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Ontario Conservation Authorities

There are 36 Ontario conservation authorities. I won't list them all here; you can find them at Conservation Ontario. The conservation authority site also lists walks, so it's worth a visit.

In Ontario, conservation authorities oversee watershed management, look after small parks, wildlife areas, oversee environmental areas that don't actually belong to them, control watersheds and work with private landowners. Conservation authorities get their money through levies, so they work on a community basis, dealing with local watershed and environmental issues. Watershed management involves dams so authorities control water flow in many areas.

They allow hunting on some of their properties, so don't assume you're safe walking on conservation land in hunting (that's pronounced "hun'n," by the way) season.

Conservation authorities came into being in the late forties. With more money to spare, authority land became popular day and camping parks, with many projects being set up in the 1950s to the mid-1980s.

In 1992, a recession hit and the then-NDP government began cutting back. In 1995, the axe fell. In the infamous Mike Harris Conservative years, over 70% of provincial conservation authority money was cut. Harris also cut funding to municipalities, making it impossible for them to maintain standards in conservation authority parks. Jobs were lost, trails degenerated and nature education was severely cut back. Conservation authorities considered selling land to stay afloat. They were dark days for conservation authorities and environmentalists generally.

It was false economy. The conservation authorities were a reasonably cheap way of effecting watershed management and many children benefited from their education programs. 

Frink bridge - Dark Times. The parks and the trails within them were both a fine way for families to enjoy a cheap day of recreation and a healthy place to get out and exercise by walking, biking or cross-country skiing. Today, park maintenance is still minimal in many areas.

The effects of our past political foibles still haunt us;  fine trails have been neglected or torn up because of disrepair.

Here's a history lesson on the origins of conservation authorities.

This excellent bridge at the Frink Centre was officially
closed for much of 2009; it's back in operation now.
(photo, Dec. 2008)

Foley Mountain Conservation Centre (near Westport)
Frink Centre, (north of Belleville)
Gould Lake Conservation Area (near Sydenham, north of Kingston)
O'Hara Mill and Conservation Area (Just west of Madoc, north of Highway #7)
Vanderwater Conservation Area (Thomasburg, between Tweed and Belleville)

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Page created: February 3, 2009
Updated: September 21, 2013