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A Wild Partnership with the Ganaraska Trail

Black River area map

As we work to protect the Black River Wildlands just east of Washago, I have become aware of how much time I have wasted in a car to get to places I perceived to be pristine escapes.

Kilarney is more than four hours from here; Algonquin two. Even Massassaga Provincial Park on Georgian Bay is a relatively long drive. How often I have driven right past the Black River without giving it a second thought. But it has always been there, flowing through the region in its many moods.

Since we began our efforts to protect a 730-acre tract with more than four kilometres of the Black River flowing through it, I have been spending more time on and around the river. My appreciation of this wilderness in my own backyard has grown exponentially.

The Black River Wildlands are actually inside Queen Elizabeth II Wildlands Provincial Park. This is a massive tract in its own right, brought into existence in the 1990s. But the park has enormous holes in it, still under control of private landowners. The property we hope will become our next nature reserve is one of those properties, and bringing it under protection will add significantly to the integrity of the park, and the Black, which is one of the last unregulated rivers in southern Ontario.

“The Ganaraska Trail Association has entered into a partnership with The Couchiching Conservancy.”

But the Black River Wildlands will do something more than protect a huge portion of wilderness; it will also make it more accessible for the responsible enjoyment of this treasure which is in such close proximity to local populations.

 The Ganaraska Trail Association has entered into a partnership with The Couchiching Conservancy in our efforts to protect this property. The Ganaraska is the second-largest trail system in the province. Like the Black River itself, it is sometimes overlooked as the gem it is. Run by volunteers with a passion for hiking, the 500-kilometre trail runs from Port Hope on Lake Ontario to the Bruce Trail near Collingwood. A huge central portion of the trail meanders through Queen Elizabeth II Provincial Park. With a successful outcome to the campaign to protect the Black River Wildlands, The Couchiching Conservancy will be able to add about 10 kilometres of trail to the Ganaraska, almost half of that along the river. Working with Ganaraska and Ontario Parks, we hope to be able to create a day hike-loop from Victoria Bridge. Someday, we may even be able to create connections to The Great Trail that stretches right across Canada.

But first we have to raise enough money to bring this important piece of wilderness under protection.

One of the great things about my job as Executive Director of the Conservancy is the satisfaction derived when all sorts of people and groups come together to make something happen that will have an impact for generations. As organizations, The Ganaraska Trail folks and The Couchiching Conservancy have never really come together to work on a single project. That’s happening thanks to the Black River Wildlands. Add to that our growing cooperation with Ontario Parks, supportive organizations like The Gosling Foundation, and most importantly, a growing list of individual donors who are helping to make this reserve into a reality, and it generates a powerful sense of hope.

For those of us who give a damn about the declining state of Ontario’s natural heritage, hope is an ever-more precious commodity. I invite you to get on board with this campaign by clicking here or by calling 705-326-1620.

Not only will you be doing something concrete to improve our local environment and guarantee access to these beautiful wildlands for generations to come, you’ll be joining a community of people who aspire for something better.

And as I can tell you from personal experience, that feels really good.

Click here to find out more about the Black River Wildlands and Donate!

Mark Bisset is the executive director of The Couchiching Conservancy, a charitable land trust that protects important natural areas for today and tomorrow.