Burl's Creek, Then and Now From A Former Oro-Medonte Reeve
By: Stephen Davie
To Those Concerned Residents and Taxpayers of Oro-Medonte:
It is February 3, 2016, and it is hard for me to accept that I am compelled out of necessity to write this letter. I would like it posted on the Save Burls Creek website, in order to give my views
some legs with concerned caring and realistic community neighbors.
I have watched the profusion of alarming yellow roadside signs screaming "SAVE ORO." What a misleading and horrific horrible message. I looked at the website they represent, and there is no name. I called the contact
phone number, but again, no name, and nobody on deck or any further contact numbers or names. Their website today makes the statement..."We Are The Community of Oro-Medonte." I am shocked at the arrogance of a
group of largely misinformed and non-representative people making such a preposterous claim. Oro-Medonte Township can make the claim that they are our community, in corporate form. I would ask that you join me in asking the Township to demand that the "Save Oro" corporate lie be immediately taken off the Save Oro Website. The SAVE ORO group are anything but our community, at least the community I know and love.
I note today that they make the claim that farmland is being destroyed! That is beyond a stretch of the truth. Just how stupid do the people engaged in this selfish display of abject rudeness and offensiveness think we all are?
I was privileged to be the Reeve of Oro Township when the Burls Creek project first came before our Oro council. It was a site which could host the old Barrie Automotive Flea Market Event which had been held at Molson's Park in Barrie. It was a fabulous family recreational event representing an historic hobby in Ontario and all over North America....namely the collecting and restoring of antique Automobiles. The Dyment Car in Barrie and the Tudhope from Orillia are part of our proud local heritage.
What we did on my Council, was set aside our own planning bylaw back then on a sort term basis and only regarding the subject property, which we did after some consultation with the Municipal Affairs Department in Queens Park and our own legal counsel. The proponent/applicant operator/land owner protected us against any unforeseen legal struggles in so doing. But we decided to allow them to run both the spring and fall event on a trial basis. This is classic Oro Township of Old common sense and our historic practical country approach to resolving issues, at minimal costs and upset, and worse...without hard feelings and legal costs. .
Given the proposed people traffic numbers, we made sure that all provincial agencies and a few federal ones as well, were invited to the event to monitor activities. The list of official government attendees and local Oro social organizations involved was impressive. The Ministry-of-Health-funded officials like Simcoe County Health Unit, Ministry-of-the-Solicitor General- funded organizations such as the OPP, our Township Building officials, ambulance services, Township legal representatives, Township By Law Officials. There were more of them, but the idea was that both the Township Staff, the Provincial people, local organizations, ratepayers and the few vocal minority objectors all embraced the idea of running the two events, and coming up with a plan to move forward which "got it right!"
One person involved in Scouting said that the Cubs and Scouts, Brownies and Guides in the Oro area never had enough money to buy tents or any gear before the event park started. These local children were hired on cleanup detail and their organizations were nicely rewarded financially for their help. Parents in Action groups from our local schools were on hand, selling programs for a percentage of the money. Others helped to park cars. The Church groups had their food booths, which provided funds for their important work in the community, and involved fellowship and fun for all involved. The local Lions Club ran a beer tent, again with considerable financial remuneration. I remember chairing the meetings after the final huge fall event of those first two trial events, and being overwhelmed and in fact proud of how well everyone had pulled together. One local farm owner who objected for no particular reason, ended up with three or four cars for sale on the front of his farm entrance during the show. Many of the objectors were seen there, enjoying the event. And when it was all over, the property was cleaned up and within two weeks or so the grass was cut again and everything was green and lovely. What better event could there be than where there is the absolute minimal in local upset, no environmental assault, and where as I often observed, you could see three generations of a local farm family, the grandpa, Dad and a son or daughter, walking row to row enjoying a fun local day. The fall car event was merged with auto racing events on the adjacent property. Everyone got along.
