The John Pitts & Kathleen Milligan Sweetwater Farm Nature Reserve


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John and Kathleen were gentle, peaceful people who gave more to the world than they took from it. John lived in the Toronto area for several years before moving to the Orillia countryside and eventually buying a piece of land which he called the Sweetwater Farm. This 185 acre farm between Rama and Washago is mixed hardwood, wetland and high-quality alvar with a variety of species. John lived self-sufficiently on the farm, growing his own food, caring for the land, and giving his time and energy to help friends and contribute to local causes. During this time on the farm, John met and married Kathleen Milligan with whom he shared almost 32 years. To his great sorrow, he lost her in 2012.

John’s intention was to protect this place. The Couchiching Conservancy had conversations with John about protecting Sweetwater Farm, but it seemed like there was lots of time to work things out. In February 2018 he died unexpectedly.

When John passed away, he bequested $30,000 to the Conservancy which will go towards the acquisition and permanent protection of the property that he cared for. On top of that, his family has pledged an additional amount to help. We are so appreciative of John and his family’s gifts and are honoured to be entrusted with a place close to their hearts.

The land is located at the southern extent of the Black River Wildlands region. The Pitts property has 25 vegetation communities, a highly vulnerable aquifer and is a significant water recharge area. The property has an active quarry to the south west and it buffers a large wetland connecting to the Head River to the North.

Thanks to the help of generous support of the families of John Pitts and Kathleen Milligan, numerous community members, The Echo Foundation and The Gosling Foundation, this property is now protected.

“Protecting this mix of forest, wetland and headwaters benefits our entire community,” said Mark Bisset, Executive Director of The Couchiching Conservancy. “Creating corridors of connected wilderness is a critical goal of our work. Having land set aside from development is an imperative part of the solution to our collective climate crisis. Adding untouched wilderness to our network of Nature Reserves, and other protected places is something that helps us all.”

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