SWM contemplates nature trail concept

by Marie Williams-Gagnon, Transcript & Free Press
The benefits of creating a nature trail on the abandoned CN line in Southwest Middlesex were contemplated by members of Southwest Middlesex council during the January 19 meeting. Community in Blooms committee members Jane May and Gerald Reycraft attended the meeting for a  discussion about the concept.
In June of 2008, council was originally made aware of CN’s plans to sell sections of the spur line to St. Thomas. After unsuccessfully offering it to the provincial and federal governments, CN began offering it to municipalities with the salvage of steel anticipated to be greater than $4-million. The “Rails to Trails” program was discussed by Southwest Middlesex council at that time, as were potential issues such as fencing. The Township of Southwold declined a similar offer in 2008, finding that the substantial purchase price and major undertaking to recover the investment from salvage was undesirable. Southwest Middlesex took no action on the $1-million offer from CN at that time.
Since then, of course, CN has removed all of the lines and new discussions about use of the property continue. May made a presentation to council this past fall about the benefits of creating walking trails on the property.
Councillor John Kendall stated that owning such a trail would result in “a lot of liability for municipality. What has changed to make it suitable for a public walking trail now when considering the rights of owners in needing to erect fences?”
Mayor Doug Reycraft pointed out that, in his inaugural address, he had commented on the feasibility of creating trails. He had spoken to North Middlesex representatives about their experience after receiving the right of way for a trail as a gift from the railway. “North Middlesex has found it was used by a number of people. It has led me to think that establishing such a trail may be a feature that might attract people to the community or help keep people in the community.”
However, Reycraft noted that council should have more information before even considering this in principle. “To just endorse the suggestion is premature without more research and feedback from the community.”
Gerald Reycraft pointed out that a letter written to community groups asking for their endorsement has been put on hold until council’s approval is received. May added that they hoped that the letter would help council gain an idea of public support.
Doug Reycraft explained that council does not have enough information to endorse the nature trail but could set up an ad hoc committee. Councillors suggested including the snowmobile club and any interested adjacent landowners in the discussions.
Councillor Marigay Wilkins pointed out that there is a similar nature trail in West Elgin that is well used.
Doug Reycraft noted that the “fact that it’s worked in other municipalities may be an indication that it could be an asset but all avenues need to be considered.”
The report was referred back to staff to have a report come back before council about implementing an ad hoc committee to investigate the purchase and use of the land as a trail.
-30-
Marie Williams-Gagnon
Editor
Transcript & Free Press
Glencoe, Ontario
519-287-2615

Made on Earth Art Gallery – Rick Sommer

Made On Earth, the world’s first environmentally-friendly art gallery, opened in Wardsville August 3rd last year and is open now for your amazement and enjoyment.  

Drop by and visit his gallery just a kilometre east of Wardsville on Longwoods Road.  He’s there all the time.  24/7.

Eco-art gallery opens in Wardsville

By the Chronicle, August 2009

Rick Sommer of Wardsvile has opened Made on Earth , the world s first environmentally friendly art gallery on Longwoods Road. The gallery includes a courtyard which is available for other artists to use to show off their own work. Above, Rick sits with one of his works of art entitled Earth, which like all his works, is made entirely of recycled materials. Earth is made of an old tabletop, a picture frame, a tripod, vacuum wire, and other material.

Rick Sommer has set out to make his art gallery and culture centre as environmentally friendly as possible. His art supplies are often whatever he finds at the dump. All his work is recycled. He paints on things including discarded tabletops and doors. His paintbrushes and even his paint is all gathered from what other people throw away. His paintings, carvings, crafts and other works are displayed across his yard at 2504 Longwoods Road, Wardsville. Starting next week, it will be open for people to browse and buy his art.

Sommer has been doing research into eco-friendly art for the last 15 years. He said he’s heard about other eco-art galleries, but some of them cut down trees to make room for themselves, or have some other non-environmentally friendly practices. His gallery, Made on Earth, should be the first to be eco-friendly on this high a level.

Made on Earth includes a courtyard which will be for other artists and vendors to display and sell their work. Vendors with original, homemade crafts, food and products may call Rick Sommer at 519-693-0904. Sommer hopes to have the vendors’ courtyard open by April 2010.

Sommer aims for his gallery to have a positive impact by giving local artists a space for their work, and also by drawing business people willing to invest in the community from the larger urban centres, such as Toronto.

“This isn’t about me or my artwork. It’s about rebuilding a community,” said Sommer. “What I’m trying to do is rebuild the community using recycled materials that are environmentally friendly… I want to find the original artists. There’s a lot of great artists out there, they just don’t know how to promote themselves.”

Sommer grew up in a log cabin in the wilderness of northern British Columbia. He said he was born an artist, and he’s kept it up all his life. When he was a kid he would make his own toys out of river clay.

