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Nature and numbers both passions for Collingwood volunteer

People of Collingwood: Norman Wingrove, 2021 recipient of the Companion to the Order of Collingwood
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Norman Wingrove receives a Companion to the Order of Collingwood from Mayor Brian Saunderson.

While he spent his career working with numbers, a local resident was recently rewarded for his long-time devotion to preserving the environment.

For this week’s edition of People of Collingwood we spoke with Norman Wingrove, 83, this year’s recipient of the Companion to the Order of Collingwood.

Q: For how long have you lived in the Collingwood area?

A: We moved up here in 1975.

Q: Where did you grow up?

A: I was born in Norfolk County and was raised down there. I went to Delhi District Secondary School.

After that, I got a job with a bank. I decided I would take the registered industrial accountant course and get my accounting designation.

Q: What brought you to Collingwood?

A: Well, we (my wife and I) were living in Oakville and commuting to Toronto on the GO Train.

We always liked this area. I saw an ad in the paper for a firm in Collingwood looking for an accountant, so I applied and I got the job.

It was the old seatbelt plant on High Street. I worked there until 1982. The automotive business was going downhill. I got a job in Barrie. Eventually, that plant shut down too.

Then, I got a job as a director of finance at the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority in Angus. That’s what sort of got me interested in the environment. Although, I grew up on a farm with a cold-water creek running through the property with trout living in it, so I was always interested in the outdoors.

That was also when I got involved with the Blue Mountain Watershed Trust.

Q: A lot of your volunteering has been with environmental causes. Why are these causes so important to you?

A: I became more interested when I found out what great work the conservation authorities do. You see what can happen when you get too much development while not preserving our natural environment.

The human species is going to be suffering too.

Q: Can you provide a brief overview of where you’ve volunteered?

A: I volunteer with the Blue Mountain Watershed Trust when they first started in 1995. I started out as their secretary/treasurer, then eventually I became their vice president, and president. I’m past-president now.

Our first project, which is probably one of our biggest successes at the watershed trust, was back in the early 2000s, involving the Silver Creek Wetlands on the west side of Collingwood. At that time, the town’s Official Plan said it was OK to build a golf course in a wetland. We dealt with the town to amend the Official Plan to (not allow) it.

The developers, of course, were not too happy and they went to the Ontario Municipal Board (now the Ontario Land Tribunal). We participated in a hearing. The town was very supportive. The OMB turned (the developers) down. The Ontario Divisional Court turned them down too.

We made a good impression. The wetland has been protected.

I’m also a trail captain with the Bruce Trail Club. I look after it and make sure it’s in good shape. We’re a team. I’m not really a guy who likes chainsaws so we have some (volunteers) who deal with that.

I enjoy it. It’s nice to get out and enjoy the fresh air after being behind a desk all day.

Although, I’m retired now.

Q: You received the Order of Collingwood in 2010, and last month you received the Companion to the Order of Collingwood. When you first heard you were going to receive this award, how did you feel in that moment?

A: I was quite surprised and honoured to get it.

It was humbling. When I was at the Mayor’s Levee, I saw the other volunteers who have done a lot of great things. It was nice to be in the company of such active volunteers.

Q: Over your years of volunteering, is there anything that stands out in your mind as something of which you’re most proud?

A: There is a section of the trail that goes down the First Line East in Mulmur Township. There’s a stream there that’s part of Black Bank Creek. There was a bridge there that still had wooden decking on it, and it was getting old and rotten.

Myself and the engineer at the conservation authority put together a bridge that would fit there between two steel girders.

When I went back in the spring, somebody had taken our bridge and pushed it into the stream bed.

We got another work crew together, hoisted it out and put it back.

Next spring when I went back, it was gone. So we regraded the trail so it went under the nearby waterfall.

It was quite a job.

Q: Do you have any other hobbies you’d like to talk about?

A: I don’t ski anymore, but I used to ski. I volunteered with the ski patrol. I really enjoyed that. You meet a lot of interesting people.

I still go out and ride my bicycle in the good weather.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like people in Collingwood to know about you?

A: I love Collingwood. We really enjoy the town. My wife and I often remark that (coming here) was probably the best move we ever made.

For our feature People of Collingwood, we’ll be speaking with interesting people who are either from or are contributing to the Collingwood community in some way, letting them tell their own stories in their own words. This feature will run on CollingwoodToday every weekend. If you’d like to nominate or suggest someone to be featured in People of Collingwood, email jessica@villagemedia.ca.