Norah’s Island remains cherished part of Kennisis LakeBy Jenn Watt
Published July 18, 2017
David Carruthers remembers visiting Norah’s Island long before it was named after his mother. His family used to visit friends on Kennisis Lake and while they were there, pop by the 22-acre island.
He can’t remember exactly the year that his parents, Bruce and Norah Carruthers, decided to buy the property, but estimates it was more than 40 years ago.
“We used it a lot then and there was always a for-sale sign … back then it didn’t really cost much to buy it,” said David.
It had several nicknames, but nothing official. A copy of the Haliburton Echo from 2008 lists seven, including Big Island, Bear Island and Adventure Island.
One day, the family decided to buy the property, despite not owning any other land on the lake.
David’s wife, Gail, said the purchase had to do with Norah’s desire to own a piece of wilderness.
“She also always said, ‘I like the idea of having a little piece of Canada.’ She never wanted it developed,” Gail said.
When Norah died, Bruce decided a fine tribute to her would be to ensure the island was never developed and he approached the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust about donating the property. The Kennisis Lake Cottage Owners Association took up the cause, raising money to assist in preserving the property for years to come.
On Sunday afternoon, the land trust and cottage association came together with the Carruthers family and several other interested parties to celebrate a decade since that transaction happened. An acapella group filled the air with cheery song while members of the Norah’s Island management committee handed out special keepsake cards with paintings by local artist Shelley Beach of the property.
“It’s been 10 years since our lake community pooled our resources to financially assist with the management of the island to the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust,” said committee member Andi Rodgers before the group who had assembled for the ceremony on the island. Rodgers and Shirlee Weeks shared the MC duties, thanking the multi-pronged partnership of committees and individuals who made the original transaction happen and have maintained the property ever since.
Money raised by KLCOA has ensured an endowment fund is available to pay taxes, insurance and maintenance costs, Mary-Lou Gerstl, chairwoman of the land trust, said.
No one knows which individuals will be around in 10 years’ time to attend the next celebration, Gerstl said, but “I know one thing – that Norah’s island will be here as it is today – in all its beauty.”
When Bruce Carruthers decided to donate the island, he also went through the process of having it officially named after Norah. Bruce has since died, but his family said his effort created a lasting memorial for Norah.
“I think it’s wonderful,” said Gail. “You can look at a map now and see ‘Norah’s Island.’”
Ian Daniel, who has just stepped down from the management committee, was on the land trust board when the property was acquired. It was the first for the organization.
“It feels great for me, since I’ve been involved on the periphery somewhat since the very start. It’s nice to see this group coming together again … to see the property’s been well used and well managed,” he said.
The island is available to anyone to stop by for a picnic or to swim off its cool rocky shoreline and Daniel said he sees people doing just that on a regular basis.
Land trust board member and fellow founding member Sheila Ziman was at the ceremony and told the audience that a species at risk has been found on the island.
The little brown bat has been identified through audio recordings done for the land trust, she said. Two other species, the big brown bat and silver haired bat, were also identified.
“One of the reasons originally that the land trust was interested in protecting Norah’s Island was because of its wonderful diversity in its natural state,” she said. This was the first species at risk found on the property.
The land trust has four properties it manages, amounting to 700 acres across the county. They consider donations based on ecological value. Gerstl also said they are looking for volunteers and new board members.