By Daniel R. Pearce, Simcoe Reformer
Friday, September 23, 2016
SIMCOE – Nature’s Calling, the group that runs kids outdoor programs, plans to buy a country property with a house and turn it into a retreat and possibly a unique alternative school.
Executive director Bernie Solymar said a site near Walsh has been found and the group needs a supporter to buy it for them.
The price tag is $500,000.
But getting someone to step up is not that far-fetched given the property – with its 20 acres of maintained woods plus ponds, trails, and open spaces – fits in with the mandate of local land trust groups that are buying up tracts of land for preservation.
“The property is biologically diverse,” said Solymar. “We are looking for someone to purchase the land for us. We’ve not met with success.”
The plan, said Solymar, would be to turn the house into a learning centre with classrooms, washrooms, and storage.
His organization, he said, would raise the money for the renovations.
The centre would host the school programs Nature’s Calling now does at other locations with elementary students and give the organization a permanent home.
In the long run, Solymar said, the site could host a full-time private school, based on a model from Denmark, where almost all learning goes on outdoors. This type of school is ideal for kids with learning disabilities such as ADHD, he said.
“They would learn the curriculum, but it would be outside,” said Solymar. “When you are outside it’s a different stimulus. When you get these kids in the woods, they change. Their focus is better. Their interest is piqued.
“Our hope is to have a JK-SK (junior kindergarten-senior kindergarten) then build it into an elementary program.”
Nature’s Calling has grown in recent years and this summer ran a day camp at the site it wants to buy.
The Walsh property, he said, is “amazing” and “has all kinds of possibilities.” Other uses could include week-long camps, summer camps, a site for spring break programs, and a destiny for university field courses.
Two land trusts, the Long Point Land Trust, and the National Conservancy of Canada, are interested but have other projects on the go right now, said Solymar.
“We’re educating our youth. We’re getting back to nature. It’s everything everyone supports,” he said.
There is one other advantage to funding a permanent home for Nature’s Calling. “It’s a legacy thing. The property is named after them,” Solymar noted.
Anyone interested in helping Nature’s Calling can contact Bernie Solymar at 519-427-9969 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.