500 acres donated to Haliburton Highlands Land Trust
By Olivia Robinson
Published June 12, 2018
The Haliburton Highlands Land Trust announced at its June 2 annual general meeting that close to 500 acres has been donated to the land trust, which will be known as the Barnum Creek Nature Reserve.
Leopoldina and Margaret Dobrzensky donated the 500 acres plus an additional 100 acres that will be protected through a Conservation Easement Agreement. This is the land trust’s fifth nature reserve, the other four being Dahl Forest, Norah’s Island, Smith Forest, and the Fred and Pearl Barry Wetland Reserve.
“Margaret and I are so happy that the land we love dearly will now be preserved for future generations,” said Leopoldina Dobrzensky.
Dobrzensky described how she and her husband began the search for a property in Haliburton County in 1973. The pair would travel up from Richmond Hill on weekends seeking a suitable place where they could retire. Eventually, they found it – a cabin located on an abandoned farm with seasonal road access without water or electricity.
“The little land became priceless to us as we discovered its wealth – plants, fruit trees, edible mushrooms as well as the wonderful sights such as meandering Barnum Creek,” said Dobrzensky.
The new reserve is a mosaic of ecosystems – tolerant hardwood forests, mixed wood forests, marshes, swamps, and open upland successional forest habitats – home to at-risk species like Blanding’s turtle, whip-poor-will, and the five-lined skink.
The large land donation was made possible through the Federal Ecological Gifts Program, a unique initiative that allows property owners to donate their land while preserving its ecological integrity and sustainability. Land donors also receive a break on their income taxes.
“The HHLT will continue to manage the properties, in perpetuity, to ensure the long-term health and diversity of the ecosystems are protected and maintained,” said Mary-Lou Gerstl, land trust chairwoman.
In addition to the Barnum Creek Nature Reserve surprise announcement, the land trust celebrated a successful fiscal year and highlighted the organization’s main goals of conservation, education, and research – like its Abbey Gardens Pollinator Garden, Bioblitz in Dahl Forest, and the first-ever study of bat populations in Haliburton County.
Land trust vice chairman Greg Wickware described a new project that uses geographic information systems to measure and analyze data from plots at Smith Forest and Dahl Forest, thanks to the help of four students from Trent University. Ultimately, the goal of the program is to ensure that these plots be revisited in future years to monitor and compare the status of its long-term health.
The land trust also paid a touching tribute to Ian Daniel, the founding member of the land trust, who passed away suddenly in May of this year.
Scott Durey, a three-year treasurer of the HHLT highlighted a surplus of $26,068, compared to a $7,672 surplus in 2016.
This year marks Durey’s last as treasurer – he noted that one of his goals was to have fully-funded endowment funds and now the land trust is just $500 shy of that goal.
“We’ve done a fabulous job in terms of meeting the commitments that are put in front of us to our land donors and to our members … to sponsor the properties into perpetuity,” said Durey. “The endowment funds are critical and the stewardship is so important as we think forward in the acquisition of other properties.”
The land trust estimates that it has nearly 150 members, but is looking to grow that number and its presence in the community in the coming year. This summer, the land trust is hosting a fundraising dance on Aug. 10 – tickets are $30 until July 1.
For more information about the fundraiser, the land trust and how to become a member, visit www.haliburtonlandtrust.ca.