Family donates jewel to Land Trust crown
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | June 7, 2018|
When Leopoldina and John Dobrzensky retired to Haliburton in the 1970’s, they bought a property ‘Leo’ says nobody wanted.
On Saturday, Leo and her daughter, Margaret, formally transferred that property, now known as the Barnum Creek Nature Reserve, to the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust HHLT). And, boy oh boy, did they want it.
“This is an important acquisition for our county and for the province,” an excited Mary Lou Gerstl, HHLT chair, said. The well-known Haliburton mother and daughter were in attendance at the HHLT’s annual general meeting June 2 at the Minden Hills Cultural Centre when the announcement was made.
“Margaret and I are so happy that the land we love so dearly will now be preserved for future generations,” Leo said in a speech that brought tears to people’s eyes.
She said she and John started looking for land outside of Richmond Hill in 1973 but were initially disappointed, “since John’s wish for some land, forest and a farmhouse was too ambitious for our pocketbooks.”
But then they spent a weekend at a friend’s cottage on Eagle Lake. Just outside of Haliburton, they discovered an abandoned farm property, with a cabin on a seasonal road without water or electricity. It had been on the market for over a year “because nobody wanted it,” Leo said. She said they left a message for the agent, who didn’t call back because he thought it was a prank.
“The land of little value became priceless to us, as we discovered a wealth of all kinds of animals, plants, fruit trees, edible mushrooms, as well as wonderful sites such as meandering Barnum Creek and its cataracts in the spring,” Leo said.
She said John was one of the early landowners to apply under the Government Woodlot Improvement Act Agreement, so the overcut forest would be replaced by young growth which would then be allowed to reach maturity, and “after 44 years of careful management by him and Margaret, the goal has been reached.” Approximately 600 acres was transferred through the federal Ecological Gifts Program, with Gertsl calling it a “beautiful, ecologically diverse property.”
She said the HHLT will continue to manage the properties in perpetuity, to ensure the health and diversity of the ecosystems. The property is located a few kilometers south of Haliburton.
“The property is a spectacular example of the diversity of ecosystems in the Haliburton Highlands,” Gertsl said. “The reserve includes habitats ranging from tolerant hardwood forest, mixedwood forest, marsh and swamp ah well as open upland successional. She said similar habitats are found immediately south of the property and onto a large tract of Crown Land that is known to provide habitat for species at risk such as Blanding’s Turtle, Whip-Poor-Will and Five Lined Skink. She said it also provides habitat for local flora and fauna.
She said the mature male forest has abundant ground cover, including wild leek, blue cohosh, leatherwood and maidenhair fern. Calcareous soils, which are limited in the highlands, are derived from fingers of marble, dolostone and limestone extending into the granitic rock that dominates the landscape. These soils are suitable for rare and endangered plant species. The property includes a wide marshland on the east, flowing to a narrow creek, and finally to a series of beaver ponds. The creek serves as important habitat for a variety of animals.
“We can now hand the land over in good shape and hope that it will be a jewel in the properties of the Land Trust, now and for future generations,” Leo concluded.
LISA GERVAIS is the editor for The Highlander.