Another WTF Were They Smoking Moment From Council

These are not the healing trees you're looking for...
These are not trees council is looking for. These are ordinary trees in Harbourview Dump Park, not the magic “healing” trees they want there.

I read this in CollingwoodToday:

At Monday night’s council meeting, Coun. Deb Doherty got support from her council colleagues to ask staff to investigate the feasibility of creating a Healing Forest in Collingwood, and report back during 2022 budget deliberations.

And my first thought was, WTF are they smoking in council meetings these days?

And then I thought, a “healing forest”? WTF is that? Is it the opposite of a “wounding forest”?  If I have a broken arm, can I go to the “healing forest” and get it fixed instead of the hospital? Does it dispense bandages and antibiotics? What does it actually “heal” and by what mechanism? Or is it just some more New Age woo? Why does a forest need to be anything but a forest?*

And why is the town looking to plant a “forest” on a former landfill site where there are ALREADY trees in abundance? But apparently having a large park with an arboretum, paths, forest areas, labyrinth, a boardwalk, wetland, numerous wild areas, trails, cycling and walking paths, and an $800,000 bunch of poles on a hill called a “meeting place” isn’t enough. Doherty said council should “give them beautiful spaces and to allow them to connect with nature and each other.”

Does that mean the existing park is ugly and that people CAN’T connect with all the abundant nature there? Or can’t connect with one another in all that space? She’ll have to break that to the thousands of residents and visitors who do exactly that every year in Harbourview. Every day you can find people communing with nature and other people in the park. Maybe she should actually go there and take a look before deciding it needs to be changed.

But wait, isn’t this the same council that plans to PAVE a big piece of the park to build an unwanted splash pad and a huge parking lot on the former dump? Seems a bit contradictory (or hypocritical) unless acres of asphalt is what you think of as a “beautiful space.” Isn’t this the same council that proposed giving away a huge swath of that very same park to a group of Barrie-based strangers to build a commercial property with another giant parking lot?

Doherty acknowledged that the park already has trees (which suggests she may have seen saw a photograph of the park), but has some wacky Trump-like ideas about what a wild space is supposed to be:

“It is a forest, but it needs to be cleaned up. There’s dead brush in there. It needs some care,” she said.

Yes, of course, there is dead brush there. That’s a natural part of the process of growth in the woods. There are wild areas throughout the park. They don’t need to be “cleaned up.” They need to be left alone. Brush decays and turns into nutrients that feed the other plants. It’s where moss, lichen, and fungi grow. It is food and shelter for insects and other wildlife. It creates places for them to travel and to shelter. Dead brush is natural and necessary for proper growth. A forest isn’t a lawn. But don’t let botany and biology get in the way of your vision.

“There could also be activity or thought spots along the way where there might be stories of our predecessors or places to contemplate. It can be what we want it to be,” she said. “It could be an intentional act of reconciliation, healing and diversity. Coming out of COVID, we are all healing emotionally, physically and spiritually. It just makes sense on so many levels.”**

Wait..  you mean Harbourview DOESN’T already have “activity” spots? no trails, boardwalk, arboretum, soccer and rugby pitches, no launch areas for boats, canoes, and kayaks, no labyrinth, no platform over the wetlands to sit and look out over the bay and watch the birds? No places for peaceful contemplation? I guess all those things must be in my imagination.

Not the thought spot you're looking for...
Apparently, this is not good enough to be a “thought spot” for council. It probably needs a sign that orders you to “think.”

But there’s that word again: reconciliation. Are we getting another symbolic gesture to placate some fuzzy and inaccurate conception of our local history? What exactly are we reconciling? And why?

“For us, in Collingwood, the whole idea could be expanded further because we’ve made an overt commitment to recognizing our Indigenous predecessors. We’re recognizing all nations and minority groups,” said Doherty. “It’s all about diversity, acceptance and reconciliation.”***

No, Deb, WE haven’t made an “overt attempt” and WE aren’t recognizing anything — council has made some symbolic gestures that don’t relate to our local history, but have cost taxpayers millions ($800,000 for the “meeting place” and about$1.6 million for the dumpsite splash pad, and who knows how much to “clean up” the “healing forest” to make it less natural). And, of course, done arbitrarily without public input or consultation, as is this council’s secretive style.

