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The Kris Starr Sanctuary; richly diverse

Kris Starr Property
The Head River meanders gently through the Kris Starr Sanctuary. A forested talus slope on one side shows the diversity of this protected property.

One of the remarkable aspects of creating nature reserves is how often the people involved are motivated by a desire to remember and honour members of their family. 

The newly-created Kris Starr Sanctuary on Monck Road near Sebright is no exception; for Bill and Molly Starr, this 100-acre reserve is a fitting way to remember their late son Kris, who was only in his twenties when cancer tragically carried him away.

By all accounts, Kris was a remarkable young man – a wilderness guide in Algonquin, a rising star in lumberjack competitions, a person of a wide diversity of interests and enthusiasms.  So how fitting that the Kris Starr Sanctuary is a property of great natural diversity and fine ecological qualities; acre for acre, likely the most diverse of any Conservancy reserve.

At its south end, the Sanctuary takes in a small piece of the Carden Alvar, and the steep limestone slope created by the rough caress of the glaciers.  At the foot of this slope, the Head River meanders across the reserve, its spring floods nourishing a rich floodplain forest.  Beyond that is a band of mixed forest of oak, pine and birch on pockets of drier soils.  But the northern half of the Sanctuary, north of Monck Road, is classic granite barrens with scattered trees and a mosaic of beaver ponds and wetlands.  All on this one property, the ecological transition known as The Land Between is fully on display.

As might be expected, such diverse habitats shelter a great diversity of species – moose and bear, otters and weasels, even uncommon insects such as the Clear-winged Sphinx Moth that is often mistaken for a hummingbird.  Rarities abound too, with five-lined skinks, Ontario’s only lizard, Blanding’s turtles and hog-nosed snakes and butternut trees.  At the landscape level, this property provides a vital link between Queen Elizabeth II Provincial Park just to the north, and the Carden Alvar to the south.  The Couchiching Conservancy helps protect more than 6,000 acres of significant land within the Carden area.  Alvars are globally-rare habitats; we are very fortunate to have such an outstanding example of this landscape in our region.

The Starr property is important not only for the long term conservation of an ecological significant area but also as a natural corridor for area wildlife.

The purchase of this property by the Couchiching Conservancy was made possible by a generous partial donation of its value by the Starr family, and through the support of the federal government’s Natural Areas Conservation Program and Lou and Judy Probst’s Carden Alvar Acquisition Fund.

Bill and Molly Starr are planning to attend the Conservancy’s AGM on January 26th, so we look forward to celebrating their generosity in helping to preserve their cherished lands for all generations to come.

The AGM will be held at Hawk Ridge Golf & Country Club on Hurlwood Lane, Orillia, from 2pm to 4pm.  Everyone is welcome to attend.