Losing a Champion for the Environment  – Greta McGillivray

Losing a Champion for the Environment  

On September 25th, our community experienced a significant loss with the passing of Greta McGillivray – one of the original defenders of the unique escarpment environment up in the Collingwood area. I had the pleasure to serve on the Blue Mountain Watershed Trust Board alongside Greta and Terk Bailey, Malcolm Kirk, Norm Wingrove, Sonny Foley and others back in the 90’s. Each meeting was held in Greta’s beautiful home, known for its beautiful, naturalized front yard on Minnesota Street.

We all owe a lot to Greta for her early efforts to protect and conserve. She was tireless. She taught us all that everything is connected!

Her efforts to save the remaining critical natural features and assets here in the Collingwood area were relentless. She was committed to protecting the incredible natural assets that drew us all here in the first place and helped to establish this area as a major tourism and recreation destination.

Through her work in the community, Greta helped to found both the Nature League, and the Blue Mountain Watershed Trust – two of the region’s leading conservation groups. Today, more than 30 years later, we continue to struggle to protect and conserve these very same Escarpment and creek systems and corridors. As a result of her leadership, so many more of us now continue her work as we continue the fight to protect our natural spaces.

As Greta’s daughter Jane reminded me, one of Greta’s often quoted sayings was “There is something fundamentally wrong with a civilization that insists upon treating the earth like a business in liquidation”.

I personally learned a lot from Greta, lessons that steered my career towards more responsible forms of tourism, and my personal commitment to continue doing my part in saving the remaining special places on Mother Earth.

Let’s all pick up the torch and work together to:

  • Stop irresponsible development on the Escarpment brow and slopes;
  • Protect and Conserve a green corridor from Creemore to Kimbercote; and
  • Stimulate creation of a strong, vibrant conservation economy that benefits and is driven by our local communities.

Written by Mike Robbins
Board Member of the Escarpment Corridor Alliance
Working Group Member for the Aspiring Georgian Bay Geopark
Member of the Trebek Council
Part of the TAPAS Group Network (IUCN T
Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group)Founding Partner with the Tourism Company

The Escarpment Summit: Like-Minded Groups Meet to Discuss Strategy

At the end of June, the G7 summit met in Germany. Just prior, on June 23, there was a rather different meeting of the minds at an “Escarpment Summit.”

The Escarpment Corridor Alliance (ECA) gathered close to a dozen local organizations for a workshopping session to share ideas and support each other in the common goal of keeping the Escarpment green for future generations.

“The key message was the urgency expressed and how little time we may have to act,” said David Scoon, an ECA board member. “If we don’t act quickly and forcefully, forests could be cut down practically overnight.”

Attendees included the Friends of Silver Creek, Save Georgian Bay, Collingwood Climate Action Team, the Nature League of Collingwood, Collingwood Cycling Club, Collingwood Off Road Cycling, Kolapore Wilderness Trails, Protecting Talisman Lands Association, Blue Mountain Watershed Trust, and the Niagara Escarpment Foundation.

The gathering highlighted the power of these groups to bring together a very large number of concerned citizens with a common interest of protecting the Niagara Escarpment from irresponsible development.

Going forward, the groups plan to share information and join forces to send a joint letter to politicians.

Further actions to watch for and support include a large community event before the municipal elections this fall and letter writing campaigns.

“The gathering certainly emphasized the fact that we are all in this together, and by joining forces, we are much stronger and in a better position to achieve our common goals,” said Scoon.

See below for the full list of attendees, and please follow and share their social media.

Escarpment Corridor Alliance

Friends of Silver Creek

Protecting Talisman Lands Association

Niagara Escarpment Foundation

Save Georgian Bay

Collingwood Climate Action Team

Nature League of Collingwood

Collingwood Cycling Club

Blue Mountain Watershed Trust

Collingwood Off Road Cycling

Kolapore Wilderness Trails

My Grandfather Built Lake of the Clouds

My grandfather, Bing Young, built Lake of the Clouds in 1965. He worked in construction all his life. Castle Glen hired him as the caretaker. He plowed all the roads, took care of all the buildings, and he also built the lake. He did that until he retired around the year 2000. He lived across Grey Road 19. There’s an old farmhouse on the hill. When he retired Castle Glen gave him two acres of land and he built his house there.

I spent every weekend as a child up there, always hiking. The lake was stocked with speckled trout. That’s where I would spend all my Christmases. I proposed to my wife there, too, right at the arch of the castle.

My grandfather had to enforce the No Trespassing signs at certain times because big four-wheelers would come in off the Sixth Street extension, drive into the castle and rip up the trails. But other than that, everyone you talk to up there is very open about sharing the land. I’ve been going up there my whole life as a local. It’s always just something you do on weekends. The walk through the hardwood forest from the castle to Sixth Street is absolutely beautiful. It’s an ecosystem for a lot of wildlife. It’s a nice place to enjoy. When you come out of that forest the view over the whole area is incredible.

