Skip to content

LETTER: Geneva Park's natural splendour must be preserved

With lawsuit against YMCA having been dismissed, reader calls on new owner to ensure protection of park's 'natural beauty'
YMCA Geneva Park
YMCA Geneva Park

MidlandToday welcomes letters to the editor at [email protected]. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). This letter is in response to an article about a lawsuit against the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka being dismissed, published April 29.
Thank you, Mme. Justice V. Christie, for expeditiously ending any more disruptions in the rebirth of Geneva Park.

Her notes (in the ruling) make total sense, and particularly the note which states as 'absurd' the precedent that would be set in allowing the application. In addition, Mme. Justice reminded that "the applicants' claims that they have a beneficial interest in this property are without merit." In other words, the charitable donations of their time and money did not buy the applicants any form of ownership in the property.

This said, Geneva Park was created by John Thomson more than 100 years ago as a meeting place for all. The residents of Longford Township and the Chippewas of Rama First Nation are the original 'Geneva Park Community' and this must be respected in more than just words and sporadic appreciation.

The year-long, and very dedicated, office, house cleaning, kitchen and maintenance staff obviously have a direct and very serious vested interest as members of the community, as their livelihoods depend on Geneva Park.

Other members of the community include: community groups such as The YMCA, The March of Dimes, the children of Orillia enjoying day camps, cottagers, vacation and conference guests, who traditionally were, by far, the greatest source of revenue.

Prestigious events such as the conferences of First Nations, the Leacock Dinner and the Couchiching Conference also greatly add to Geneva’s identity as a unique place. Thus, the 'Geneva Community' englobes a vast array of participants, and infinitely more than the applicants in the above mentioned case.

Thus, all must be recognized, in more than words, and take a meaningful role, for the original spirit of Geneva to be saved. Obviously, none of this will happen unless the new owner, Clayton Smith, can be assured of cooperation among all the partners that comprise the 'Geneva Community' because it is he and his company who have displayed their confidence by investing great sums to revitalize the park.

Whether or not some question the reasons for the developer’s intents with Geneva, the deal is done. Our community must take an approach that is neither arrogant nor humble with the new owner.

Let's face it, the new owners want to make money, because, after all, they have taken the risk that others have not. However, they also have an astonishingly dedicated customer base. So, there is much to win by all, if a true and respectful working relationship is established from now on in.

I respectfully call now for the 'Geneva Community' to work with the new owner to rebuild the Park, while preserving the natural beauty of Geneva.

I have been in close contact with numerous environmental organizations very recently, as well as have received information from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Parks and Recreation. Geneva is the home to numerous protected species, so I call upon the new owners, in cooperation with municipal authorities, that the natural heritage of Geneva be protected under the Provincial Planning Act.

The owners have a track record of breathing new life into heritage sites. Thus, I am sure they recognize that Geneva’s greatest asset is her natural beauty. Though Geneva has been sold by the Muskoka-Simcoe branch, the phenomenal work done by the YMCA over the last hundred years must never be forgotten. It is my hope, that the owners work with the YMCA for many years to come to rekindle the light that has shone from this emerald gem, that is Geneva.

Stephen Holloran
Quebec City