King’s YMCA Cedar Glen

Written for The King Weekly Sentinel as The Cedar Glen Story

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Once upon a time there was a conference centre in King Township owned by the United Church of Canada. It sat high on the tablelands above the Humber River with a substantial conference centre and the largest western red cedar pan abode building in North America. Those buildings housed the guest rooms for visitors, whether on a religious retreat, a conference, or a school outdoor education visit. It was simply called Cedar Glen.

For many years the North York Board of Education utilized the magnificent property and buildings as their first Outdoor Education Centre with a long term contract running from September to June every year. When that contract finally ended, the outdoor centre moved to the Bolton Camp for several years until Mono Cliffs Outdoor Education Centre north of Orangeville was built. The United Church, faced with declining revenues, wisely sold the site to the YMCA and gave Cedar Glen a whole new lease on life.

I had worked at Cedar Glen through North York Outdoor Education in the 70’s and 80’s, and later with Ontario Nature after it was sold to the YMCA. I thought I knew the site pretty well. But nothing prepared me for what I witnessed on a tour with Mayor Steve Pellegrini and King’s Sustainability Committee on June 1, 2018. Oh, it was the same property alright, but the transformation was astonishing.

The YMCA has brought Cedar Glen into the 21st century with a touch of ecological class. Cedar Glen was a diamond in the rough back in the 70’s – today it is a sparkling gemstone. The tour by site manager Brandon McClounie was engaging and unscripted – he knew this site and its history inside out. Without missing a beat on our tour by electric golf cart – and I have to give a call out here to Amy, YMCA staffer, who is the BEST GOLF CART DRIVER EVER – he covered every detail of the sites past, present and future..

The tour covered: The Cedar Glen year-round outdoor education programs where ten or more can book a day or multi-night visit. The YMCA provides staff for facilitated programs like high ropes, low ropes, mountain biking, archery, and outdoor skills as well as leadership and team building workshops. In addition, the summer day program is the largest in the GTA welcoming over 400 children each day during the summer from both the GTA and local communities.

Programs can go from one to two weeks with a full range of camp programs including their special Farm Camp. They can offer this because Cedar Glen is home to a large organic farm now in its sixth year of operations. They produce certified organic produce that is served in their kitchens and sold locally at Farmer’s Markets. Last year they produced two tonnes of produce. To sweeten the deal, they also have an apiary on site, and produce their own maple syrup in the spring.

The most surprising thing for me on the tour was to come across two reconstructed cabins from the old Bolton Camp in Caledon, now managed by the Toronto Region Conservation Authority. These historic red-western cedar pan-abode cabins had been donated from the TRCA and with reconstruction costs assisted by the Bolton Rotary, were meticulously taken apart and reassembled with floodplain foundations in a secure setting  at Cedar Glen.

Brandon explained that that two more cabins from Bolton Camp are secluded in “The Grove”. As far as future cabins go, vandals started up a bulldozer at the TRCA Bolton Camp and damaged many of the remaining structures. For me, it was a devastating loss since I had worked at both sites, Cedar Glen and Bolton Camp, for decades. The loss of those cabins is a tragedy.

But the good news is that four have survived at YMCA Cedar Glen and along with their main building guest rooms have preserved that western red cedar pan-abode history. In addition to those guest rooms on the main plateau is a smaller conference building building for adult or leadership groups. as well as an “international village ” featuring cabins, tipis and yurts in the lower portion of the property.

Not to be outdone in forward thinKING community services, Cedar Glen is opening up a licensed child care in 2019 with 80 to 90 spaces. From young toddlers to elder toddlers, Cedar Glen has it all covered. A beautiful facility, a spectacular outdoor setting, a plethora of programs, a supportive Township, and an enthusiastic staff. If there was ever a winning formula for success, this is it.

When I last saw Cedar Glen it was a diamond in the rough. Now it is another gemstone in King’s many jeweled crown.

The way I see it.

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Skid Crease, Journalist for the King Sentinel

* Note: The TRCA’s Claremont Field Centre in Durham Region is the other site of these circa 1970 western red cedar pan-abode structures.

Conflicts of Interest

Ah, the words that rev up every political junky’s heart – “CONFLICT OF INTEREST!” Yes, we just love to get the dirt on our politicians at every level. It helps to distract us from our own failings. There’s just one problem. It is a politician’s responsibility to report any potential conflict of interest prior to that item being discussed in council or in caucus or in parliament. It’s not exactly headline news. Unless you’re a C grade reporter trying to create a crisis as happens often in one of our local papers.