There’s a real lack of awareness about what could happen to the Castle Glen property. Until I heard about it from the Escarpment Corridor Alliance I had no idea that the land was sold to a big developer. The original Castle Glen owners had the dream of doing all this but they never had the funds to make it happen. I have the original pamphlet from Castle Glen when they were selling lots for $3,900 in the late ‘60s or early ’70s. The development was the kind of thing that was out of sight, out of mind. It was something from 15 or 20 years ago that stalled and everyone forgot about.

I’ve always been a mountain biker. One of my biggest concerns is that the nearby mountain bike trails at Three Stage will get destroyed. The soil is clay-based. When it’s wet and people ride there, the trails get damaged fast. A 1,600-home development, potentially a hotel, is just that much more traffic volume.

And for the road biking community, Grey Road 19 is a haven for cyclists. The increased traffic would be monumental. I can’t imagine all the dump trucks going up and down there.

I also worry about the Pretty River Provincial Park and the amount of people that the development will bring. And I don’t like the idea of a housing development right on the Bruce Trail corridor.

I’m not against development, but this is massive. I’m surprised that the environmental side isn’t being looked at more.

My grandfather passed away in 2002, but all those trails and forests are the same as I remember them. If that development is pushed through, it would change the whole landscape of the area.

My hope is that Castle Glen stays as it is for future generations to enjoy.

This article is edited and condensed from an interview with Jason Smith, an avid mountain biker and ECA volunteer who grew up in Collingwood and now lives in Wasaga Beach. 

Traffic Math—How development threatens the Escarpment’s best cycling and hiking routes

VROOM. This is…VROOM…what biking…VROOM…on Grey Road 19…VROOM…might sound like…VROOM…if the proposed Castle Glen Resort Community gets built.

Grey Road 19 is one gem of a cycling route. Grey County proudly promotes this road, the former site of the Sea Otter Canada and Blue Mountains Gran Fondo rides, on its Cycling Routes roadmap. Grey Road 19 is a local favourite training ride for its long gradient, wide shoulders, expansive views and light traffic.

But what is being done to protect this regional attraction?

One thousand, six hundred new homes. Three hundred additional hotel rooms. Three added golf courses. An approved 5,000 square meters of new commercial space.  Another gas station. We have to wonder, how much extra traffic would the planned Castle Glen development create on Grey Road 19?

The studies haven’t been done. But we can hazard a guess.

Imagine each of those planned houses has just one car—a conservative estimate to be sure. If one car leaves every home in the future Castle Glen Resort Community each morning, between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. That’s 1,600 cars over two hours. That works out to 13 cars going by every minute, or one car every 4.5 seconds, for two straight hours. Then the same pattern repeated in every afternoon.

Or, say one car journey per household per day, spread evenly over 10 hours from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. That adds up to 3,200 cars on Grey Road 19 (one trip out and back for 1,600 cars). That’s 5.3 cars per minute. Just plain math.

One car every 12 seconds. All day long.

That’s the added traffic, on top of what exists today. And we haven’t even considered the guests at the 300-room hotel or people heading to golf.

Would you want to bike on such a road? Would you hike beside it, or in a nearby forest now filled with highway sounds? A popular section of the Bruce Trail follows the shoulder of the Grey Road 19, and this added traffic creates a dangerous mix of pedestrians and many, many cars.

And what about traffic on Sideroad 12, the extension to Sixth Street that borders the other side of the Castle Glen development, a secluded gravel backroad that’s so popular with local walkers that it’s Collingwood’s de facto outdoor stair master?

Nor do those numbers don’t take into account the potential years of heavy truck traffic from constructing 1,600 homes, or the roads and amenities to service them. And of course the proposed hotel rooms, golf courses and shops. Building an entire town on the brow of the Niagara Escarpment, the heart of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, is an outdated development concept that would surely be rejected if it were put forward today.

Don’t take for granted that our quiet Escarpment roads will always be welcoming to walk and ride. As the song goes, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. Isn’t it time we established protection for the recreational amenities most cherished by locals and visitors alike, the very foundation of the region’s recreation economy, before it’s too late?

Read more about the proposed Castle Glen development HERE. Sign the petition HERE.

A Brief History of the “People Among the Hills”

The woody valleys of the Blue Mountains, from Craigleith to Duntroon, were occupied historically by the several Iroquoian nations that were collectively nicknamed “Petun” by the French, meaning Tobacco, or because they were known for their usage of tobacco, or petún, more so than their cultivation of it.  The people called themselves the Tionontati, meaning “People Among the Hills/Mountains.”

They were divided by the two different Petun Nations – the Deer Clan and the Wolf Clan and were present for only about 70 years (ca. AD 1580–1650) but left abundant evidence of their presence. The Wolf arrived first (ca. 1575/80 A.D) surrounding the Pretty River Valley area and the Deer arrived later (ca. 1600,) in the Craigleith area. At both locations, archeologists unveiled that at any one time, there was one principal larger village followed by a smaller one with a distance anywhere between a half to three kilometres between them. During their time here, they were visited by many groups, one being Samuel de Champlain in 1616, on his journey to find easy passage to China and then the Jesuit Priests, 1639-1650, who would set up missions in nine of the Villages to convert the Petuns to Christianity.

