The Friends of Limerick Forest put on a wonderful event to mark, not only Canada’s 150th, but the 150th of what is today called the Ministry and Natural Resources and Forestry [MNRF]. In 1867, the Department of Crown Lands took over responsibility for the unpatented lands of the new Province of Ontario, and began a long tradition of caring for the Crown lands on behalf of us all.
In 1892, 125 years ago, the first Conservation Officers were appointed to act as wardens, enforcement officers and guardians of our forests, wetlands and what used to be called “the waste lands of the Crown”. The vital work performed by men like Edmund Zavitz, encouraged by Kemptville native, G. Howard Ferguson, in his time as Minister of Forests and Premier of Ontario, led to the reforestation of devastated areas of farmland that had been lost to erosion.
At the Limerick Forest Interpretive Centre last Saturday, MNRF Kemptville District Manager, Dan Thompson was the MC, and he spoke about the importance of that tradition of care and protection of our natural resources that is at the heart of what Limerick Forest is all about.
Geoff McVey, Forest Manager at Limerick, welcomed the large attendees on behalf of the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, and gave a short history of the area, and the development of Limerick Forest from the time the United Counties took over the land in the late 1940’s.
But the guest of honour on Saturday was Alf Campbell, the man, as Geoff said, who really designed Limerick Forest as we know it today. Alf has been associated with forestry in this region since he arrived as a young man in the 1950’s, and he continues to be an important part of the story of both Limerick and the Ferguson Forest Centre in Kemptville. Alf can remember arriving in Limerick and being able to look out over the trees, still only a few feet high, for as far as the eye could see.
To mark the anniversary, fifteen spruce trees were planted, one for each decade of Confederation. The public are invited to visit the Interpretive Centre at Limerick and view the displays and walk the trails that wind through the trees, past the remains of houses and farms that once sheltered so many families in the past. Today, the Friends of the Limerick Forest, working with the United Counties, have made something wonderful, a precious resource, out of what had been a tragic land of lost hopes. It is an important part of the story of Eastern Ontario.