The Bluewater Outdoor Education Centre: the Story from 1970 to Today
In 1970, leaders within the then Bruce County Board of Education and the community including Clarke Birchard and Ray Fenton recognized a need, and a rich vibrant environment available, for Outdoor Education. This was a focus throughout the county - the Outers club had just started at Bruce Peninsula District School in Lion's Head as well.
By 1972, the Mason Farm, west of Wiarton and spanning from the shores of Boat Lake in the Southeast to Spry Lake in the Northwest, including marshes, swamps, meadows, and mixed forests had been purchased by the board for use as an Outdoor Education Centre. The property featured a variety of habitats, as well as the stone farm house, a large barn, and a drive shed. At the time of purchase, 50 acres of the property was still under active cultivation.
After the first programming at the new Centre took place in 1973, portables were brought in between 1974-1976 to allow for year-round residential programs.
In 1984, two buildings from the Bruce Nuclear Power Development were added to the site as upgraded dormitory facilities. Through the 1980's the Board and staff at the Centre pushed for funding to build permanent structures, but were unsuccessful due to restraints on school board spending.
In 1997, the Bluewater District School Board endorsed the Institute for Outdoor Education and Environmental Studies' (IOEES) Growth Plan. The building committee reviewed plans for the new buildings, and chose a site on the ridge overlooking Boat Lake.
The Bluewater Education Foundation is formed as an arms-length organization to raise money for this project and more. The Inspired by Nature Campaign, launched in 1998, brought in the funding required to begin building the dormitory building.
In October of 2006, the Bluewater Education Foundation and the Bluewater District School Board celebrated the opening of the Lodge (dorm and dining facilities). The first class to stay on site in the new dorm is the grade 6 class from Dufferin Elementary School, with their teacher, Wendy Kipp.
In November of 2007, we celebrated the grand opening of the Bruce Power Environmental Learning Classrooms building, thanks to the generous donation of $500,000 from Bruce Power.
In November of 2018, the last of the renovations to original buildings were completed, with the grand reopening of the Mason House. The Mason House, originally built in 1908, has been used as the office building for the Bluewater Outdoor Education Centre since the site opened in 1972.
The work to renovate it included asbestos removal, mould removal, a new electrical and heating system, and a change of layout including new walls and fixtures. Since 2018, the windows have also been replaced. Through all of these renovations, the house's original staircase is still in place.
A ceremonial ribbon cutting held on Nov. 9 at the newly refurbished Mason House at the Bluewater Outdoor Education Centre (BOEC) in South Bruce Peninsula. In photo from left to right are: Donna Farrow, principal of Amabel-Sauble Community School in Sauble Beach; George Ross, director of the Bluewater Education Foundation; Ron Mottram, president of the Bluewater Education Foundation; Deb Diebel, BOEC site manager; and Ron Motz, Chair of the Bluewater District School Board. Photo by Zoe Kessler/Wiarton Echo