A man doesn’t plant a tree
He plants it for posterity.
Scottish Poet (1830-1867)
Hurt not the
neither the sea,
nor the trees.
As the poet said,
"only God can make a tree" -
probably because it's so hard
to figure out how to get
the bark on.
Of all who plant
And tend a crop
The man of God
And the man of the forest
Dedicate their lives
To a certain faith
In an everlasting harvest
To be enjoyed
In some future time.
which moves some
to tears of joy is
the eyes of others
only a green thing
stands in the way.
creation are ordinarily reserved for
gods and poets.
To plant a pine, one need only
own a shovel.
The first principle to go by
is to just sit and let
the land speak to you.
Someone's sitting in the shade today
because someone planted a tree
Keep a green tree in your heart and
perhaps a singing bird will come.
My son, I admonish you to cherish
the little waters, for these
replenish the mighty rivers that nourish our thirsty land.
River valley development is the wise
use of all the natural
resources of a river valley for all the people… for all time.
Samuel Woodstock *
The great ecosystems are
complex tapestries --
a million complicated threads, interwoven,
Conservation with its abundance
in the future.
Samuel Woodstock *
Woodstock was a fictitious
character and alias used by
These sayings were first published in "Our Valley"
(TRCA) during the 1950’s and A.H. Richardson’s book
"Conservation by the People: The History of The Conservation Movement in
Ontario to 1970"
establishment of Ganaraska Forest in the 1940's represents a
great human success story
of the most successful conservation projects ever undertaken
the catalyst which
led to the
creation of the first conservation authorities, the first
conservation legislation, the conservation model used for the protection of watersheds
extensive reforestation) and the acquisition of public lands
is southern Ontario's largest
continuous block of forest, consisting of 11,000 acres
(45 km2) within
the Counties of
Kawartha Lakes (Victoria)
and the Region of Durham -- about an hour's drive north-east
Origin - spawning place
Ganaraske was the name of the Iroquoian site of a Cayuga village
located in modern day Port Hope by the mouth of the
Ganaraska River. It was also located at the foot of a
well used historic trail on the north shore of Lake
Ontario which led to Rice Lake.
The Ganaraske name first
appeared on several French maps from the mid 17th century
(when control of Canada passed from France to
Great Britain in 1763, the French letter "e" in the name was
replaced by the English "a").
J.N.B. Hewitt of the Smithsonian Institute
later wrote "Ganaraske
probably means at the 'spawning place', as this
locality was refuted too 'abound' in salmon." (Toronto
during the French Regime, 1933) The salmon,
after more than 350 years, remain a local attraction.
The establishment of Ganaraska Forest
in the 1940's remained true to its earliest roots - for more than any
other, it spawned the conservation
movement in Ontario and Canada.
Ganaraska Watershed -- first
comprehensive conservation strategy
In 1942, the Canadian Government (Federal
Committee on Reconstruction) appointed a sub-committee on
the Conservation and Development of Natural Resources.
Headed by Dr. R.C. Wallace (Principal of Queen's
University), the sub-committee was directed to
"consider and recommend…. the policy and programme
appropriate to the most effective conservation and maximum
future development of the natural resources of the Dominion
The Ganaraska watershed was selected as the
first test area. Without federal commitment to the
Ganaraska project during the war years, Ganaraska Forest
would probably never have been established (especially when
all resources were going to the war effort abroad).
As a result, Ontario
first province to develop a comprehensive conservation
The Ganaraska Watershed (1944) report was the first
conservation study of its kind
the joint auspices of the
Federal (Dominion of Canada)
and Provincial (Ontario) Governments during World War II, the Ganaraska
study provided a new direction and
transformed the whole approach to conservation. (See:
Watershed Report, 1944)
document proved to be
monumental in terms of the
resurgence of the conservation movement in Canada generally, and in
Ontario in particular...
Entitled The Ganaraska Survey, the report was unlike any other ever
produced by the Ontario government, and represented a significant
departure from the way in which resources were traditionally
regarded in Ontario."
(Steve Jobbitt, Recivilizing
the Land: Conservation and Postwar Reconstruction in Ontario and
Postwar Reconstruction in Ontario, 1939-1961, (2001)
of the North
Prior to World War II, the
northern Ganaraska region was often seen as "the Sahara of
the North". Desertified and almost stripped of its trees, the
landscape had become barren and unproductive.
