Time to step up to the plate… or, the forest!

This next paragraph is for people who’ve moved to Barrie after the 1980’s.

Sunnidale Park! Played there? Walked there among the trees of the arboretum? Whipped down the hill on a toboggan? Had your wedding pictures taken there? Had your wedding reception there? Have you trod through the woods on the far side, marvelling at the trilliums in spring?

Sunnidale Park takes up many acres of flatland, ravine, woods and glory. Bounded by Sunnidale Rd, Cundles Rd, Coulter St and Hwy 400, it is a passive jewel now surrounded by houses. It wasn’t always so. It was on the outskirts of town in the 1960’s when it was the Barrie Golf & Country Club.

The land went up for sale when the Country Club bought its new property in the middle of nowhere on St Vincent St (also now surrounded by houses). It was an enthusiastic group of citizens (many of whom are still with us) who rallied to raise money and awareness and political fortitude to save the property from development and make it into what is now Sunnidale Park.

If you’re living in the south end of Barrie, you might not know about Sunnidale Park, but it’s worth a visit.

And we should all don jackets and boots and head a little farther north to Springwater Park where the same thing is about to happen. Only, this time it’s not a golf club that’s selling its land; it’s the province of Ontario, the Ministry of Natural Resources in particular, which wants to close down Springwater Park due to budget cuts. Will they sell the 477 acres? Will a jewel that has been the site of reunions, family picnics, corporate family events, cross country skiing, visiting animals and birds housed there, the cenotaph for Boys of Vespra, will this jewel also become an industrial location, or housing (it’s very close to the Snow Valley Estates development), or a mall?

Now, right now, is the time to take the family, walk the trails and decide if this matters to you.

Like Sunnidale Park, Springwater feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere. Simcoe County Forest and the 1100 acres of Crown Land which housed the Midhurst Tree Nursery (until it was closed) butt up against Springwater. It’s the most southern provincial park of its kind, within minutes of urban attendees.

Its series of ponds, built by hand during the depression, were used for irrigation purposes and water for the CPR’s steam engines. The ponds are now home to swans, ducks, geese… Springwater was created 107 years ago as a demonstration for central Ontario of the value of resforestation.

It’s also within sight lines of the Midhurst Secondary growth plan which calls for incredible population growth on lands near Springwater Park. In short, Springwater could find itself shortly surrounded by city, just at Sunnidale Park is today.

The current government of Ontario says closing Springwater will save $100,000 a year of provincial money. You and I both know how easy it is for any government to waste $100,000 somewhere else.

Once Springwater Park is gone, it’s gone. The species of birds and animals that live there (wolves, bear, beaver, deer, peacocks, and on and on) will be gone. While the land has a ‘protected’ designation right now, we all know how quickly a property can be ‘unprotected.’

Two groups have sprung up to save Springwater, each with a different function. Friends of Springwater Park, Ian Taylor in the lead, is one group. And Les Stewart who grew up on the Midhurst tree nursery site, is heading up Springwater Park Citizens Coalition. Each group has different functions and together they hope to save Springwater and develop a plan to keep it open. Such plans involve a coalition of community, including First Nations.

Les Stewart (les.j.stewart@gmail.com) lists a number of rebuilding activities needed to bring the park to provincial standards. Both he and Ian Taylor and their respective committees are keen to begin a charitable foundation to manage the park, complete with “to do” lists.

The www.SpringwaterParkcc.org website links to facebook and twitter.

If you’d like to explore this issue and get to know the Springwater Park a little, Sunday afternoon will give you the opportunity. Sunday at 2 pm, meet at the MNR Office on Nursery Rd, across from Sunnidale Park, on Hwy 26, just past the Simcoe County museum. Supporters are walking to the main pavilion in the park, returning back after a series of activities.

Or, you can just drive to the park, park and walk. Take your kids. Enjoy. This is the time for spirit to take hold, commitment to surface, and energy to contribute to this passive, beautiful jewel.

Thanks, Les Stewart for your interest and dedication. Thanks, Ian Taylor for your willingness to make a difference.