Really, the stories we should be reporting are about the politicians who DON’T declare a conflict of interest, I’ll give you an example, purely hypothetical of course but, just in case, the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

First, here’s an example of a case that goes by the book. A politician who lives in a rural area in Ontario, decides to sell the family farm. Kids have moved on to software development, and, as much as they love the grass fed beef, don’t want to be mucking out the barn anymore. The sale of the farm may affect the course of residential development in the area, The politician rightfully declares a “conflict of interest” and is dutifully excused before the issue is resolved,

No biggie! Unless you’re a reporter hungry for headlines and think you’re the smartest guy in the room. NOT.  A politician declaring a “conflict of interest” is a non-story – it’s what they are supposed to do. We don’t report on every dump we make in the toilet. It’s just not front page news. Unless you are trying to create a crisis … or relieve a lower bowel impaction.

What is front page news is about the politicians who DON’T declare a conflict of interest. Keep in mind that the “pecuniary” advantages and financial impacts of these deals can go up or down. A land deal close to your abode could jack up your home value, or a huge warehouse next door could lower your residential development potential. The good politicians declare. The slimy ones don’t.

Secondly, let us suppose that a major golf course development is being proposed for a property that abuts ours. Prior to being elected, I rant long and loud about this proposed development. After my election, I say nothing. Am I guilty of a conflict of interest? Oh, yeah … big time. But it doesn’t make the front page.

You think? So, let’s start reporting on the politicians who are NOT reporting their conflicts of interest, specially if they’re running for higher office. And leave the good ones alone to do their jobs without incompetent reporters trying to make headlines over smoke and mirrors.

The way I see it.

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Skid Crease. journalist, Caledon

Extreme Political Correctness is a Disease

… a bitchin’ satirical evisceration …

Bitch noun:

1.  a female dog, wolf, fox, or otter.

2.  informal: a difficult or unpleasant situation or thing. “the stove is a bitch to fix”

verb informal:   to express displeasure; grumble. “they bitch about everything”

“While female students often affectionately refer to friends as “bitches”, the term “bitchin” is commonly used as a positive description by young people in the U.S.A. “Bitch” can also be used as a verb, meaning to “complain”. Or changing it to “biatch” can add humour or force. The word biatch is the youth slang for bitch. While it is pejorative it is not misogynistic.

Yep, right out of the dictionary, Matthew and friends. Golly gee, get with the times. It was way back in the 15th century that it started being used as a derogatory term for women – if you were the “son of a bitch” it implied your mother was a whore. That allusion apparently descended from the notion that because female dogs have multiple nipples they must be promiscuous. Men are so visual.

However, the actual acceleration of the usage of “bitch” more than doubled around the 1920’s when the word was applied to those annoying suffragettes. Yes, it was the rise of feminism that brought “bitches” into real prominence. Author Jo Freeman in The Bitch Manifesto, declared: “We must be strong, we must be militant, we must be dangerous. We must realize that Bitch is Beautiful and that we have nothing to lose.”

However, the Merriam Webster dictionary defines “bitch” as “a malicious, spiteful, or overbearing woman.”

Well, I have witnessed that malice and spite from certain people associated with the Chamber of Commerce and I have witnessed that malice and spite at Town Council from certain politicians, and I have witnessed that malice and spite from extreme politically correct delegations and their supporters, so I really can’t understand what all the fuss is about.

It’s 2018, and no hard feelings John Rutter, but if it looks like a duck, and it walks like a duck and it squawks like a duck … it’s a duck.

The way I see it.

 

Skid Crease, journalist, Caledon

*image from smallholder.co.uk

A Perfect Summer Solstice Sunrise

I was up to Albion Hills Community Farm this morning at 5:30, waiting with the hens to catch the sunrise that would mark the beginning of summer 2018. As promised at 5:37 a.m. EST. the sun broke the horizon line and flooded the fields with light and warmth.

It is no wonder that early humans worshipped the Sun God, the bringer of light, and the end of the dark cold days. It is no wonder that all modern religious ceremonies evolved from those seasonal changes of either four seasons or two seasons.

We live in a temperate climate with spring (rebirth), summer (growth), fall (harvest) and winter (death). So our gods are born, grow, prosper, and die … and then get reborn the next cycle. If we lived in the equatorial regions where there are two seasons of wet and dry, our gods would have two terms to their cycles. It’s all about the geography and the ecology. And then we ritualize it.

This morning it was pure sunrise, pure celebration of the summer season. There were no church bells or prayer mats, no homage to the words written by humans and attributed to higher powers. It was just the coming of the light, the longest day of the year, and the joy in children’s hearts with the knowledge that school’s out for summer.

Last night at the community gardens on the Farm, my neighbour Pam and I witnessed the most beautiful sunset – we both stopped our watering and weeding simply awestruck at the beauty of this world. How lucky we are to bear witness, how lucky we are that our families are living here in Caledon, Ontario, Canada and not separated by cages at a detention centre in Texas, U.S.A. “Praise be!” to quote Margaret Atwood.