According to the research of Charles Garrad, one of many of the original native trails ran east of the two major Petun villages at Craigleith. The trail followed the prominent Lake Nipissing beach ridge through the Blue Mountain Golf Course west of Collingwood, parallel and just south of Campbell Street; it continued across the Pretty River, through the Roman Catholic and the higher part of the Anglican cemeteries on the east side of Raglan Street, and continued easterly to the Nottawasaga River Crossing. Along this part of the trail, artifacts, burials, and campsites of various ages have been found, particularly at stream crossings. Archaeological research in the Petun Country also revealed that there were additional villages, such as the one discovered at OslerBrook Golf and Country Club. On the grounds lie the remains of a Petun Ossuary (burial ground) and Village dating back to the days of Champlain. A cairn has been erected in its honour.

In December 1649, during the Beaver Wars, the Iroquois attacked the Petun village of Etharita near Duntroon, causing the dispersal of the Petun and leaving the Iroquois on the Odawa hunting territory. As you hike along the Bruce Trail of Blue Mountain, the Petun Conservation Area, and the Pretty River Valley, look across the land below and give a moment of your thoughts to the incredible history of the Indigenous people that were here long before we walked this land, and its virtually unchanged beauty.

By Annette Sandberg, ECA Director and Certified Hiking Guide with Hike Ontario

(Previously published in The Blue Print, The Blue Mountains Bruce Trail Club Newsletter – Summer 2021)

Kinship with Forest and Flora

Tucked between the gentle slopes of a long-vanished glacial landscape and the Niagara Escarpment is an oasis of peace and tranquillity – the Hibou Conservation Area. Here’s a place where nature and magic meet upon the forest floor of yesteryear, created at a time that my imagination can wander to with every step that I take. In the forest, there is a sense of kinship with the flora, of an ancient soul that stretches into everything that lives. How could I not love being here?

As I follow the trail to the shore of Georgian Bay, I stop to watch the glorious Monarch butterfly seeking her daily nectar, dancing in a splash of colour like a delicate flower of the sky, born to fly into the warm summer air.

The forest hums with life all around me. I twirl about, gazing up at the canopy of the trees, searching for the birds that sing so sweetly. I think to myself how absolutely incredible it is that these towering gentle giants grew from simple seeds, with mud, water and sun, providing me the oxygen I breathe and cleaning the air so fresh and wonderfully fragrant.

This is when I stop knowing and begin feeling; it’s when I hear with my heart the voices of these mighty trees, and the language of birds that are singing to my soul now so clear. This is what it means to live in the moments of life.

Just up ahead, past the mushrooms that are anchoring into the underground network of nutrition and communication, I can now see the waves of Georgian Bay. The largest freshwater Bay in the world will energize my hands as I glide them through it’s forever cool waters. Looking down, I notice some strange pattern on the rock. I pick it up and look closer and can hardly contain my amazement. In my hand, I am holding a trilobite fossil that once lived when this land was the bottom of a warm water sea created 500 million years ago. I look all around me and realize that I am seeing and touching this ancient sea floor in the here and now. What an incredible day this has been; a day that I can come back to again and again each time I visit the Hibou Conservation Area.

by Annette Sandberg, ECA Director and Certified Hiking Guide with Hike Ontario

(Previously published in the Friend of Hibou Newsletter – Winter 2020/2021)

This is My Escarpment

I know I am blessed to live here. The beauty of the hills, the quiet peace of the woods, and the cool lapping of the bay on a hot summer day. I’m proud and inspired by my community – but also feel a deep sense of responsibility. The natural beauty forests and trails must be protected and conserved. And while it’s easy to leave it to others, I simply cannot.

This is my home, and I need to do my part to protect the beauty of the hills and valleys of the escarpment.

When I take my dogs for a hike or snowshoe with friends through the hills, I feel a duty to future generations to do my part to ensure that they too can enjoy this little piece of heaven on earth. These moments hiking, biking, or kayaking – the times I’m out in nature – are the moments I look forward to every day.

When I see subdivisions paving over forests, lakes, and trails, it just doesn’t make sense. Densify where appropriate, but not where it threatens wildlife, our nature, and the beauty we all enjoy on a daily basis. Each one of us has a responsibility to protect the sensitive and unique flora and fauna of our community’s piece of the escarpment. Society can mitigate our impact on nature and balance the need for growth with protection of the environment.

If our community doesn’t stop large-scale developments destroying swaths of old forests and wetlands, we’ll lose what we have forever. And there’s no coming back. Our community needs to conserve what we have now and preserve it for future generations.

It’s easy to leave the fight to others, but nature in the escarpment is at a crossroads – and we all have a role to play. We all need to take ownership of the problem and the solution. We can’t leave it to governments or others in our community. We must all realize “this is my escarpment” and we each need to do our part for it. We need to take action – and do it before it’s too late.

I know I can’t just leave it to others. This is my escarpment and it’s my time to do my part for it.

Guest contribution from Peter, a Blue Mountains resident.