An enthusiastic class of grade 4/5 students and their teacher Don Roblin welcomed me into their classroom at Marysville Public School on Wolfe Island. The young students could hardly wait to talk about their hiking experiences at Frontenac Provincial Park, how they had prepared and what they had achieved while there. In fact 3 boys were unaware they would receive the school’s award of excellence for their personal achievement that very afternoon, at the school’s monthly awards ceremony.
The seventeen boys and girls went to Frontenac Park at the height of the park’s autumn beauty and during its annual hiking challenge in October. But not before they made the hiking sticks required for the hike. It is obvious that Mr. Roblin’s class room is a busy place, filled with maps and books, display cases, drawings, and, yes, carpenters tools, saws drills and all. The children eagerly talked to me about choosing the wood, cutting it to the right size, clamping, drilling the hole for the rope handle and shaping and planing the stick from the 4 sided piece of wood into a rounded, smooth and comfortable to hold ‘walking stick.’
They talked about what they took with them, how they packed their backpacks, and the welcome they received at the park’s Trail Centre where they heard about the trails available to hike, their length and level of difficulty and, what they might expect along the way. Even the quietest of the children answered questions about the day, and eagerly raced up to the large map of Frontenac Park hanging in their classroom to trace along the trail they had taken. ‘We got mixed up, and had to backtrack“ one girl commented
After breaking into groups of three, they chose a trail wondering secretly if they could really do it. “I thought I might be able to do 5kms,” Axl Mellon said. Armed with their sticks, and accompanied by their parent supervisors, and Mr. Roblin, the groups hiked at least 15kms while the three boys Axl Mellon, Derek Posthumus and Logan Redpath hiked a record breaking distance of 21kms along the Big Salmon Trail around the park’s largest lake, Big Salmon. “We got to see Big Thor (an ancient abandoned vehicle on the route),” Mellon exclaimed while others hiking the Little Salmon trail talked about snakes, beaver houses and birds. The kids said they were very tired after their hiking experience but happy becaus they realized they were able to accomplish much more than they ever thought they would or could. “They continue excited about their accomplishments,” Mr. Roblin commented before the children trooped into the school hall for the regular monthly school awards ceremony. There Axl, Derek and Logan, were presented with certificates of excellence by Mr. Roblin as well as Frontenac Park hiking crests in recognition of their special feat.
The Limestone Disrict School Board encourages these types of activities through the initiatives of the “DPA” Daily Physical Activities requirements viewing hiking is an excellent extension that all students can do!
All members of Frontenac Islands council supported a resolution put forward at their October meeting by Councillor Denis Doyle to the Honourable Peter Van Loan, and Correction Services Canada, that the 6 prison farms announced for closure by the Federal Government remain open.
“Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan has heard from the public about the farms and will keep the abattoir at the Pittsburg location open and that’s a good thing,” Doyle said, “but there is more to the farms than the abattoir. I believe the costs of running these farms are offset by savings derived from locally grown foods along with many, hard to value, environmental side benefits as well as building up the self worth of inmates helping them reintegrate into society.”
According to Doyle, the future of the Correction Services prison farms has been on the minds of many islanders, particularly those involved in farming and food production, as well as those concerned with the environment and the welfare of inmates. Many see opportunities for diversified work opportunities to be established at the farms. Many others fear the sell off of the land. All of which came to a head at a recent Wolfe Island event.
“I was approached by Ken Keyes, Chris Brown and Trinity Anglican’s Rev.Canon Chris Carr. All three have an interest in the farms and their future,” Doyle said. “Ken, from a strong agricultural background, has worked directly with inmates. Chris Brown believes in the protection of the environment and the sustainability of the farms while Canon Carr, formerly with Corrections Canada understands their full worth to the inmates. I sought their input for the resolution,” he said.
The resolution acknowledges that while not many inmates will end up with farm jobs, their work experience provides transferable skills and teaches punctuality, discipline, responsibility, a good work ethic, and the importance of teamwork. It also suggests that there is evidence that how inmates treat nature (animals and the environment) is reflected in the way they treat people, and vice versa.
“Many prisoners have grown up in abusive situations, ending up abusive themselves. Prison farm work helps develop respect for their surroundings and moves many to seek personal restorative help,” according to Doyle.
The Frontenac Islands resolution has also been sent to Federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, Peter Milliken, MP for Kingston and the Islands and all municipalities in Ontario seeking their support.