A superb Summer Solstice to all, and to all a loving longest day.

The way I see it.

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Skid Crease, journalist

*image from farmersalmanac.com

Caledon Perspectives, again

Caledon Perspectives

“To permit ignorance is to empower it.”  ― Dan Brown, Origin

It is so interesting how two people, or two groups of people, can see the same person or situation from two totally different perspectives. The old saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” has an equal and opposite force that reads “Ugliness is in the eye of the beholder.”

Recently in Caledon Town Council, the quality of my writings was questioned because I had called out some local politicians and citizens for blogging misleading, smearing, and defamatory statements. I was accused of writing hate speech, bullying, misogyny, and not being a real journalist.

Now, I will admit that my political satires cut to the bone in exposing stupidity and corruption, but they are as far from the definition of hate speech as you can get. Not remotely close to being a bully. All of the good women in my life find me a respectful and supportive person. And my journalistic credentials are intact.

Only two days before, I had been given the “Golden Carabiner” by a local Bolton Scout Troop for demonstrating the qualities of “Integrity, Loyalty, Courage, Honesty, Fortitude, and Self-Control.” So confusing. Of course, children with no political agenda have much clearer perceptions of character. Regional Councillors trying to upgrade to the position of Mayor can get blinded by ambition.

At this same council meeting, one of the online communications for which I write was also called out for even associating with me. Keep in mind none of my truly satiric eviscerations are ever published in this Caledon online community newspaper – I reserve those for my private blog. My writings for the online newspaper are monitored by a very ethical editor who is extremely conscious of journalistic integrity and the readership’s sensibilities.

However, the usual suspects wanted the Town of Caledon to pull its advertising from this newspaper simply for associating with me as an occasional author. That sounds a lot like political correctness censorship in the extreme. Of course, this had nothing to do with the fact that the communication in question tends to publish good news articles and not ones that create a crisis.

Previously, this same very positive online community newspaper had its status questioned by these usual suspects because it has a catchy title that was deemed not worthy of a quality news publication. OK, let’s give it a classy title like “Caledon Perspectives.” That sure sounds like a real newspaper, right.

Oops. No. It turned out that particular title (previously Vaughan Perspectives, then GTA Perspectives) was created by Benedetto Marotta’s Solmar Development Corporation and the “editor” was on the marketing staff of that same corporation. The intent of that “community newspaper” was to create a crisis in the Town of Caledon over a local development issue to sway public opinion in favour of the development corporation. I guess you really can’t judge the quality of a publication by its name.

By the way, Caledon Perspectives Corp, ON -2153785, inactive for years, has recently amalgamated and changed its name to … wait for it … Solmar (Niagara) Inc. and Benny’s Two Sister Vineyard is located in … wait for it … Niagara-on-the-Lake. The Vineyard, incidentally, gets a 4 Star rating and their Restaurant 76, although rated noisy and on the pricey side, is known for great Italian dishes.

Now a real newspaper, the Globe and Mail, recently published an investigative report that actually documented this development corporation’s influence from Caledon to Queen’s Park. The alleged corruption and lobbying in the Globe’s investigation was so clear that on Friday the leader of the NDP formally asked for the Ontario Integrity Commissioner to probe the allegations.

Those allegations implicate Spiros Papathanasakis (an unregistered lobbyist), Maurizio Rogato of Solmar Corporation (and formerly on the board of the Caledon Chamber of Commerce), ex-Liberal Minister and MPP Glen Murray, and Liberal Premiers McGuinty and Wynne, who were informed of the situation, but apparently did nothing to rectify it.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath was quoted as saying, “When you have a minister of the Crown being alleged to have engaged in this sort of activity and alleged to be intimidating a mayor of a municipality for the purpose of greasing the wheels for a property development, and then you have a premier who is accused of not acting on those allegations, those are some pretty serious problems.

Gee, you think? But when this issue of intimidating local politicians was raised recently at Town of Caledon Council, the same perspectives accusing me of hate speech tried to sweep it under the carpet and dismiss it as a non-issue. Well, it’s a big issue now, extending all the way to the credibility of Glen Murray’s new “dream job” as head of the Pembina Institute.

These allegations have the potential to extend into the influence applied to national and local media outlets and reporters, and to support for local politicians, organizations and citizens in favour of this same property development. Once the tangled web we weave begins to unravel, the house of cards falls down.

In my Caledon perspectives, those embarrassed by having their bad behaviour called out, might want to reflect on some old sayings that apply when this kind of “poor me” hypocrisy takes place. It’s a clear case of the pot calling the kettle black, or “If you can’t take it, don’t dish it out.”

Until then, I’m going to continue to dish it right back, only with more literary flair. No hard feelings, Matthew.

The way I see it.

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Skid Crease, journalist, Caledon