Speaking for the Oro Township I and my council represented in those embryo days of the Park, I can say and must say, that the history of this magic place called Oro (now Oro-Medonte) is one of inclusiveness, tolerance, acceptance of new people, and of a profound depth of commitment to the community good. Kids from poor or troubled families always magically had an adequate lunch at school, even if they didn't often bring one along. Fire victims were helped out...always, without question or any compelling requests by the victims. Veterans were and continue to be respected and not only at our Cenotaph on Remembrance Day. Oro funerals involve the largest visitations in local funeral homes, because we care! Often funeral visitation hours are extended for Oro viewings. One farmer, who lived adjacent to this site, was the subject of a funeral wake in Orillia. A proud Oro farmer...salt of the earth type, he drew over 2400 people who travelled to the Orillia funeral home in the middle of winter to say their final respects. That is who we are. The Oro Fair, one of the oldest fall fairs in existence, still holds its head up. Kids always got fair day Friday off from school, to march for their school at the fair assembly, and to enjoy the fair, and enter their items....a chicken...a pony or a painting or a big pumpkin they were proud of. For these historic reasons I get upset when I read on the horribly abrasive Save Oro website, that "Save Oro.Com is the community of Oro-Medonte." NOTHING could be further from the truth legally, practically as well as spiritually.
Oro Township' first Citizen of the Year, was always engaged in selling entry tickets at all the Burls Creek events, well into her senior citizen years. It was those beloved people, those positive practical local farm folks, who endorsed, monitored and became proud of Burls Creek. Who are a bunch of uninformed people to wash away what previous decades have produced?
This township has a heart, and we historically avoid legal wrangling, at least that is how it was when things were locally run and practically. People moving here from Toronto region, in former years, always sort of waded in the shallows up here and eventually sunk deeper into the waters which are our cultural mosaic. Now it seems that a few "zealots" in the Save Oro group, are just going to show us what we have been doing wrong for all these proud years. The ironic thing is, we don't need their help. They need our "atmosphere" and our sane and practical way of living and THAT is why they buy here.
We knew in the beginning that the Burls Creek Event Park site would grow. We now enjoy three major concession road access points to the Trans-Canada Highway. Canada's Wonderland doesn't have it that good! We have a regional sewage settling pond processing area within three miles or less of the site; so much for any septic dumping concerns. We have an approved airport, with Customs access for international flights, within two miles. We have two major hospitals equidistant from the Park a distance of only ten miles or so. We have abundant hydro and I must assume by now natural gas at the site. It now involves more hundreds of acres to accommodate parking and considerations for future needs. And of significant importance when handling larger crowds of people, we have the Ontario Headquarters of the ONTARIO PROVINCIAL POLICE up the road ten miles, where the best back up and police equipment in Ontario are available for us because yes, the OPP are our police force and we are proud of them and in having that HQ facility in our County.
We know that to some extent the management of these new music venues need some management improvement. However that is all part of the original process! We learn to do by doing in these things, and the same mistakes are not repeated. Nobody in terms of government has all the answers about anything. With this marvelous project now, the music venues, the vastly improved grounds, and the incredible performances being offered, we as a community will observe improvements after each event. The new owners of this facility have been shabbily treated by the Save Oro group and the radical screeching zealots who regrettably are among them. The word is all across the Township, that one lakefront dweller from Toronto with ties to our Premier, has decided to stop the event using political connections rather than due process to overwhelm this national class show before it really gets its new roots down. If this is true, it is a dark and indeed very sad note for the Township to have to accept...to listen to.
If you were looking for a place to establish a new world class outdoor music venue park and outdoor events park, I feel that on all the basis of site requirements and economics being up on the list, the environment, emergency and health services, atmosphere, access, suitability of site, access to markets, transportation, safety and overall suitability, I would suggest that our original view back in the early 1980's still rings true. The Burls Creek Site is absolutely perfect for that which it was intended, which was a family events park and a hosting site for large scale outdoor events which could grow without causing any upset in any of the areas of municipal or provincial concern. To try and paint this any differently, is simply warping the obvious truth. Squealing about a few hundred acres of agriculture zoning is virtually absurd. We know the capabilities of the typical 100 acre farm lot here, in terms of economic viability and production numbers. When we had full time farmers on our council, we were kept well informed of the realities of agro business in this part of Ontario, the hardships and the practicalities which plagued them. Meanwhile down south where the heat units provide for better crops and where the topsoil is free of rock and two feet deep, and the large fields easy to operate on, the Province of Ontario every year caves in to permanent housing projects which require the removal of our bread basket. Thousands of acres of prime growing lands from the Provincial agriculture land bank. Railing on about the agriculture productivity of Mr. Stan Dunford's long deemed appropriate lands which he has acquired here in Oro for this amazing project, really amounts to nothing buy thumb sucking from a bunch of selfish people on some mission with no clear or reasonable mission statement or reason.
