nibi.

August 31, 2013

A First Nations education centre, in addition to continuing with the heritage of a +90 year old, supervised park?

Wynne Morgan Stewart

As reported on the front page of today’s Springwater News (circulation 17, 300), Premier meets local community activists:

Les Stewart of the Springwater Park Citizens’ Coalition and AWARE Simcoe chair Don Morgan chatted with Premier Wynne when she recently visited Barrie. In an interview with the Barrie Examiner, Wynne said she is aware of the First Nations women’s camp at Springwater Park and does not think their idea of a native education centre at the is the park is unreasonable. “I think it’s a matter of how we would do that, where the funding would come from and it would be sustainable.”

Our brief chat happened on August 9th at the home of former Barrie MPP and MP Aileen Carroll. I reported here on Premier Wynne’s interview on the original Barrie Examiner articlepdf 

Here are a few additional pictures I took at the barbecue.

2 kw ac

5 kw jl

11 kw ac kc jl logo

Cross-posted from an August 29th post on SpringwaterParkcc.org.

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.

It’s not that local politicians don’t value a cenotaph, Springwater Park and +31,000 acres of Simcoe County Forests

October 15, 2012

It’s just that the promise of the cash flowing from land banking and sprawl residential developments like the “old switcheroo” Midhurst Secondary Plan is too tempting when the provincial government is so hated by the local unwashed masses.

Background: The province owns a 1,000 acres including the parklands and the surrounding reforested area bounded by Bayfield Street, Highway 26 , Wilson Drive and Snow Valley Road. Satellite view

Simcoe County in agreement with the province controls +31,000 acres (14,091 hectares) of the Simcoe County Forests which includes the historic Hendrie Tract.

In 1922,  Simcoe County: A Leader in Forestry. 

On October 1, 2012 the Barrie Advance reported that the current county warden is seeking his 3rd term, unopposed.

Where is the cenotaph in Springwater Provincial Park? And why should I care?

October 14, 2012

The Vespra Boys cenotaph is the heart of the +90 year old park which was designed from Day 1 to promote the value of resurrection (tree reforestation).

How to get there: Google map.

From Barrie: look for the sign to the left, just past CPR train tracks.

Left into tall trees and cedar hedge.

Pay at the booth.

Bear to the right, go down hill.

Down a little farther…

Park in front of gate.

Through the gate…a little further on…make note of ” Adamson’s  rock” on the left (subject of another post)

See the front of cenotaph? Note the total lack of interpretative signage?

Compare what it looked like circa 1936. In the 1960s I remember the goldfish in that pond.

Read the inscription (a lot to absorb in the latin):

Lest we Forget. 1914-1918 In Memory of the Vespra Boys who died in the Great War.

Dulce et Decorum Est pro patria Mori
[It is sweet and right to die for your country.]

Go around back and look at the face it gives the park (top to bottom): crucifix, inscription, running (ever-circulating water), a child step, enclosed in 400 acres of trees. A step up not out of charity but out of love and acceptance of their (our) vulnerability and limitations. Dead land turned in life; the common(s) transformed into the sacred.

A teaching cenotaph (empty tomb) for the lost children and grandchildren of the Vespra Boys?

btw: The word “cenotaph” derives from the Greek: κενοτάφιον = kenotaphion (kenos, one meaning being “empty”, and taphos, “tomb”).

The Inscription: Through Sacrifice we Drink of Life

Does it mean something like this:

But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy.  Philippians 2:17

This is only the water fountain in the park that was designed to never be turned off (eternal).

Stand there. Turn around 180 degrees and look at the main pavillion.

Look down at the far bank of the creek running into the pond (at right). See the “V” for Victory installed after the World War II?

It was originally made up of living yew shrubsYew symbology: the death tree, poisonous but death not being the end but of a transformation into a new life. Now replaced.

The purpose of memorials is to provide an experience through senses (eye, sound, taste, touch) to a participant through the skillful engineering of tangible objects and intangible symbols. You walk into a church: the sight, sounds, touch, tastes are different than the ordinary. This cenotaph and immediate area was designed to beckon, refresh and teach the young and remind the old on our shared, highest social values.

The cenotaph area is one symbol, one message: designed to satisfy mans’ highest principles.

Other signs have taken over: some driven into the ground of what some may call a  sacred space.

Springwater Provincial Park has been a sanctuary for 90 years

October 12, 2012

The voiceless continue to speak to us.

