A significant tract of land along both shores of the Bighead River has been deeded to a conservancy as a way of preserving public access in perpetuity.
The Stanley Knight family of Meaford has donated 160 acres along the east and west banks of the Bighead River to the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy (EBC). The property encompasses the site of the Trout Family sawmill, the cabin where environmentalist and conservationist John Muir lived for two years in the 1860s, and the ruins of a power mill and dam. The area is well known to hikers who trek all or sections of the 10.8-kilometre Trout Hollow Trail, and to anglers.
More than a hundred people hiked from the Riverside Community Centre down to a spot on the river bank near the former sawmill and joined members of the Stanley Knight family – Kevin, Ron, Denis, Don, and Sherrill – for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Speaking on behalf of the family, Kevin Knight described his grandfather, Fulton Stanley Knight, as a man of many interests. “I am not sure why he bought this property in 1952,” Kevin said. “ He was a conservationist. He had a huge curiosity and a love of history, especially local history. He would have known about the power mill and dam and the Trout sawmill. He ordered barrels of acorns from the King George VI royal forestry and planted them, some around Meaford, some here.
“I suspect he bought the land to preserve its natural beauty.
“There has been countless generations of fisherman using this area. There is a myriad of trails up and down the river banks. Twenty or more years ago, Ron Knight and his cohorts imagined a trail up the 7th Line and looping back, a trail that would highlight John Muir’s presence, the sawmill, and the power mill and dam. That’s how Trout Hollow Trail was born.
“When the Stanley Knight family decided that we needed to start divesting ourselves of properties, we wanted to be sure that the land would be preserved for future generations to enjoy, as we have all enjoyed. We wanted a steward who would maintain public access to the land and look after the trails for us.
“We are proud to be donating this land to EBC to continue the legacy of our grandfather, Fulton Stanley Knight.”
EBC Executive Director Bob Barnett describes the Knight property as “extremely important. This property is of ecological service,” he said. “It is absorbing carbon and helping in the fight against climate change.
“EBC’s job is to ensure that it remain natural forever. We will maintain liability insurance coverage and perform all of the legal and administrative duties that come with owning property. I am hopeful that local stewards will maintain the trails. The Owen Sound Field Naturalists sound pretty enthusiastic. They have stepped forward and offered to help us monitor the property.”