Sunday, July 21, 2024

Bruce Trail Conservancy Working to Preserve Land Near Irish Block

T.S. Giilck


The Bruce Trail Conservancy wants to preserve another ecologically important section of land in the former Sydenham Township.

The BTC, which operates the venerable Bruce Trail, has almost reached its fundraising goal of $127,000 to purchase the property near the Irish Block. An anonymous donor has chipped in another $127,000 toward the purchase.

“Our goal is to create a corridor of natural land along the Niagara Escarpment that contains the Bruce Trail,” executive director Beth Gilhepsy said June 28.”We do this by receiving donations of land along the Bruce Trail, or raising funds to purchase land along the Bruce Trail. All acquisitions are by willing seller only. If a landowner wishes to just have the Bruce Trail on their land and not sell or donate it to us, then that’s fine. And if a landowner doesn’t want us on their land at all, we respect that too.”

Gilhespy said, “The Irish Ridge Nature Reserve lies within the Sydenham section of the Bruce Trail, near the Irish Block Settlement area east of Owen Sound. Its mature hardwood forest is home to the endangered Butternut tree and is bisected by several channels of a clear, cold water stream. Sitting adjacent to two existing Bruce Trail Conservancy nature reserves, Irish Ridge will expand our conservation impact in the area.”

“The landowner has agreed to sell the land, and we’re thrilled to buy it, as it has lovely escarpment features, and secures about 550 metres of the Bruce Trail. The property also has a considerable amount of good farmland, which we would prefer to keep in agricultural production. Our goal with the Irish Ridge Nature Reserve is to preserve 30 acres of crucial conservation land at the Escarpment ridges which contains the route of the Bruce Trail, and return 120 arable acres to its original agricultural purpose (via future sale).”

Ron Savage, the trail director for the Sydenham Bruce Trail Club, is also enthusiastic about the possible acquisition.

“The future nature reserve is situated near where early Irish settlers first took up land in Sydenham Township in the mid 1800s,” he said. “The property lies on a ridge of the Niagara Escarpment overlooking the settlement – hence the name. The land consists of about 150 acres of agricultural land and mixed hardwood forest. It also has a low outcropping of the Escarpment diagonally bisecting the property. A year-round spring provided gravity-fed water from the Escarpment to the first homesteaders in the 1800s. That same spring, 150 years later, continues to provide water to the present landowners.

The reserve will add to the Bruce Trail Conservancy’s land trust of Escarpment natural areas of preservation. At the same time the reserve will continue to afford the public a path to see for themselves why the Escarpment is such a precious geological and flora feature that requires protection. The property also removes the Bruce Trail from a long and dusty two-kilometer road walk.

The BTC was approximately $50,000 short of its fundraising goal as of June 27.

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