Feature

The saving of Willisville Mountain

Willisville Mountain, near the village of Willisville in the Subury area, has been beloved by artists and sacred to nature-lovers since time immemorial. Group of Seven members are among many who have sought inspiration there. Canadian folk legend Ian Tamblyn dedicated an album to Willisville Mountain and lent his name to the cause of preserving it for future generations. This week, there was good news for lovers of Willisville Mountain.

With the sound of Ian Tamblyn’s “Footprints on the Mountain” still reverberating through the Whitefish Falls Community Center, Jon Treen, General Manager of the mining company Vale, announced that Willisville Mountain was ceded from its aggregate license and saved for future generations.

The announcement, attended by Ontario Minister of Natural Resources Linda Jeffrey, comes eight months after local resident, photographer and preservationist Jon Butler raised the alarm: the mining company’s aggregate license for a quartz quarry extended from the current area of operations on Highway 6 to include Willisville Mountain and land surrounding nearby Lang and Charlton Lakes in Northern Ontario.

“This is a historic day for Canada, the La Cloche area, Willisville Mountain and the village of Willisville,” Butler, president of the La Cloche Mountains Preservation Society said. “Vale must be sincerely congratulated for their move to preserve the Willisville Mountain area for our future generations.”

Canadian folk legend and 2010 CFMA English Songwriter of the Year, Ian Tamblyn, performed “Footprints on the Mountain” from his 31st album Willisville Mountain at the announcement. His evening concert was enthusiastically received by a full house. Tamblyn is a member of the board of the La Cloche Mountains Preservation Society and one of the 45 artists from the Willisville Mountain Project.

“This is the first time in a career of preservation announcements that it is a good news story,” Tamblyn said. “It always ends in disappointment. This is not a victory, but a celebration on both sides about a really good decision.”

Tamblyn has performed, canoed and trekked in the area for years. He played at the very first Northern Lights Festival Boreal in Sudbury and received the second Jackie Washington award from the fest. The festival celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.

Willisville resident and author D’Arcy O’Neill has been a festival supporter and Tamblyn fan for years. “Here’s hoping Ian is at this year’s festival and we’ll really celebrate Vale’s decision to save Willisville Mountain.”

Vale’s decision is especially significant with the recent announcement of the new Franklin Carmichael Gallery in Sudbury. Group of Seven member Franklin Carmichael and his contemporaries, along with hundreds of present day artists have made the La Cloche area an inspiration for all.

Photos courtesy of Kerry Butler.

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1 comment

  1. avatar
    Scott Merrifield 20 April, 2011 at 22:59

    A great story with only one small inaccuracy. Ian first played the Northern Lights Festival Boréal in 1976, which was the fifth year, not the first. He immediately became a favourite and has returned numerous times since.
    The first Northern Lights in 1972 was a modest affair which featured Murray McLauchlan, Luke Gibson and Keith McKie along with local Sudbury performers, Paul Dunn, Robert Paquette, Richard Mende and others.
    The 40th anniversary festival takes place July 8,9, 10. Line-up to be announced shortly. Join the celebration!

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