The early timber barons had left huge barren wasteland areas. The
first settlers which followed viewed the
forests as obstacles to be cleared for farmland.
Topsoil was blown or washed away.
Eventually, countless farms were left abandoned
as a result of
extensive deforestation and poor agricultural practices.
The following photo shows the serious erosion and barren landscape
common throughout the area and regular flooding events downstream in Port Hope
before Ganaraska Forest was established.
wasteland area before World War II (above)
Photo courtesy of John
Floodwaters through downtown Walton Street, Port Hope
(a regular event before Ganaraska
Forest was established -
Ganaraska Watershed Report, 1944, p. 71
Early on in 1871, Sir John A.
Macdonald, Prime Minister of Canada once wrote “we are recklessly destroying the
timber of Canada, and there is scarcely a possibility of
replacing it.” in a letter to the Premier of Ontario.
The late Henry Kock
(1952-2005) of the University of Guelph Arboretum also noted
the spread of civilization around the world was too often
and too closely followed by the spread of deserts and that
history showed vast areas in Canada were headed along the same
By the late 1800s, Southern Ontario was one of the
most populated and densely settled areas in Canada -- its
resources unwisely exploited. It would spur Ontario to
become a leader in conservation.
the first time in Canadian
turned back at the brink -- through a remarkable effort at
reforestation, forest management, and other soil conservation
efforts which followed.
Ganaraska Forest -- Canada's
The establishment of
Ganaraska Forest during
the 1940's represented the foundation of the greenbelt movement
in Ontario and almost certainly in Canada -- many years before the
greenbelt term was commonly used.
The establishment of
Ganaraska Forest also set in motion a series of events which would
eventually lead to
the creation of the largest greenbelt in the world (known today as
Ontario's Greenbelt, 2005 -
composed of more than 1.8
The Ganaraska project
demonstrated the benefits of
conservation and showed for the first time how resources (water,
land, forests, wildlife and recreation) must be considered together
through a coordinated programme of resource management.
region was also the first watershed to demonstrate new concepts like the
ecosystem approach and watershed based conservation planning (based on natural rather than political boundaries).
The Ganaraska Watershed (1944) report
also led to the passing of the
first Conservation Authorities
Act in 1946 and the creation of first conservation authorities in Ontario.
The CA Act was
significant within the broad context of Canadian environmental history
in that it marked a revival of state-sponsored conservation in Canada.
The Ganaraska survey was the model
used by conservation authorities in other areas:
"1946: The Conservation Authorities Act was passed, enabling municipalities to apply for
the establishment of conservation authorities in
their areas. The Ganaraska Survey was intended to be the
model for the study on which each authority
was to base its work." (Greening Our Watersheds -
Revitalization Strategies 2002 Ch. 5 p.76 by Etobicoke and Mimico Creek Watersheds Task Force -
The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority
The recommendations in The Ganaraska Watershed (1944)
report have been studied around the world: "The conservation authority movement in Ontario is world
renowned, and professionals and parliamentarians from other provinces,
the United States, the United Kingdom, and other parts of the world have
come to study it." .
A.H. Richardson in Conservation by the People
Ganaraska Forest -- first major conservation project on Oak Ridges
Ganaraska Forest was
the first large-scale afforestation
program on the Oak Ridges
Moraine (ORM). The ORM is a distinct natural landform
and a hydrologically sensitive glacial ridge of great
ecological significance adjacent to the most populated area of Canada (over 9
million people) where deep underground aquifers are the headwaters for about thirty rivers and streams.
"The Ganaraska Authority was the first to undertake afforestation
on a large scale. Some 20,000 acres, largely on the interlobate
moraine (the Oak Ridges Moraine) and consisting of many plantable
areas and woodlands was proposed as the area for the Ganaraska
forest..." (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources,
Critical Review of Historical and Current Tree Planting
Programs on Private Lands in Ontario, 2001 p. 10)
interesting to note when all resources in Canada were going toward the war effort abroad
during World War 2, on the homefront the Ganaraska Forest project
was sponsored by the Dominion of Canada.
In the same year during WWII
(1942), Eldorado Nuclear
in then nearby flood-prone Port Hope was also acquired by the Canadian Government
and made into a Crown Corporation. Eldorado and its uranium later played an
important role in the Manhattan Project which in essence ended the war.
