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A change of scenery: walking trails

T.C Agnew Nature Reserve

Having access to natural spaces in our community provides locals and visitors with opportunities to connect with the outdoors and disconnect from our busy lives.

A popular spot for walking, Grant’s Woods, has four kilometres of walking trails — and is currently closed. In case you haven’t heard, the Couchiching Conservancy’s office is under renovations and the Grant’s Woods property is closed. That means the trails are closed to the public as well (and, yes, even on the weekends). The office is being renovated to be greener, more accessible and more efficient for the future. It’s an extensive project, is supported by the Ontario Trillium Foundation and is a legacy gift from Bill Grant, the donor of the Grant’s Woods property.

Having this property closed is a big change. Grant’s Woods is a go-to destination for many nature lovers all year. From my desk in the office, I can see people coming and going all day, walking their dogs, including the younger generation in nature appreciation and taking time in this old growth forest.

“people really love
this property and miss it
when they don’t have
the opportunity to visit”

When I talk to people about the renovations and tell them about the closure, I get the same reaction most times: “Well, there’s nothing going on in the forest. Why are the trails closed?” “That’s too bad; I love going there. When will you be open again?”

The takeaway from those conversations is people really love this property and miss it when they don’t have the opportunity to visit.

The work of the conservancy extends well beyond Grant’s Woods, though. There are a number of properties that are open to the public and some have established walking trails. In fact, there are so many properties, I can’t feature them all in this article. For now, I want to share with you some alternatives to Grant’s Woods that are near Orillia.

Elliott Woods

Located just outside of Craighurst, this 18-acre property within the Oro Moraine is home to a mature hardwood forest and a diverse mix of ferns and fungi. There is a small trail system through the property that is marked. This is a fine example of well-managed upland hardwoods, set within a landscape dominated by forest, including a Simcoe County Forest tract immediately to the north. Just be prepared on your drive there — the road is quite bumpy. Learn more about this property.

Church Woods

In 2006, an opportunity came up to purchase Church Woods from the O’Brien family, who had the 24-acre property in their family since 1832. The community rallied and, thanks to that support, as well as that from the Township of Oro-Medonte and the O’Brien family, the property is now protected for the future. The woods have 33 species of trees and a variety of birds. A system of trails is established and it’s well worth the drive from Orillia. Learn more about this property.

Scout Valley

This property is a well-known spot for walkers, especially those with dogs. The City of Orillia donated this 228-acre conservation easement to the Couchiching Conservancy in 2007. This is a perfect spot to visit at any season and there is an extensive trail system. Learn more about this property.

Thomas C. Agnew Nature Reserve

Sisters Joan Berndt and Susan Campbell did a part-donation of this 85-acre property just outside of Washago in 2011. Adjacent to the Fawcett Nature Reserve, the Agnew Reserve is on the edge of the Trent-Severn Waterway. Both properties contain precious wetlands and hundreds of native plants, and the Agnew Reserve has a marked trail system. Parking is at the bend on Fawcett Road and you can walk to the property from there. Learn more about this property.

Alexander Hope Smith Nature Reserve

There are two sections to this property — one part was donated by Ms. Hope Smith and the other part is owned by Ontario Heritage Trust and managed by the Couchiching Conservancy. The section of 113 acres donated by Smith has a beautiful trail system that ventures out to a rocky outcrop of Canadian Shield and a view of Boyd’s Creek. Learn more about this property.

Written by Tanya Clark.

For details about and directions to all
of these properties, visit our Properties page.

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