As a young adult, Sommer joined the American Military and served two years in the 82nd airborne and three years in the Special Forces. After a honourable discharge, he moved to Toronto and decided to get back into artistry. At first he sold his art on the street, and he would later spend the next twenty years working in carpentry and landscaping for mansions. It was during this 20-year period that he would paint murals at the Dovercourt boys and girls club in Toronto. He said his painting activity had a way of drawing in kids from the streets.

“I realized that, silently, I can help people without them knowing. I decided I was going to find a place to sell my art work, do it professionally,” he said.

Sommer said he met Prince Charles during his time with Dovercourt, and the two had a conversation about the environment that helped prompt Sommer’s decision to do an eco-friendly art gallery.

“Prince Charles, when I met him in Toronto, he said the earth has less than 200 months, and it’s now down to 93 months before it’s too late to save the ecosystem,” said Sommer.

Sommer moved to his home on Longwoods Road with his wife May 2008.

Sommer works in art styles including painting, poetry, music, carving, martial arts and others. He’s also working on ‘fusion art’, art that includes different mediums rolled into one. Some fusion art is paintings with poems packaged along with them, but for some fusion art he tries to incorporate all five senses in art that is visual, is scented, and even includes an original recipe for taste.

“I want to go beyond the canvas on the wall. I want to put scents and music and poetry all in one art form,” said Sommer.

Link to article by The Chronicle. http://www.thechronicle-online.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=1679900

Twin Valleys Community and School – appreciation

Mary,  my thanks to you and your cohort for the magical opportunity you gave to the former Twin Valley people to come together, especially in your beautiful town of Wardsville. I doubt that a TVS reunion would have happened again without some unusual catalyst, and it was probably George’s last opportunity to have such an experience, to be together with so many former staff and students.  I myself can say that I had the best weekend of my life.  I am so impressed with the overall organization of the event, the meal was exceptionally good and I was thrilled to see that Wardsville has grown into a beautiful village.  I always waited to see that sign change beyond 200!  I think the reunion has launched a BIG resurgence in communications amongst us, that is the special spin-off of the weekend and  on top of that, I will have beautiful memories of Wardsville forever.                             Patricia Kristie (formerly Bullied)

Dear Mary, Just wanted to send you a note of thanks to let you know how much I appreciate the fact that you sought out the old Twin Valleys people to join the Wardsville Bicentennial.  What a great thought you had and because you did and act on it, I was able to reconnect with 3 dear friends I had not seen or heard from in over 30 years.  It was life changing for me and I am forever in your debt.  Thank you so much.  Also, you and the people of Wardsville did such a nice job with the event and made us feel so welcomed.  I am humbled at your greatness! in peace,
Mary Lisa Zimmerman, Morton, Illinois, United States of America

Hal Jenner from Ottawa did an amazing job organizing the Twin Valley’s reunion!

Ottawa, May 28, 2010 – Twin Valleys School is returning to Wardsville on Saturday, June 19th, for a reunion on the occasion of the town’s 200th Anniversary Celebration.

Twin Valleys School was an alternative educational community founded in 1971 by George and Pat Bullied. It ran until 1983. Twin Valleys was an alternative to training schools and group homes for hard-to-serve teenagers. It provided them a home and community environment where they were accepted unconditionally. In addition to learning life skills and a host of job skills like basic carpentry, electrical wiring, plumbing, farming, animal husbandry (the school was also a fully functional farm) and kitchen skills (try cooking three meals a day for 300 people), they learned about their own uniqueness and self-worth.

The students also received a high school education in a setting that they did not find threatening given the small classroom size. Learning was based on “the 7R’s of life”: Rules, Roles, Relationships, Responsibilities, Respect, Resources and Returning Cycles. In essence, the school prepared them for a different kind of life than the one they had known before.

One lesson that has stuck with almost everyone who heard it was one of George’s favourites. It was the story of the “empty roll of toilet paper,” that true spiritual expression was “replacing that roll of toilet paper and not leaving it empty for the next guy.”  It was all about doing what was right and what was needed in the moment. So many people who lived at Twin Valleys have told that story because it has continued to remind them to do what is right in the moment, not to wait for someone else to come along and do it.

“Those who lived there were profoundly impacted by the closeness, the challenges, the triumphs and the spirituality. Thus the community lives on!” – Ben Goerner, former student.

There will be a public multimedia presentation on the history of Twin Valleys at 2 o’clock on Saturday at the United Church, 207 Church Street, in Wardsville. Don Nisbett, Reeve of Wardsville and old friend of Twin Valleys, will introduce George Bullied, the former director of the school.

The public is invited to come learn about a special time and place in Wardsville history and perhaps to meet some of the returning residents of Twin Valleys, who love to share their experience.