 ALL nations? It sounds like she’s trying to recreate the whole UN in our little park. ALL minority groups? Does that mean flat-earthers, anti-vaxxers, and other tinfoil-hatters? This is politically-correct piffle.

This “healing forest” that doesn’t actually heal anything is just a warm-n-fuzzy (but likely expensive) way of making the park less wild, less natural, and less attractive to wildlife. It has NOTHING to do with “diversity, acceptance and reconciliation.” Clearing out some brush won’t reconcile anyone or anything. Putting a new label on it won’t make us a more diverse community.  Signage won’t make people think. Expecting this project to accomplish any of those isn’t mere wishful thinking: it’s delusional.

Why not spend our tax dollars some something USEFUL instead of these airy-fairy New Age notions? Like fixing the streets and sidewalks? Replacing our rotting lampposts? Repairing the terminals? Supporting local businesses hurt by the lockdowns? Leave the old landfill site as it is: a park enjoyed and used by thousands.

If you really want to clear out some deadwood start with council. You can bet the voters sure will next election.

Collingwood deserves better.

~~~~~

* What’s the difference between a regular tree and a “healing” tree? Are they sold in a special area of the local garden centres? Are they magic trees that need wizards to care for them? Does my medical insurance cover healing by branches and leaves? If all trees are “healing,” why do we need to do anything more to what we already have? Why not just stick a sign on a path that says “healing forest area” and save ourselves hundreds of thousands of dollars?

** What are “thought spots”? Places where people are forced to stop and think?  Think about what? Does this mean people aren’t allowed to think in other places? Or that they don’t think while they’re walking or cycling in the park unless they’re told to do so? Can we think thoughts that aren’t listed on the signage? It’s all a bit Orwellian.

*** The article also notes,

The intention is to create a network of forests and green spaces across Canada where people can come together in the spirit of reconciliation to heal, reflect, meditate, talk, share, and build respect and understanding in the wake of the Residential School legacy and the findings of the national Truth and Reconciliation report.

I should point out that there were NO residential schools in southern Ontario, let alone Collingwood. And the indigenous Petun people who lived in this area were decimated by disease in the mid-1600s more than 200 years before there even was a Canada or a Collingwood. The Petun were wiped out by the Iroquois in the Beaver Wars, in the late 1640s. The few of them remaining left the area and joined with the Wyandot (Huron) who ended up mostly in the USA.

Also in the article, I read:

She also said plants could be used to encourage pollination and gardens could be added, which would be in-line with Collingwood’s status as a Bee City. The effort would also be in-line with Collingwood declaring a climate emergency.

That dead brush and wood in the park she wants to clear out is also home to many of those pollinators our council pretends to care so much about. In fact, they care so much about it they are ripping up a whole lot of greenspace in Harbourview Dump Park to turn it into an environmentally hostile parking lot for the splash pad. But maybe it’s a “healing parking lot.” Not for pollinators, of course. So much for the bee city “commitment to the Town and the residents to be ecological stewards of our local spaces.” We’re becoming stewards of asphalt instead.

As for being a “bee city” – where have they hidden the hives? Council cares so much about bees that they approved cutting down more than 50 mature trees along Hurontario Street so one of them didn’t have to cross the road to use the sidewalk. Weren’t those trees possible homes and food sources for pollinators? But take heart: they’ve put up posters that say we care. They just aren’t very good at showing it. But maybe the bees appreciate the posters.

One has to wonder what all the “naturalization” areas and garden beds already in the park are for, if not to “encourage pollination.” They’ve been in place for years there and you have to wonder if Doherty has ever even walked the park to see them before raising this piffle at the council table. And you have to wonder why the town has left so many of its public garden spaces go to ruin with weeds and lack of care. It’s almost as if they really didn’t care at all about them or the bees.

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7 Comments

  1. Humour aside, I get the attraction and importance of woods, wilderness, and green spaces. I enjoy them all the time, walking with Susan along our trails, through local parks, and wild areas. We don’t need some New Age woo hoo to make them different. They work just fine as they are, without signs or magic trees.

    And the program seems designed more for large urban centres where most greenspace has been developed, not small towns in the middle of a rural area. I’m sure it’s great for Toronto, but here? Not so much.

