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Mission accomplished: Eden Mills environmental group disbands after 33 years

After it completed its final project last summer, the group said it felt it had achieved its four core goals and said there was no interest in refocusing the mission

EDEN MILLS – While it's been several months since the Eden Mills Eramosa River Conservation Association formally disbanded, its former members said their mission has lived on in the community. 

A local grassroots charity committed to preserving river ecosystem health and public natural areas in Eden Mills for 33 years, the Eden Mills Eramosa River Conservation Association (EMERCA) held its final general meeting last summer after its members agreed they'd achieved its core goals and there was no interest in refocusing its mission.

The group had four core purposes: represent the community’s commitment to wetlands ecosystem health in the Eramosa River valley, offer environmental education opportunities, provide publicly accessible natural areas for the community and maintain, manage and monitor the dam at the former millpond. 

"The proof is in the pudding ... I'm still doing this. I'm still giving presentations. We're just as active as we were before " said the group's past-president Marilyn Baxter, an environmentalist who moved to the community in 2013. "We paved the way by getting someone else to look after the land in perpetuity so we could gracefully bow out."

Created in 1991, the organization started to take on a lease for Charles Simon, a local architect and pioneer in sustainable building design, who wanted the 12.8 acres straddling the west branch of the Eramosa River now called Simon's Lookout to be publicly accessible but couldn't afford the liability insurance.

However, when the group was approached to purchase the land a few years ago, Baxter said the feeling around the table was "we're getting old, this has been hanging over our heads for 30 years (and) we don't want to own it."

Transferring the land to rare Charitable Research Reserve in June 2023, the group then dispersed its remaining funds between four charities; rare, Ontario Nature, Nature Guelph and the Eden Mills and District Community Club. 

"(Getting rare involved) had been on the back of our minds for a long time...because back in 1990, rare didn't exist," said Baxter. "The landowner leased the land to us (because) he thought we'd buy it from him so it'd be in public hands and for nature forever which was the goal."

According to Baxter, most of the group's almost 20 members and other community leaders were supportive but sad about closing while those who said they were "very disappointed" weren't willing to step up to the plate. 

"Because rare took over the two properties we were managing, we didn't have to do it anymore," said Baxter. "We can do (two of our core purposes) without our organization. It happens in Eden Mills whether you have an official designation or not." 

A sign was recently installed at Simon's Lookout crediting the vision of "a group of Eden Mills residents" and "other community and conservation-minded individuals and organizations" with the land's protection. 

Several Earth Day events like the village clean-up are planned in Eden Mills this weekend and throughout May in addition to the Eden Mills Spring Festival on May 25. 

Isabel Buckmaster is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for GuelphToday. LJI is a federally-funded program.

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About the Author: Isabel Buckmaster, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Isabel Buckmaster covers Wellington County under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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