- 30 -

Hal Jenner, Reunion Organizer

613-744-7399

Let’s welcome cyclists coming down Longwoods Road

Why doesn’t Wardsville put out a little welcome mat for cyclists coming through?  Longwoods Road is not easy pavement; it has a very narrow edge and there are few businesses catering to cyclists or providing services.  Crossroads Bistro is a great refuge.

Meet Nick Rausa. This newly graduated Windsorite is travelling “From the Great Armpit of Ontario to the Glorious Hills Of Quebec.”

His trip landed him in Wardsville May 24th last year looking for water.  Denise Corneil saw him scouting around and invited him in to fill his water bottles. He told her that bottled water was to expensive when on a tight budget.

Follow his trip over the summer at  http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/diragusa

Nick gave her a walk around his bike. It was loaded.  Denise thinks we should watch his progress.

I met cyclist, Daniel Rego, a month later at Muscutt’s County Store – a very interesting character from Finland.  His blog is at http://www.rego.be

In early August 2009, my cousin Cathy Clarke took an exhausted cyclist home from Lakeview Gardens.  She had been toiling down Hwy 3 on her trip from midwest U.S. to Vermont.  She was disappointed in the quality of Hwy 3: no shoulder, rough pavement.

We need a few “tent and breakfasts” for our visitors.  Five-star camping. What else can we do to attract and welcome visitors?

Mary Simpson

Barn Quilts of Iowa – Washington County

The Amish Loop

The Tourism Committee of the Washington Chamber of Commerce suggested this project in 2006.

Heading east on the I-80, Ross (the son of a trucker) saw Bill Kouwenberg heading east in his truck in Illinois.  Then we toured through Moline, the capital of John Deere, and then we crossed the Mississippi River and made our way to the Chamber of Commerce of Washington.  Ann gave us the history of their community’s barn quilts and off we went.

http://www.barnquiltsiowa.com/

Boot Hill “Country” Jamboree 2010 Lineup

Just down the road, there is a big party on the Civic Weekend in August.  Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers, Mustang Sally, Deric Ruttan, Jessie Farrell, Jamie Warren, Jay Allan and more to be announced!

Boot Hill “Country” Jamboree Early Bird Tickets are on sale until April 15th, 2010 –   www.boothilljamboree.com

519-678-3434, www.ticketpro.ca 1-888-655-9090, Mrs A’s-Bothwell, Tony One Stop Music-Chatham, Marg’s Variety-Rodney, JP Variety-Ridgetown & Robert Radford Farm Machinery-Londesboro

Jamie Warren……Back by Popular Demand Jamie Warren will not only be Boot Hill “Country” Jamboree **Master of Ceremonies** all Weekend but will take to the Stage Friday, July 30th, 2010. Albums include Fallen Angel 1996, Just Not the Same 1998, Really 2003, Make Me Believe 2005 & Right Here Right Now 2008 and as well Jamie has a new single ” Letting Go”. It’s the first release from his new cd “Howl At The Moon” due in stores and online May 11th, 2010. Visit www.jamiewarren.com for a sneak peek listening of his new single.

Jay Allan……Canadian Singer/Songwriter from nearby rural Bothwell will be performing on stage Saturday, July 31st, 2010. Jay recently recorded Album “The Wrong Direction” with singles Rumourville & She’s A Tease currently on your local radio Visitwww.jayallan.com for more info

Middlesex County Tourism is on the way!

Boy did we get a lecture today.  “Work together!” we were admonished by Donna Messer, an amazing entrepreneur and the networking queen.  Donna doesn’t waste time or mince words about the importance of deep collaboration among individuals, groups, municipalities, youth, government.  She didn’t lecture us; she facilitated a networking session that demonstrated the art of brainstorming ideas, business plans, and marketing strategies for getting our communities back on the map.

Many thanks to Community Futures Development Corporation of Middlesex  County and Sheila (one of our Wardsville fans) for organizing a great tourism ‘party’ today over at Strathroy.  Glenn Stott and Marvin Recker, Upper Thames Re-enactors were there.  The new economic development officer for Middlesex County was there.  Jeremy Gough, up and coming Glencoe Ag Society rep was getting ideas for the Glencoe Fair. Over 70 people in all.

A great day; wish our entire Wardsville team could have attended.  Rhonda Long attended on behalf of Daytripping.  Great to see  you, Rhonda!

Ailsa Craig showed up in full force.  They’ve got a good thing going over there.  And one of the Sparta sparkplugs was there to tell her story. Bev Shipley attended too; our MPs have time to get out and work in the community because they’re not tied up in parliament right now.

Loved it.  A great shot in the arm.

We’ve got work to do, Wardsville.

Mary Simpson