Ganaraska Forest -- conservation model -- Rouge National Urban Park
Watershed Report, 1943 was the first conservation model
for many other watersheds --- including the Rouge
watershed (R.D.H.P Conservation Report, 1956). In recent years, this large area became Rouge National Urban Park
-- one of the largest urban wilderness
parks in the world.
"While primarily a
study in land use with plans for the rehabilitation of
this particular watershed during the post-war period,
the Ganaraska Report would become the model for future
conservation studies throughout the Province of
C. Carter, Ontario Conservation Authorities: Their
Heritage Resources and Museums, Ontario
History/Volume XCIV, No. 1, Spring 2002)
Dr. E. J. Zavitz
E. J. Zavitz
was Chief of Reforestation in Ontario (Ganaraska Report (1944) p.xii)
Forester had the first conservation vision
for the Ganaraska
"Extending though Northumberland and Durham
Counties is a sand formation locally known as the "Oak Ridge" or
"Pine Ridge"... It
is safe to say that seventy-five percent is wholly unfit for
successful farming... These areas should be preserved for
the people of Ontario as recreation grounds for all time to
come... The policy of putting these lands under forest
management has many arguments in its favour...
pay as a financial investment; assist in insuring a wood
supply; protect the headwaters of streams; provide breeding
ground for wild game; provide object lessons in forestry;
and prevent citizens from developing under conditions which
can end only in failure. "
on the Reforestation of Waste Lands in Southern Ontario,
1908 published by the Ontario Department of Agriculture,
1920 upon his graduation from Harvard, Dr. Zavitz
A. H. Richardson, as his
long-time assistant in the Forestry Branch of the Department of Lands
and Forests. Under the mentoring and direction
of Zavitz, Richardson became known as a skilled communicator when it came to
building public awareness of forestry matters. Richardson
also helped to coordinate the practical end of the
government's treeplanting efforts.
A.H. Richardson was appointed
by the Ontario Government during WW2 to
organize the Ganaraska study.
V.B. Blake -
V. B. Blake
Oil Portrait commissioned
after his passing
Ministry of Culture -
77 Bloor St., Toronto
as a historian, heritage preservationist and
Verschoyle Benson Blake (1899-1971)
arrived in the Ganaraska region (north of Port Hope) and was the
only area resident on the original Ganaraska survey team.
Blake was also regarded
as “the quiet conservationist” and very knowledgeable about history,
particularly in the Ganaraska area.
Excerpt from Press Release of Port Hope
Public Meeting at the Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority
March 18, 2009 - 7:30 PM - (Millennium Room -
- March 12, 2009)
poor unproductive farmland when Blake arrived in 1926 for by
then, the cumulative effects of early settlement and the lumber industry
had left a devastated landscape devoid of natural vegetation. Blowouts from sand dunes were frequent.
On land once described as the
“sandy desert of the north”,
Blake began treeplanting experiments
which became a practical demonstration of the merits of
good conservation practices.
The Blake property and the only
large pond pictured in the Ganaraska Watershed report, was located on the
9th Concession in Hope Twp.
Decades before the Ganaraska survey, the
grandson of Edward
Blake established his “conservation
in miniature” project locally.
With his strong connections, Blake's experiment of a practical
tree plantation probably helped influence the
choice of Ganaraska as the first test area in the province.
Unknowingly, Blake had planted the first seeds. Many important
people "with fancy city cars" came to visit.
Blake's pedigree was impressive including
recognized historic persons of Canada and other important names
The Rt. Hon. Edward Blake, his grandfather
- the first leader of the federal Liberal Party,
Chancellor of the University of Toronto; William
Hume Blake - Solicitor-General for Canada West and the Chancellor of
Upper Canada; Benjamin Cronyn - the first Bishop for the
Diocese of Huron (Anglican Church of Canada),
Thomas Benson, the first
Mayor of Peterborough and George M. Wrong
- prominent Canadian historian
and first history professor of University of Toronto. The latter was
also Blake's favorite uncle and mentor.
A portrait of
Judge Thomas M. Benson hangs in
Victoria Hall in Cobourg.
