It is a popular park loaded with charm that draws visitors from both the local area as well as from other regions across the province.
The Tottenham Conservation Area has it all.
There is camping, an 18-acre pond with a beach suitable for swimming, kayaking and canoeing, walking trails, and wooded areas. It is close enough to town that campers can walk to local stores for supplies or to visit a restaurant.
Its natural amphitheatre provides a beautiful space for outdoor concerts and during June, the annual Tottenham Bluegrass festival fills the town with music.
All this is the result of a local couple who decided their farmland should be enjoyed, not fenced off to keep people out.
The Conservation area was once a working farm. That hill leading down to the pond was covered with clover, wheat, oats, or other cash crops rotated over the years.
One half of the farm's drive shed is still there near the dam, however the family home which stood nearby was demolished a couple of years ago. There was also a full-sized crop barn and a 100 foot pig barn that stood south west next to the drive shed.
It was Cliff and Stella Abrams who purchased the 129 acre farm in 1944 from the original owner of the Tottenham Creamer, Mr. Matt Brandon.
Their son and daughter, still local residents were raised on that farm.
Rod Abrams and his sister Janet Tipping didn't have to go far to find adventure.
Rod's sons Scott and Todd Abrams and their friends also enjoyed adventures around the property when they were younger, after the farm was sold.
The dam was built sometime around the 1870's to create a power source for a local mill, which created the pond.
It was the Abrams' wish for that the property would still be able to be enjoyed by the public for recreational purposes that lead to it becoming a park.
When Cliff and Stella decided it was time to retire from farming in 1964, they made the decision to sell the farm.
“When my grandpa decided to stop farming and retire, they had some people come from the city who wanted to buy it,” Scott explained. “The first thing they said was they were going to put a fence around it so no one could use the pond and no one could go on the property. My grandparents went to the Conservation Authority the next day and told them they would sell them the property as long as they didn't develop it. Even though it was a farm property people would come and swim and enjoy it.”
The land was purchased by the Nottawasaga Conservation Authority.
Bill and Marguerite Bailey, who now have some structures named after him in the park, moved into the farm house and acted as caretaker for the Conservation Area after it first opened.
“Where the lines are up there in the campground, that's where the apple orchard used to be,” Rod explained. “Many of the trees are still there. The hill leading down to the pond from the orchard was a hay field for one or two years, then you would stop and rotate with other crops such as wheat, oats, and red clover. My parents remained in the house until 1967.”
At the time the CN rail line went through what is now the hiking trail on the east side of the pond.
“At times we used to have to drive the cattle off the tracks before the train came through,” Rod said. “Train time was five o'clock, six o'clock at night, and seven o'clock in the morning. My parents sold the farm to the Conservation Authority so people could enjoy it. Hurricane Hazel cleaned the whole thing out in 1954.”
Rod still remembers the day in 1954 when Hurricane Hazel ripped across Ontario causing massive destruction and destroying many dams in the process including the Conservation Area dam that was wiped out.
Rod recalled the day when he was a young boy and came outside to find the entire pond had disappeared when the dam broke and the torrent flooded the area downstream.
One local resident was forced to spend many hours clinging to a tree waiting to be rescued, where he was located close to the Fifth Line.
If you and your family visit the conservation area today, you can thank the Abrams' family for making the decision to keep the property and the pond open for everyone's enjoyment.
Brian Lockhart, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, New Tecumseth Times