Ernie Crossland, Mr. Newmarket, guardian of Lake Simcoe, 1920-2013. RIP
In memory of Mr. Crossland, donations can be made to the Ernie & Jean Crossland Environmental Fund at yrcf.ca.
The funds raised will help pay to educate young people who are interested in the environment and will help the Lake Simcoe Watershed.
From the Winter 2008-2009 issue of Lake Simcoe Living.
By Andrew Hind
Guardian of the lake
Ernie Crossland wants to encourage the next generation to find ways to save Lake Simcoe
Ernie Crossland remembers the Lake Simcoe of his youth, when it was a pristine body of water rich in life, and is determined to shepherd it back to that idyllic state. An important part of that ambitious plan is the Ernie Crossland Environment Scholarship Fund, intended to ensure that a new generation steps forward to pick up the mantle of environmental stewardship.
Crossland, 88 years old and a lifelong resident of Newmarket, has devoted much of his life to philanthropy and protecting our natural heritage. And while he shows no signs of slowing down, he has one eye on the future and recognizes that others must pick up where he leaves off. His legacy depends on it.
Born in 1920 on a farm that once belonged to Newmarket founder Timothy Rogers, it was perhaps natural that Crossland should develop an appreciation for nature and heritage at an early date. He was surrounded by it, his life shaped by it.
Lake Simcoe was always special to him.
“I remember as a kid how clear the lake was,” Crossland says with a wistful tone in his voice. “The lake was pristine. We’d catch crayfish and mollusks along the shore, and it teamed with fish. That was a long time ago. Things have changed since then.”
Things certainly have changed. At one time, Lake Simcoe boasted a thriving commercial fishing industry and its waters were considered the most pure of any lake in North America — so pure that ice harvested from it found its way as far south as Georgia.
That was before overdevelopment, the encroachment of suburbia, chemical runoff, overuse, the introduction of foreign species of aquatic life and numerous other challenges conspired to undermine Lake Simcoe’s health. Today, the lake is a sad shadow of its once-vibrant self, a body of water in need of assistance.
“I spent 40 years as a farmer on land that is now Glen Echo Golf and Country Club,” Crossland says. “As a farmer, you are dependent on water, so I grew to appreciate the importance of a healthy Lake Simcoe and watershed. I want to protect it and get it back to the way I remember it as a child.”
Passionate, tireless, a charming man with the ability to sell an ideal, Crossland is the perfect crusader. And he has decades of experience in organizing community groups and motivating people to action, as a co-founder of Habitant for Humanity York Region to helping establish 27 new Lions clubs across Ontario to serving as president of the Lake Simcoe Conservation Foundation, and heading up any number of agricultural societies.
In recognition of his active role in so many volunteer organizations, Crossland was made Newmarket’s first Citizen of the Year and was awarded the Queen’s Jubilee Medal.
While one might think these honours would be the perfect culmination to a lifetime of altruism and volunteerism, Crossland isn’t satisfied with his achievements. Proud, yes. Satisfied. no.
“There’s still work to be done,” he says with youthful energy. “The scholarship is a big part of it.”
Crossland remembers fondly the night the scholarship was created: Oct. 6, 2006.
“I thought my children were taking me out for my anniversary dinner, but we ended up at Madsen’s Greenhouses and there were 200 people there, including my whole family, the mayor, and [then Newmarket-Aurora MP] Belinda Stronach, to be part of my being named Newmarket’s first honorary citizen,” he recalls fondly. “It was that night that an endowment was established in my name to annually award scholarships to assist students whose are pursuing a post-secondary degree or diploma in environmental studies.”
The scholarship is being managed through the York Region Community Foundation, an organization that encourages philanthropy by partnering with donors to build permanent endowments. Under the stipulations of the endowment, only the 5% interest can be used for annual scholarships, ensuring the principal remains in place in perpetuity. In order to award a $10,000 annual scholarship, the fund needs $200,000 — a figure that has not yet been reached.
Crossland is committed to raising the money.
“Getting this scholarship up and running is vital to our future. Environmental groups are doing everything we can to return the lake to its natural state, but it will mean nothing if we don’t make sure that the young generation has the tools to carry on the job. This fund will help ensure that these young students will be the future guardians of Lake Simcoe, its watershed and the environment.”