Family’s plan for retreat to honour son, help farmers and firefighters, hits roadblock

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File Photo A Dawn-Euphemia couple wants to build a cabin so farmers and firefighters can have a place to recharge. It's in honour of the memory of their son, who died by suicide in November. But they're facing a road block. The local conservation authority says they can't build in their bush which is a protected woodlot.

The Bergsmas want to build a cabin retreat in their 50 acre bush; the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority says its a protected woodland

Heather Wright/The Independent

A Dawn-Euphemia couple is hoping township council will help them realize a dream to honour their son.

Dalles Bergsma, a farmer who was a member of the Dawn-Euphemia fire department, died by suicide in November.

His parents, Al and Diane, say he was a “dedicated husband, farmer and volunteer firefighter.

“In his life, he made it his mission to look for ways to contribute to the lives and safety of others in the community and his family.”

The family wanted to do something in his memory and settled on building a cabin in a 50 acre bush on Shetland Road which they own “to be used as a retreat for first responders and farmers primarily, who might be in need of respite.

“Both of theses professions have a very high rate of suicide…The intent is to provide a welcoming place free of charge for members in these groups who need a time to rest and recharge and heal,” the couple says in a letter to council.

But they’ve run into a road block with the St. Clair Region Conservation Authority which says it is a protected woodland.

The family says it is “keenly aware” of the need to preserve the land but want to move forward. “It is our hope to make a positive difference in the lives of others and prevent this heartbreak from devastating other families.

“Applying these rules without further consideration may well take an opportunity from first responders who devote much of their lives to protecting those who live in their communities to help find healing.”

The Bergsmas asked council to work with them to find a way to realize their dream.
Council agreed, saying the project is important.

Staff will work with the county planner to see how the woodland retreat can be built.