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.

***

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.

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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.

***

Skid Crease. journalist, Caledon

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Canoeists in Cars Getting Coffee

With total apologies to Jerry Seinfeld and Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

As narrated by Sharon …

***

“Hi, Harry, this is Sharon. In your neighbourhood and wondering if you’d like to go out for a coffee.”

“Sure Sharon” replied Harry.

Now the car I picked out for Harry, although he is more at home in a canoe, is my 2006 Porsche Boxster. This car can do zero to 60 mph in under 6 seconds.  It’s a 5 speed manual transmission, a 2.7-liter horizontally opposed six-cylinder that develops 240hp.  The engine is located behind the seats (mid-engine) but ahead of the rear axle. This gives the car two cargo compartments. Very practical.

But it also has the enlarged front and side air intakes for cool styling. Finished off with 17-inch alloy wheels. Inside, two occupants enjoy body-hugging leather-upholstered bucket seats.  Seat warmers included for cool spring and fall temps. Bose surround sound and a navigation system. Not a bad choice for my favourite teacher.

He was rather astonished when I pulled up in his driveway. “We’re going for coffee in that!”

“Oh yes,” I answered, “and with the top down. Harry, this car is like our friendship.  Still going strong after many years and stands out amongst others. Will always be a classic. We are stylish.”

“Alright,” said Harry, “I am definitely in a Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee episode. Drive on!”

It was a wonderful afternoon. Having missed the 50th Reunion of my Junior High School, I wanted to catch up and hear the stories. Harry had attended and had been mobbed by his old students, from science to English to outdoor education. He had been our guide through the wilderness, and school, and far beyond. The lessons we learned on trips with him will remain with us for life. Over those years we became such good friends that I even asked him to give the speech for the bride at my wedding.

“So Harry, what’s retirement like?” “Eggsellent,” he replied, as I got to learn all about his current Caledon backyard hens project. With that teaser, I just had to see the hens, so the Boxster navigated the potholes on the Albion Hills Community Farm driveway to visit the hens.

He’s there at 5:00 in the morning and 9:00 at night and those hens love him. I even got to take home some free run, organic Omega 3 eggs for my son’s breakfast the next day. After the hens, we headed to the Four Corners restaurant in Bolton for that long awaited coffee – and it was a perfect cappuccino.

Then began that exchange of catching up on the many years in between the canoe trips of my youth and the realities of life as a working mom. Harry talked about his family and his children and his journalism. Mostly he reflected about how important his students were to him. I got to share my enthusiasm for golf, my children, and my grandchild. We both reflected on the joys of getting older with my knee problems and his cataract surgeries. But our memories are always young.

My friends and I travelled with Harry on canoe trips from Grade Eight until we left high school. The level of training and our capabilities of performance increased every year. It was almost as though he was waiting to see if we could fly on our own.

On the last night of our final canoe trip to Algonquin Park, my friend Marie noticed another group just upwind from us washing their dishes in the lake. Harry, who taught us to always leave our campsite cleaner than we found it, had spotted this but uncharacteristically hadn’t said anything. Marie marched right over to their campsite and said, “Excuse me, but I don’t appreciate you washing your dishes in our drinking water!”

That was our last trip. Harry told me over coffee that he didn’t say anything that day because he was waiting to see what we would do without him.

“When Marie spoke up that was the precise moment when I knew my work here was done.” We had all learned to fly.

And now I drive a Porsche Boxster taking Canoeists in Cars to Get Coffee. I wish I had been able to be at the 50th Reunion at Zion Heights, but I got to see the joy of it through Harry’s eyes as he talked about how wonderful it was to see almost all of us together again and recount the glory days with happiness.

I dropped him off at his home with the teaser that he could get to drive it the next time. Now I’m off to watch the Seinfeld episode that he said is most like him – Jerry taking Steve Harvey for a coffee. Who knew our teachers were such comedians! And would be friends for life.

Sincerely,

Sharon

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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

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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.

***

Skid Crease, journalist

*image from farmersalmanac.com

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