Bala Falls Portage – A Much Broader Issue

Hap Wilson on the Bala Falls Portage Ban Controversy:

Ontarians should be outraged – at least those who value Canadian historic and prehistoric public lands. The Bala Falls Portage issue, recently covered by the Globe and Mail, is a much broader problem that needs serious investigation. Last winter I was called on by Swift River Power Corp. lawyers to stand as an expert witness for their team. I refused. I then became an expert witness for the Township of Muskoka Lakes who are fighting to stop the power development.

In my Wild Muskoka guidebook I had put an alternate portage on the north side of the falls predominantly for those beginning trips down the Musquash and Moon Rivers. This is the portage Swift River (and OMNR) prefer, of course, because they want to develop the historic portage site still used by local camps and paddlers. I was then grilled by Swift River lawyers about my choice of portage locations but I maintained that the historic portage was still in active use. Local historians (Shnier et al) proved the historic use of the portage by Thompson in the early 1800’s; I also maintained that from my own extensive travels on rivers, that the portage is located in the most likely place south of the falls.

 

Portage Ban - Ontarians Should Be OUTRAGED!

OMNR & Swift River won the first round in the courts and we all know that the appeal won’t look any better. I told the Globe and Mail in a short note that they need to look deeper into this issue. This has been happening across Ontario in a multitude of ways, i.e. OMNR placating to the whims of big business at the expense of self-propelled recreation interests.

Recently I talked with a spokesperson at the Culture & Heritage Ministry in Toronto who informed me that each OMNR District in the province is basically self-regulating; ha, no surprises there! That means they can stretch, or ignore certain aspects of the Public Lands Act or Heritage Acts based on current industrial or impact-tourism needs. OMNR closed off the Bala Falls Portage because of safety reasons…how absurd is this when you can easily name a hundred other similar locations exist on other rivers in the province. Does this mean that OMNR will shut-out paddlers from other locations based on liability fears (or big business interests)???

The township will lose the Bala Falls court appeal because, hey, the Crown-based Canadian legal system won’t want to compromise the peoples’ faith and trust in the present system – that the ministry overseeing our natural resources and Crown Land make the best collective decisions for the People…and we all know how well our fisheries and forests have been managed in this country!

OMNR can’t afford to lose this fight and the Crown judges know this. This is actually a huge precedent setting case in Canada but most people haven’t picked up on it yet. The Crown can’t lose because there would certainly be investigations and court cases pop up across the province – if not the country….and if you think Ontario Crown Lands are run by a bunch of bandits, you should see the internal machinations within the Crown ministries in Manitoba!

••••••

Written by Hap Wilson :: July 13, 2014, submitted via email.

For more information, visit savethebalafalls.com.

Hap speaks out: Save The Rangers

In September 2012 the Liberal government cancelled the 70-year old Ontario Ranger program, formerly known as the Ontario Junior Forest Ranger Program.

The Ontario Ranger Program provided an opportunity for young workers to gain first-hand knowledge of resource management through a work and learning experience. More than 78,000 Ontario youth have participated in the 70-year old program.

Yet without any prior public consultation – the program was abruptly cancelled.

MNR Rangers Logo

The Ontario Government made claims the Stewardship Youth Ranger Program, an existing day program, would deliver the same experience and would offer more jobs.

Not surprisingly, this is simply not the case whatsoever. In fact, it’s NOT the same at all!

Now, the new Premier Kathleen Wynne government has committed $295 million dollars in the 2013 provincial budget for youth employment.

 

The ranger program was, for thousands of young people, a life-altering experience for all the right reasons. ~ Hap Wilson, Requiem For A Ranger

 

It is time to speak out and do your part to help get the original Junior Ranger program reinstated. You can take action here: Save The Rangers (savetherangers.ca)

See what Hap has to say about this travesty, and how the new program poorly imitates the original Ranger program by way of The Toronto Star: Requiem For A Ranger

Full link: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2013/08/23/requiem_for_the_ontario_rangers.html

Copy of Op Ed piece stored on the Save The Rangers website: http://media.wix.com/ugd/d73ceb_037117aa61dd144d2d5999388bda000f.pdf

SaveTheRangersLogo*Please note, the majority of the text for this post was sourced from our friends at SaveTheRangers.ca. For more information about how you can help this historical and culturally rich program become reinstated, be sure to contact the good folks who are spearheading this campaign by visiting SaveTheRangers.ca.

Footbridge on the Centre Falls Trail

Centre Falls - 1978

Centre Falls – 1978

Since at least 1947, there was a footbridge on site along a challenging section on the Centre Falls trail in Temagami (now part of Lady Evelyn-Smoothwater Wilderness Park). That changed in 2003 when the MNR removed the footbridge for liability and budgetary reasons. The path that must now be used predates the bridge but includes a very difficult and steep climb up and down the small ravine.

A direct message from Hap Wilson on the removal of the Centre Falls Footbridge in Temagami:

When I was a park ranger in Temagami back in 1978, one of my first jobs was to rebuild the footbridge at Centre Falls (then Lady Evelyn Waterway Park – pre Lady Evelyn Smoothwater Wilderness Park).

The old bridge, built in the early 1960’s by a dozen Junior Rangers and two foremen over a 2-week period, spanned the sixty-foot ravine beside the falls. I had a crew of four and we rebuilt the bridge in five-days in early May. Tar and rolled asphalt helped preserve the joints.

The bridge was still in good shape well into the new century; however, the MNR removed the bridge for liability reasons a few years ago, even though the couple of planks that had deteriorated could easily have been replaced.

It is a very difficult lift or drop through the ravine without the bridge. When the MNR took down the bridge they left all the spike-laced debris in clear site instead of dragging it back into the bush; when we built the bridge we made sure the old take-down material was cleared away.

If you think this iconic footbridge should be rebuilt again, let me know…I’ve seen a lot of trippers struggle through this dangerous cut in the rocks.”

~Hap Wilson, June 2013

To let Hap know YOUR VIEW, leave a comment below, email him at info@ecotrailbuilders.com or find other ways to contact Hap Wilson here: Contact Hap Wilson – Eco Trailbuilders

Rebuilding Centre Falls Bridge - 1978

Rebuilding Centre Falls Bridge – 1978

Hap and his crew working on Centre Falls Bridge - 1978

Hap and his crew working on Centre Falls Bridge – 1978

Rebuilding Centre Falls Bridge - 1978

Rebuilding Centre Falls Bridge – 1978