The Couchiching Conservancy is celebrating another conservation success, with the protection of the Taylor property, a 175 acre (70 hectares) parcel, 14km east of Washago.
The property was owned by Dr. Ron Taylor and Charlene Taylor, making them our most recent land donors. Located between the Adams Nature Reserve (5 km to west, protected in 2016) and Ron Reid Nature Reserve (6 km to east, protected in 2017), the property has a direct connection to the Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands Provincial Park. It is Anishinabewaki, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Haudenosaunee territory.
This project was undertaken with an 80% donation by the Taylors plus financial support from the Echo Foundation, McLean Foundation, Consecon Foundation, Ganawenim Meshkiki (Eastern Georgian Bay Initiative), Dr. Nancy Ironside plus donors.
“Environmental protection became more central to our thinking and we wanted to consciously protect this property as green space and rescue it from future building development”, shared Ron and Charlene. “The values of the Couchiching Conservancy align with our values of land preservation of green space to protect this part of our legacy in perpetuity.”
The landscape is a mixture of open rockland with Red Oak, White Pine and Sumac, Beaver ponds, and swamp with Red Maple, Tamarack Trees and Spruce. This landscape is a prime area for Blanding’s Turtles (threatened), Eastern Wood Pewee (special concern), Five-lined Skink (special concern), Eastern Whip-poor-will (threatened) and many others. Connecting these protected landscapes is benefitial to large-range species as well, such as Moose, Black Bear and White-tailed Deer.
“It has served as our refuge from the bricks, mortar and pavement of modern life. It has been a place to explore and introduce the next generation to the beauty and quietness of nature. A trip to the property always cleansed the mind from chaos as we found nature always the best antidote for the stress of busy professional lives”, said Ron and Charlene.
A portion of this project was donated to the The Couchiching Conservancy under the Government of Canada’s Ecological Gifts Program. This program provides enhanced tax incentives for individuals or corporations who donate ecologically significant land.
Background and the Recent Past:
The Black River property consists of 175 acres. On the southern border is the Black River; on the east and northern borders is Queen Elizabeth Park and the western border is slowly being encroached upon by land development.
It is called the land in between and is also a part of the Ontario land conservations smile. The landscape is varied, there is regenerating forest, wetland, rocky out crops and the residual of a farm field.
In 1978, Ron Taylor purchased the land from a Mr. Hutchinson who had purchased it from a farmer who worked the land and was engaged in a logging operation. A forest fire apparently made the land uninhabitable for farming. A similar fate had happened to the Ron Reid property, a property further up stream and also under the management of the Couchiching Conservancy.
The real estate agent that assisted with this sale was Eugene Smith who owned the hotel in Washago. Every evening for about a week Eugene Smith and Ron Taylor would hike and explore the property. He thought that Ron should know exactly what he was buying. That was somewhat ironic since having spent 12 years at university, Ron hardly knew the difference between a tree and a barge pole. At the end of the week Ron was convinced that he would make the purchase. Eugene thought Ron had not yet examined the property thoroughly enough. At Eugene’s expense he hired a plane in order that the property be examined by air. At is turned out the pilot was Frank Cooper from Cooper Falls. Ron reports that it was one exciting trip: tight turns; steep climbs; steeper dives. It seemed a strange way to fly a plane until Eugene told Ron that Frank Cooper had been a World War 2 fighter pilot! It was easy to see why we won the war.
For many years Ron did very little with the property, largely because of work commitments and excessive on call (only orthopaedic surgeon in Orillia for 38 years), but also because walking the property was a formidable task. All entry points were defended by thick growths of thorn bushes and except for early spring and late summer, the property was guarded by swarms of black flies and mosquitoes. Hence only one time did the Taylor’s actually venture to camp overnight on the property!
Eventually the property became much more accessible by hiring a friend to clear a roadway into the property. A colleague of the Taylor’s, Dr. Nancy Ironside also introduced the idea of wood lot management and this began a new era of learning as both Ron and his wife Charlene attended annual forestry conferences and researched about trees, plants and wildlife. The property became an official woodlot managed property in 1998. This essentially meant cutting and maintaining trails, planting trees and introducing family and friends to the great outdoors.
At one point the Taylor’s considered selective logging but studying it as a successive regenerating forest proved more practical and more interesting. As green space it developed an ever increasing intrinsic value. It was part of a family heritage that saw our children and grandchildren have a rich appreciation of nature and the outdoors. We also feel we have a duty to a greater or lesser degree to protect our environment and that this should be a conscious responsibility of all human beings.