Election or acclamation? Three of 11 council seats uncontested in Barrie

There are more uncontested seats in Barrie’s municipal election than days left to register to run.

With the deadline to file candidacy in the 2018 election set for Friday afternoon, three of 11 city council seats are headed toward acclamation. And only one candidate is registered for trustee seats in the Simcoe County District School Board wards 7 to 10, Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board wards 1 to 5 and Conseil scolaire catholique MonAvenir areas.

On Barrie council, incumbents Jeff Lehman (mayor), Sergio Morales (Ward 9) and Mike McCann (Ward 10) are currently running unopposed.

Ward 1 Coun. Bonnie Ainsworth, who is not vying for re-election, said a run for political office can cost thousands of dollars these days. Many candidates also run on a controversial issue or after a bad experience with government, but council has been relatively calm over the last four years.

“A lot of it is leadership and public opinion,” she said. “Often people run because they … strongly object to something. ‎Under Mayor Lehman’s lead, our council has not been controversial. I don’t think anyone running to unseat an incumbent is doing it because they think they can do better. I just think they want the job for any number of reasons which is absolutely their right. It also costs a lot of money to run now … and the thought of not winning could be off-putting.” 

In 2014, two seats — Michael Prowse in Ward 6 and Maria Hardie in Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board’s Area 2 — were acclaimed in the city. No candidates were handed seats in 2010.

The overall number of candidates is also down from previous elections. A total of 41 candidates are currently registered to run. But 62 council and trustee candidates signed up in 2014 and 66 ran in 2010.

It seems Barrie may be caught in a provincewide trend, city clerk Wendy Cooke said.

“We’re into the final week to register and so far we’ve not seen many candidates coming forward,” she said. “Other municipalities that I’ve spoken to are also reporting similar unusually low numbers. Last year, 22 candidates filed in the last two weeks, so we might get busy this week. There’s still time to register to run in the upcoming municipal election.”

Residents can sign-up to run for city mayoral and councillor positions, and nominations for trustee positions in the Simcoe County, Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District, Viamonde and catholique MonAvenir school boards are also open.

The nomination period runs until 2 p.m. July 27. The municipal election is Oct. 22.

Candidates can submit a nomination form and applicable fee ($200 for mayor, $100 for all other positions) at city hall, 70 Collier St. They must also meet eligibility requirements. Candidates running for mayor and councillor positions need to submit an endorsement form signed by 25 people who can currently vote in the city.

More information is available at .

Why a heritage forest near Beeton represents ‘first chapter in town’s history’

Residents who have watched over Beeton’s heritage forest for decades will continue to play an important role to ensure the property remains protected for generations to come.

Neal Arbic belongs to the group of 40 volunteers who have maintained the walking trails throughout the forest and lobbied council to protect its natural features and archeological sites.

“We call it a heritage forest because it’s the first chapter in our town’s history,” he said. “It’s the first known place where people lived, the First Nations, and when the Loyalists came to found our town, there were no roads leading there, they took single file trails established by the First Nations. They were very much like the single file trails you still find in the heritage forest today, so we consider it like preserving Beeton’s Main Street. It’s not just a forest, it’s part of our heritage.”

Arbic and other residents were instrumental in convincing council to protect the ravine forest.

They became quite concerned after some preliminary discussions took place about three years ago about designating the property as a dog park.

Now that council has signed off on the plan to donate the town-owned property to the Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust (ORMLT) through a stewardship agreement, volunteers are looking forward to what comes next.

Arbic credited Ward 1 Coun. Marc Biss for championing their cause.

“I’m honoured that Neal and the ORMLT offered me the opportunity to play a role in the donation of this environmentally and culturally significant forest and wetland,” said Biss.

Moving forward, the volunteers will work with the land trust as members of the Heritage Forest Preservation Society, a nonprofit corporation.

“We’ll be signing a stewardship group agreement with the Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust to look after the lands and follow their directives,” he said. “A big reason why the property interested them was that it already had a built-in stewardship group. They couldn’t afford to take the property without it.”

There’s much more than just trees and trails that make the site so special.

Hundreds of years ago, the property contained a First Nations village of between 300 to 400 people with 30 to 40 longhouses.

The village enjoyed prosperity for some time as a trading route that connected to the Albion Hills Trail.

“They were traders and they found stuff, like a flint, as far away as Pennsylvania, so there was a lot of trading back and forth there,” he said.

The village was abandoned after most of the people were killed during an attack.

“Bodies were left everywhere,” he said. “While there are proper burial sites on the property, there are also scattered remains, so that’s why we always felt this needs to be protected.”

It’s believed the survivors made their way north and joined another nation.

The history of the site isn’t widely known, but information is available at local libraries and there have also been archeological digs in the past.

The first one took place in 1966, and a second, much more elaborate, was done in 1976.

“They discovered a number of things and that’s also what led to the discovery of certain endangered plant species,” he said.

Arbic said the forest couldn’t be in better hands, noting how the land trust will do a baseline study of the property as a starting point.

“They are going to bring in soil specialists, botanists, every type of expert that will go through every acre, examining and taking samples,” he said. “By the end of that, we will know exactly where the archeological sites are, there might be more than one and some that are undiscovered.”