    I think it’s extremely hypocritical for a council to pave and build in our parks, digging them up to make parking lots while pretending to support bees, healing greenery, and climate change. But they’ve never been shy of taking on hypocritical behaviour.

    Perhaps a better approach would be for council to have spent the $10-plus million it wasted on (and continues to lavish money on) the Saunderson Vindictive Judicial Inquiry (SVJI) and buy woodlots here in town to preserve them from development. Keep them as parks and forests for the community for decades and generations. Actually do something positive for the residents.

    But, of course, council was never elected for their intellectual abilities or farsightedness, nor for their interest in the greater good ouf our residents. So instead of a proper plan that benefits everyone, they’ve come up with some New Age woo hoo to make the remaining parks and wild spaces into Disneyfied magical places. I wonder if they’ll place welcoming garden gnome statues along the trails, too.

    Let me remind you that REAL forests are also the home of wolves, bears, mountain lions, and other predators, as well as poinsonous plants, snakes, and biting/stinging insects. They aren’t magical gardens. They are full of Darwinian struggles for survival. And that’s part of their majestic beatuty: they are wild, unplanned, unkempt, and often dangerous. Doherty wants to rid them of their natural charm, pretty them up, and pacify them into playgrounds for woo-hoo seekers. It’s a bad idea.

    ~~~~~

    And PS: I checked the Healing Forest website at healingforest.org/ and it says,

    For thousands of years our ancestors hunted, gathered, and survived in the wilderness. Endless grasslands, dense forests and vast stretches of green were an integral part of a place we called home.

    Well, not my ancestors, not within historical times, at least (history, by the way, begins with writing; before that it’s prehistory). My ancestors were herding sheep and growing survival crops in a rocky valley in the highlands of Western Scotland for so long we have wool and oats in our DNA. For a few hundred years they threw spears at the Picts, then at the Romans, then at the English. But after the miserable business at Culloden, the English chucked them out. In 1783 they boarded the Hector and sailed to Canada.

    In Cape Breton, after a miserable start as penniless, unskilled immigrants in land ruled by their oppressors, they became miserable wage slaves for the next dozen generations. Last century they took up arms and fought the Germans in a couple of wars, along with their fellow wage slaves. Post-war, they returned to the work ethic thing with serious intent, sometime during which I was born. My attitude towards the former effort has been somewhat less enthusiastic, but I am grateful for the latter.

    There’s nothing in my family archives about being hunter-gatherers unless it means me hunting for toilet paper on the grocery store shelves during the pandemic and gathering cat fur off the furniture every week. And nothing about any of us oppressing indigenous or other people. Our family history is boringly bereft of overt imperialist behaviour on this and the previous continent (with the possible exception of the Picts). However, I do have English ancestors who, as far as I have been able to tell, have not engaged in imperialist oppression since Culloden, in large part because they seem not to have left England since the late 16th century.

  2. Given the abysmal way the town has treated trees it planted in the past, one has to assume a town-managed “forest” would be a sizeable disaster. Trees planted along Heritage Road (by the Terminals), along the west half of Third Street, ant in the dog park at High and Second were abandoned. Never watered, never trimmed, and as a result of the neglect, many died. It’s a model for how the town would treat a “forest” in its care.

  3. Tricia

    Our lampposts are rioting!? Lol. Good for them, all us middle to lower income hardworking tax payers should join them in rioting… let’s get some much needed everyday things fixed like our water, sewage, sidewalks, roads, housing problem and youth in need before blowing money like it grows on these airy fairy trees. Council needs to get a grip and walk in the layman’s shoes for a day! Or maybe spend a few nights in Collingwood tent city before making these decisions that are useless.

  4. John

    Obviously all healing trees start with an H. Duh. This councilor is over her head. Trying to appease people with rhetoric that has no real down to earth meaning. You see through all that BS in a second. Best to ignore the rhetoric and just go enjoy your “ healing forest “ if you feel the need of thought just don’t it at a red light. Plenty of open time at the Starbucks drive through.

  5. Pingback: Yet Another WTF Were They Smoking Decision from Council – Scripturient

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