Paper mill foundation supports Heartland Forest accessibility
Concrete pads for forest haven in Niagara Falls latest community cause supported by Ontario Paper Thorold Foundation
Ontario Paper Thorold Foundation director Ron Hartle, left, and president Adrian Barnet, right, are shown at Heartland Forest on Nov. 14 with Heartland founder Dan Bouwman and executive director Elisabeth Graham in front of the Coyote Den pavilion. Funds from the foundation have helped make the pavilion more accessible with new concrete pads. – Paul Forsyth/Torstar
The paper mill may be gone, but the legacy of the former Ontario Paper mill in Thorold is helping people with mobility limitations enjoy all that Heartland Forest in Niagara Falls has to offer.
That’s because the Ontario Paper Thorold Foundation, a perpetual fund with a board of directors made up of former mill employees that contributes earnings from the fund to community causes in the region, is supporting ongoing efforts at the forest haven to make it accessible for everyone.
The foundation is contributing $30,000 over three years for installation of concrete pads, making Heartland’s pavilions more accessible to people with mobility challenges, such as folks who rely on wheelchairs.
The funding continues the foundation’s long history of supporting important causes that recently have included Wellspring Niagara’s new regional cancer support centre in Pelham, outdoor playground equipment at Niagara College, restoration work at historic Beaverdams Church in Thorold, and the Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial that honours the 137 men who died building the fourth Welland Canal.
Foundation board director Ron Hartle, who worked at the paper mill for 40 years, said the foundation focuses on causes primarily falling into the categories of health and wellness, education, social services and education.
“We’re community minded: The causes have to be in Niagara,” he said as he joined foundation president Adrian Barnet at Heartland on Nov. 14, where they were honoured by Heartland founder Dan Bouwman and executive director Elisabeth Graham.
Barnet said the foundation has distributed more than $3 million to Niagara causes.
“People don’t realize how much has been distributed,” he said. “We’re delighted to support Heartland.”
Heartland’s Bouwman said the foundation’s funding is helping efforts to make the free haven accessible. In the background, a huge crowd of kids from local schools were bundled up against the cold and hopping on the Heartland trolley for a trip to the park area.
“I would never have dreamed in my life that this would happen,” Bouwman said of the creation of Heartland, which has 93 acres of Carolinian forest permanently protected from development. “This is making such as difference in the lives of people.
“We wouldn’t be able to do without people like you,” he told the foundation members. “It’s amazing.”