Maybe that’s what they mean about the gift of the weak. They remind us of something that is all too easy to forget.

But as for Aslan himself, the Beavers and the children didn’t know what to do or say when they saw him. People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time. If the children had ever thought so, they were cured of it now. For when they tried to look at Aslan‘s face they just caught a glimpse of the golden mane and the great, royal, solemn, overwhelming eyes; and then they found they couldn’t look at him and went all trembly. C.S. Lewis


In the late 1970s, it was proposed that the birds and animals be moved from Springwater because the old wire cages were considered inadequate under modern concepts. But once again, there was strong local community support for their retention. This was heeded and instead a decision was made to undertake a program of modernization so that the new wildlife habitat would be larger and more closely resemble natural conditions.

Springwater Park: A Child of the Depression, Peter M. Morley, Your Forests, Ministry of Natural Resources, Volume 15, Number 1, Winter 1983. Source: Simcoe County Archives

If we cut up beasts simply because they cannot prevent us and because we are backing our own side in the struggle for existence, it is only logical to cut up imbeciles, criminals, enemies, or capitalists for the same reason. C.S. Lewis

Heritage does Matter: Tree nursery, Springwater Park and, then, the Vespra Boys cenotaph

October 11, 2012

Alive communities rise to challenges.

An important article entitled Pine Forests and a Park [Word pdf] appeared in the Springwater News today.

Ruth Byers suggests how our community has dealt with big challenges. This one was the total clear-cutting of the forests in the then-named Vespra Township  and Simcoe County in the late 1800s:

In the early years of the 1900s, the Ontario Government established a tree nursery and began to distribute trees for reforestation. About the same time, E.C. Drury a farmer at Crown Hill and E.J. Zavitz, a forester, began a project to help recover the land denuded of trees. They toured the ‘sand plans’ around Midhurst and Orr Lake.

In a quote from A History of Vespra, they described one of their trips:

‘We walked across the field, and came on a spring of fresh, clean water, bubbling out of a sandy bank. The stream wasn’t very wide, but seemed to have a good strong flow.’

This was the beginning of the Midhurst Tree Nursery. And eventually, Springwater Park.

The devastation of The Great War (WWI) provoked another communal, local response,  logically centred on the tree nursery and park:

Located in Springwater Park is a cenotaph built of stone by Veterans of Vespra Township. Harvey Spence and Robert Mills did the actual construction. Remembrance Day services were held her for many years, including members from Scouting and Guiding.

How will our community respond to the current challenges to our social, environmental and cultural equities?

Will the “Vespra Boys” cenotaph in Springwater Park be abandoned to the unthinking?

October 10, 2012

A beautifully modest and sincere memorial to the 17 (now 18) men who died in The Great War.

A lily pond with gold fish. A drinking fountain so everyone, especially children, could drink, be refreshed and thrive because this “empty tomb” gives life.

For Christians, an empty tomb don’t mean defeat or sadness: with faith, they  speak to us of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice in defeating death and creating everlasting life for all time. Tombs are joyous, hopeful symbols of living, growing communities and the Vespra Boys cenotaph is placed in the heart of Springwater Park whose journey has been described as From Wasteland to Parkland by others.

Remembrance Day is not about two solitudes: the dead and the living. It’s about the continued relationship between those who have passed on and those of us who are called to honour them while still alive.

A simple enough request:

Lest We Forget
In Memory of the
Vespra Boys
who Died in the
Great War

Dulce et Decorum Est pro patria Mori
[It is sweet and right to die for your country.]

The Vespra Boys

  1. Arthur Bell
  2. Frederick Benson
  3. Ernest Clougley
  4. Lewis Cole
  5. Ernest A. Finlay
  6. Wilson Greaves
  7. Wilfred Higgins
  8. Herbert Roy Hodgson
  9. George Hodgson
  10. Arthur Jacobs
  11. Wallace Key
  12. William Lang
  13. Garnet Maw
  14. John Muir
  15. William Parker
  16. James Henry (Harry) Priest
  17. Stanley Reynolds
  18. George Selkirk

— As recorded in A History of Vespra Township, The Vespra Township Council, 1987 and amended by family request. Please advise me as to corrections as there are some discrepancies between this book and the Barrie cenotaph.

Harvey Spence and Robert Mills built the cenotaph under the direction of Methven A. Adamson (Pioneer History of Midhurst, 1975, p. 61).

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