V.B. Blake was the last male in his branch of a very
prominent family tree - his ancestry traced back to one of the knights of King Arthur's Round Table
V.B. Blake was also
certainly influenced by two of the greatest academic scholars of the
time, namely Professor
G. M. Wrong
University of Toronto
Professor and Author and
Dr. R.C. Wallace (1881-1955)
- Principal of Queen's University.
Dr. Wallace wrote the
Introduction of the Ganaraska Watershed report and concluded it's
content had far-reaching effects:
"...of general significance for the
conservation and rehabilitation of all our resources throughout Canada."
(A. H. Richardson, Conservation by the People: The
the Conservation Movement in Ontario to 1970, (1974)
Blake had a key role in the Ganaraska Forest project
(he helped compile it) and was the only Ganaraska area resident on the initial
Ganaraska survey team.
Blake's strong interest also included
Canada's built heritage and he
was a founding member of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario in
1933, along with C. Vincent Massey. Both men had country
properties along the Ganaraska River, named Ardfree and Batterwood
respectively. During the 1950's, V.B. Blake also helped
organize the Provincial Plaques Program in Ontario.
V.B. Blake also served on the Advisory Committees for both
Village and Black Creek Pioneer Village and was also instrumental in
establishing Barnum House in Grafton as a museum (the primary reason
Architectural Conservancy of Ontario was
first established in 1933).
In 1959, Barnum House became a National Historic Site of Canada.
Blake worked as a historian with the Government of Ontario and joined
the Ontario Department of Planning and Development, Conservation Branch
in 1944. V.B Blake became Supervisor of the Historical section of the
Conservation Authorities Branch when it began publishing
historical studies for various geographically defined conservation areas
across Ontario - including the Ganaraska Watershed report (1944).
B. Blake was added to the survey team. It was Blake’s keen sense of the worth of history and his philosophy of how
the conservation ethic could be supported through an understanding
of the past that resulted in the inclusion of an
introductory historical chapter in the Ganaraska study. Subsequent
conservation reports by the government would also include accounts
of the historical background of each watershed area studied..." (John
Ontario Conservation Authorities: Their Heritage Resources and
Ontario History/Volume XCIV, No. 1, Spring 2002)
Blake showed the linkage
between history and conservation - for the first time the general public
(and public officials) not only found his historical material
interesting but were better able to understand the technical
recommendations of the conservation reports themselves.
conservation reports also opened with Blake's historical backdrops and were essentially
the first major blueprints for the respective watersheds from which most
modern day conservation achievements can be traced - including Ganaraska
Forest, Rouge National Urban Park and Ontario's Greenbelt, 2005.
Today, Blake is still regarded as
“Dean of Local Historians” and fellow historians agree “there hasn’t
been anybody like him since…” (Carl Thorpe).
His work remains a goldmine of information to this
As a pioneer historian,
Verschoyle Benson Blake is remembered for his extraordinary work
in heritage and conservation.
"We need something more than archives to tell us
how our forefathers lived...
pictures is a good thing,
it is infinitely better
some of the things themselves.
To let these be lost through
our indifference is
to which they are entitled."
Verschoyle B. Blake
as quoted in
Conservation by the
The History of the Conservation Movement
in Ontario to 1970,
Canada's first greenbelt
History shows the Ganaraska Forest plan was the first blueprint and laid
the earliest foundation for the world's largest greenbelt - officially
known today as Ontario's Greenbelt (2005) -- by more than half a
The establishment of Ganaraska Forest
was Canada's first greenbelt
model and marked the beginning of the greenbelt movement
in Canada -
many years before the greenbelt term was commonly
establishment of Ganaraska Forest was also inherently the first
greenbelt and foundation of Ontario’s
(2005) recognized today as the world’s largest greenbelt (1.8 million acres).
(Ganaraska Forest shown above
"As the world’s largest greenbelt at
1.8 million acres... Ontario’s
Greenbelt is an area of permanently protected green space,
farmland, forests, wetlands and watersheds ... ".
Ontario Ministry Municipal
Affairs and Housing, 2011
Greenbelts serve a major conservation role
with many benefits:
"The David Suzuki Foundation
estimates that the natural capital of Ontario’s Greenbelt
is worth $2.6 billion annually.
Part of this amount is generated by the services rendered by
the Greenbelt’s forests and wetlands, which clean the water
enhance air quality and support flood control. These
ecosystems act as habitat for wildlife, including the
maintain and enhance the annual crops of fruit and
vegetables. The ecosystems in the Greenbelt also help
climate change by storing over 102 million tonnes of carbon
in its wetlands, forests and agricultural lands."