The other thing of note, is that the costs of exploiting our municipal and provincial administrations and court systems and procedures under the planning act all for a "Cause" which purports to try to reverse a sound policy decision made over 30 years ago, borders on being totally unscrupulous and exploitive in the extreme. Why is all this tax money being spent at the behest of the opponents, when the majority of our people here support the traditional Oro-Medonte thinking and the original decision to approve this facility after it was adequately monitored? Sure, for the 2016 music events and camping, some closer scrutiny of folks and more washroom facilities, and perhaps some garbage collection method changes are needed. Last year’s events, to this aging old former Oro Reeve, were not unlike our first summer years ago, when we learned from the new events and we grew with them. Only an idiot would think for an instant that the owner of this greatly improved facility would want anything less than the best show he could present. Anyone in business knows that improvements and changes are an ongoing must if you are going to succeed. Improvements are an ongoing feature. Mr. Dunford has a lot of business experience, and we are fortunate to have him here, to grow this business and to provide so much lateral economic activity for our own community.
The spin-off of this event all throughout our area is outstanding. The economic benefits are beyond huge. Everyone in the service industry, tourist service businesses, transportation, fuel and food and lodging, retail, professional services, all of it...everyone is winning. The race track was shut down, so there is no more nightly roar from that facility in the summer. The race track noise used to be clearly audible from line eight to the waterfront on concession 14. Music is great to listen to, to appreciate, and to celebrate as a huge part of our Canadian National identity. Our local Chamber of Commerce will have an expanded role in introducing people from all over North America and Europe to our wonderful Township, and the benefits it offers to both new residents and new business.
Oro-Medonte has a lot to offer everyone. Local business people need all the help they can get, as provincial and federal governments continue to download costs onto our local tax base, and in greater measure on those commercially or industrially zoned properties. Newcomers need to understand that since Jim Chewitt first surveyed this countryside almost 200 years ago, local people, common sense local residents here, have done a yeomans job of doing their best for the community all along. Our mayor today and his councillors are respected honest people, working for us as our traditions roll ahead. We don't need all this damaging rude pushing and shoving from impatient people who don't even have the old time guts to explain who they are on their website. The things some of their spearheaders are saying about the new owners are disgusting and indeed deserving of nothing but contempt from those of us who love this township and its traditional component parts and kindness. The new owners have invested millions and millions of dollars to carry forward a dream that is now three decades old. No OMB hearing or otherwise municipal or provincial venue should ever have the power to enact the destruction on this community which the Save Oro group purports to achieve by their bid to destroy Burls Creek. When they insist they care about our community, well, in my view, that is no more truthful than saying "We are the Oro-Medonte Community!" on their perplexing website.
There is as I recall, an opportunity at the end of the day, for objectors who allow our municipality to incur massive costs, as well at the court system and the proponents, to be assessed costs and damages in cases where their motives were not deemed just, or their tactics reasonable and fair and their activities damaging. If it is deemed that they are trying to hijack our community and the community good, or to obstruct the normal established flow of township business and good planning for wise land use policies, then these individuals who won't identify themselves could well be help financially accountable for damages that they are responsible for. The manner in which this project has been obstructed, is an abuse of provincial/municipal procedures. We elect people to look after our interests. We need to support those people, trust them and communicate with them, and when we disagree, well, we have elections to resolve that concern too.
Oro-Medonte is indeed a community. However the "Save Oro.com" people indeed are NOT our community of Oro-Medonte. We are overdue in making that point clear. We have an obligation to our history and our future, and to our wellbeing as a community, to stand behind and beside the new owner of Burls Creek, Mr. Dunford, and to assure him the hs is absolutely welcome and appreciated here by the vast majority of solid decent local residents.
Thanks for listening. Best of luck to you Mr. Dunford, and thanks for choosing our community to invest in and become a part of. You bring an outstanding wealth of business experience and capability to our municipality, and those among us who bother to know who you are very happy that you chose out township to invest in. Many thousands of people would love to welcome you here. We need more people like yourself in our midst, in order to place economic footings in the ground for our future generations.
And to the "Save Oro.com" shove -and -push nay sayers, know this. Strong people don't put others down, they lift them up!
And If you Can't Be Positive, Then At Least Be Quiet!
Deputy Reeve, Oro Township, 81, 82.
Reeve Oro Township, 1983, 84, 85.