by Carl Douette
Many residents of North Grenville are aware of and appreciate the Ferguson Forest Centre (FFC). You hike or ski the kilometres of trails through the forest, take your dogs to the Dog Park, stroll the paths in the Arboretum, and relax on the benches. You admire Veterans Memorial Park and Veterans Way, and you notice the fields full of small trees, in what is clearly a farming operation.
But what has a tree farm to do with anything? Few people realize that all the things we enjoy about the Ferguson Forest Centre would disappear without the Ferguson Tree Nursery. The Nursery is the engine that supports all activities in Ferguson Forest.
In 1996, the Ontario Government closed the G. Howard Ferguson Forest Station and put the land up for sale. Eventually, the land came to be owned by the Municipality of North Grenville and a debate ensued between those wanting more strip malls and those wanting to retain the environmental and recreational benefits the forest provided. Sanity prevailed, and the forest was saved. The Ferguson Forest Centre Corporation (FFCC), which is a registered not-for profit corporation, was formed in 2000 as the governing body for the Centre, and the Municipality agreed to lease all 360 acres of its land to the Corporation, for the business of growing trees. FFCC also oversees 840 acres of land in Ferguson Forest on behalf of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.
A not-for-profit corporation operates like any other business, with one notable exception. At the end of the year, monies available after meeting current and potential future expenses are put back into the community, as specified in the lease agreement, and letters patent. The nursery, through this Corporation, is overseen by a volunteer Board of Directors, who ensure that this happens. For example, the Board agreed to sub-lease the necessary land to the North Grenville Dog Parks Corporation, and staff and equipment belonging to the nursery helped with its construction. The Corporation paid for the construction of the parking lot that serves the dog park and the Education and Activity Centre, formerly the Arboretum, and partners with the Municipality to maintain and upgrade the roads throughout the facility. It is the nursery staff, using nursery equipment, who maintains the trails and mows the grass in Veterans Memorial Park and the Arboretum. The Corporation also supports the community by hosting the annual Book Fair supporting the Kemptville Youth Centre, maintaining Anniversary Park and Kinderwood, and by supporting soccer and hockey associations, NGDHS Rotary Science Fair and the Friends of the Ferguson Forest.
The FFCC and its Board of Directors are urgently in need of new members. Without a committed Board of Directors, the Corporation would not be able to fulfill its mandate. The Ferguson Tree Nursery would cease to exist, and so would the Ferguson Forest Centre. This is not an immediate danger, but nonetheless, a very real one. Many of the original members have retired, or moved on to other interests, and others have passed away. This has left a severe shortage of members from which to recruit new Board and committee members.
The Recreation and Education Committee is healthy, but other committees have folded. The Board would like to revive the Public Relations Committee with members who have Information Technology and social media experience, writing skills, and publishing experience, to better communicate with the community. This is not meant to exclude other skill sets, merely to identify the most urgent needs. A commitment of time and ability by interested and capable members of the community can maintain a strong Corporation to ensure the longevity of the Ferguson Forest Centre. To that end, the Corporation is seeking community minded individuals to become members of the Corporation. As a member, you would serve on various committees, attend meetings, volunteer at events, and potentially be voted to a directorship on the Board of Directors. Knowledge of forestry is not required. If the Ferguson Forest Centre is important to you, and you wish to become a part of this important community Corporation, please contact Sally Hamilton, FFCC secretary and membership coordinator, at [email protected].