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Neighbourhood green space is like money in the bank

The aerial view of The Church Woods in Shanty Bay shows the close proximity to the surrounding homes

Real estate agents use every tool at their disposal to get an edge in a competitive market when they are trying to sell homes.

Scanning the real estate guide in The Packet, you will either encounter references to the surrounding landscape, or stony silence on the issue. That’s consistent with the universal real estate mantra: Location, location, location.

But if you pay close attention to the markers real estate agents use to denote additional value in a property, you will notice that natural settings command a premium. One realtor has been using Grant’s Wetland as a selling feature for a property in Orillia. The fact that the lot in question backs onto what is termed in the advertisement as environmental land is deemed a very desirable attribute.

In addition to references to conservation lands close to homes on the market, you’ll also come across frequent references to trails, parks, county forests and other green amenities. Of course, waterfront is the gold standard when it comes to natural settings. Why?

Protected pieces of nature add value to residential property.

Real estate agents have a good handle on the things that make us tick. The best realtors tend to understand what people value in neighbourhoods. Judging by the frequency of references to conserved natural spaces, they rank fairly high on the list of things that make up the good life.

But it’s not just the proximity of nature that appeals to potential home-buyers. When choosing a place to live, people also look for stability. They don’t want to choose a nice setting, only to have it radically altered a few years down the road.

Conservation lands offer that stability.

If you purchase a home that backs onto a protected forest, you can rest easy that when you look out your window a decade later, you will still see mature trees instead of high density residences, a sea of rooftops, or an industrial park.

There is good research that backs up the positive effects of conservation lands on residential real estate values. In addition to all the other benefits natural areas provide, a real argument can be made for the positive economic impact they have on a community.

In the experience of The Couchiching Conservancy, campaigns to protect local natural settings are often driven by local residents. Church Woods in Shanty Bay is an excellent example of that: the local residents joined a donor family to raise more than $600,000 to purchase the woods for protection. A community campaign of a different sort helped save the critically important Victoria Point Wetlands in Orillia from full development, though it has yet to be officially protected.

While realtors get the big picture, it’s interesting that the benefits protected areas provide are sometimes lost on the owners of houses adjacent to conservation lands. While most residents cherish their natural settings, some abuse them by using them as dumps for yard waste and unwanted items, or by extending their own personal space with encroachments. Any land owner will tell you that there is a tendency for people to view any land left to nature as fair game, suspending all the respect for private property that is usually extended to neighbours.

Luckily though, the majority of residents around conservation lands see them for the local blessing that they are. Many are active supporters of the work of the Conservancy, and they watch over the protected portions of their neighbourhood with joy.

Rightly so.

For home-owners, that green space is like money in the bank.

Mark Bisset is the Executive Director of The Couchiching Conservancy, a non-government, non-profit land trust that protects natural spaces in the region both for today, and for future generations. For more information on the Conservancy, go to www.couchichingconserv.ca.