Promises to work together on mental health retreat

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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.

Heather Wright/The Independent

St. Clair Region Conservation Authority officials say they’ll work with a Dawn-Euphemia family hoping to build a mental health retreat for farmers and first responders.

The Bergsma family went to Dawn-Euphemia council recently to explain how they wanted to build a small cabin in a bushlot they own on Florence Road. It is in memory of their son, Dalles, a farmer and Dawn-Euphemia firefighter who died by suicide earlier this year. They hope to give other farmers and first responders a place to decompress and “hopefully avoid heartbreak” for many other families.

But the idea was stopped in its tracks when the conservation authority said it couldn’t be placed in the woodlot because it was designated as significant.
Dawn-Euphemia Mayor Al Broad plead their case at the authority’s annual general meeting Feb. 25.

“We suffered a considerable loss, not just the family, but the whole community. Dalles was really well respected in the volunteer fire department.”

The mayor says it is unfortunate the Bergsmas didn’t get support from the conservation authority considering they are “excellent environment people; stewards of the land.” And he says there is a real need for services to help both farmers and first responders who have higher rates of suicide than most groups.

“We know it is a big problem, we know the resources aren’t there and we know the infrastructure is not there. And here is a family who wants to move forward to this project and are being denied the opportunity for the St. Clair board to look at it,” he says.

Authority General Manager Brian McDougall says the family had not filed a formal plan and the staff had been trying to get the Bergsmas to consider an alternative location.
“The location as identified is one of those places we have concerns, not only is it a woodlot it is a wetland,” says McDougall.

“I really don’t want them developing in an area where they see this building…I’m concerned there is going to be soil stability there to see the structure stand.”

Broad said he’d been in the woods and didn’t think water would be a problem.
Authority staff agreed to work with the family to make sure the cabin would not be on a wetland.

McDougall says there is “a lot of support with authority staff for the project.”