(Ontario's Greenbelt connects Field to Fork
Alternatives Journal, Joanne Tacorda, March 18, 2013)
Name of Greenbelt
Agricultural Land Reserve
Niagara Escarpment Plan - preliminary
Vancouver's Green Zone
Montréal - announced
Québec City - announced
projects have followed the Ganaraska model - but none preceded it.
The Ganaraska report (1944) was the first study to
include the components of a modern day greenbelt plan (forests,
agricultural and recreational lands and wetlands). A key
recommendation in the 1944 report was the
establishment of a 20,000 acre forest (later named
Greenbelts provides enormous benefits
for many reasons including fresh
air and healthy food; the protection of water
resources (clean water, minimized flooding) and a more liveable environment
In January, 2013, the Ontario Government announced
in the river valleys of S. Ontario will become part of a new Urban
River Valley designation in Ontario's Greenbelt -
increasing the size of the largest
“The Greenbelt… is a key
part in our government’s efforts to protect
the environment and combat climate change.
the Greenbelt is one of the greatest contributions
has made to the future of Ontario.”
Minister Linda Jeffrey of the
Municipal Affairs and Housing
Leader in Conservation
The Ganaraska Forest project in the 1940's
changed the face of the conservation movement in Canada.
Historically, no other conservation
project has had such far reaching effects.
The Ganaraska project
during WW II set in motion a series of events which not only resulted in
the establishment of Ganaraska Forest, but also laid the
groundwork for the creation of 36 conservation authorities, the first
conservation legislation and more recently, the establishment of
Canada's first national urban park (Rouge Park) and the world’s
comprised of 1.8
million acres (Ontario’s
Ontario’s 36 Conservation Authorities own and operate over 500
conservation areas and collectively are among the largest landowners in
Canada with a total land area of 145,357 hectares (359,185 acres).
deserts and floods are conditions of the past with 43 percent of the Ganaraska watershed now in forest cover. As a result of
reforestation, Ganaraska River has experienced even better results than
originally predicted (including reduced flash runoff, river and streams flowing more evenly,
increasing water storage in headwater aquifers, reduced spring flooding
and summer low-flow conditions).
Without the ability of the Authorities
to acquire and manage public lands and the legislation giving them the
legal power to do so (two of the key recommendations in The Ganaraska Watershed report, 1944), the conservation areas would probably not exist today.
went on to become a leader in conservation in Canada,
largely by the fact that southern Ontario is one of the few
areas in Canada that by the late 1800s was so densely settled and
its resources so unwisely exploited that conditions matched those
that inspired the rise of the conservation movement south of the
While much had been done, earlier approaches
were no longer adequate to both halt the deterioration of the
environment and the loss of resources, and at the same time start to
reverse the trend of loss and decline. Blow sands and windswept farm
land were an increasingly obvious problem. Springtime flooding and
summertime interruptions in waterflow. The result of the increase in
population and of encroachment on the flood plains of creeks and
rivers were also becoming pressing issues..."
(Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters)
History is important. Given
unique historic role in Canada's conservation movement, one tied
to important events in Canadian history, Ganaraska Forest is recognized
as one of the most successful conservation projects ever undertaken.
"The Ganaraska Forest is at a pivotal moment in its history.
The largest block of continuous forest in Southern Ontario,
it is a huge expanse of 11,000 acres that represents one of
the most successful
ever undertaken in central Canada."
Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority, 2011
"Cathedral of the Pines"
Judge Richard Lovekin
dedication ceremony- 1994
Thank you for visiting
Member - Port Hope Historical Society
Supporter - Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority
special thanks to:
Elizabeth Bacque - aunt of VBB
Murray Johnson, President Rouge Valley Foundation
John C. Carter, Museum Advisor - Ministry of Citizenship, Culture
Carl Thorpe, retired Manager - Heritage and Libraries Branch, Ministry
Mark Peacock, Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority
Pam Lancaster, Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority
Larry and Evelyn Hall, Port Hope
Bernadine Dodge, ret. Archivist, Trent University
Paul Litt, Dept. of History, Carlton University
Peter Stokes, Architectural Historian
John Bacher, Author
Ed Borczon, Forester