For 30 years, staff and volunteers at Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Reserve have been quietly acting as stewards for the 10,000-acre property and teaching people to care for it — and other forests — as much as they do. It wasn’t until the past few years that they started spreading the word more and more, inviting people to share in the wilderness experience and, in the process, perhaps want to protect it, too.
Their efforts were recognized earlier this month when Forests Ontario presented Limberlost with its Robert de Pencier Award for “outstanding activities in private land forest management and strong support for forestry promotion, education and understanding.”
The staff at Limberlost are thrilled to have received the award.
“We are all quite excited about it. It’s a reflection of the efforts we have all been putting in for a long time and also the staff and directors we have now and the fact that we’ve really been succeeding in encouraging people to take advantage of the opportunities that we’re offering,” says the reserve’s manager, Gareth Cockwell.
“For us, it’s a reminder that what we are doing is recognized and is valued not just by our local community but also by an organization like Forests Ontario. And I think it also encourages other land owners — other people who have the privilege and the responsibility of private land management — and gives them an opportunity to see how somebody else is doing it and understand that there is recognition for conscientious forest management, for sustainably managing their forest.”
Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Reserve is tucked away off Limberlost Road, northeast of Huntsville. It’s a vast tract of multi-use land that combines recreation — there are a variety of hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country ski trails on the property, along with lakes for fishing and accommodations for those who want an extended stay — with forestry operations and selective harvesting. Until the past few years, many people didn’t even know it was there. But that’s changing, and that’s a good thing.
“We’ve done a better job of getting our name out there, getting more people enjoying the trails,” says Cockwell. “I believe we are a good example of a multi-use forest where we can mix forest management practices, actual silviculture operations, with tourism and public outreach.”
Limberlost has had a longstanding partnership with Trails Youth Initiative, which brings inner-city kids to the reserve as part of its programs, and recently began working with the a new youth group, the Pine River Institute which is managed by Outward Bound.
It’s also seeing growth in both the number of day users visiting the property, as well as an increase in the number of people renting accommodations in all seasons. While day use is free, rental of Limberlost’s seven lakefront lodges and cottages, three fish camps, and two camp sites provides funding to maintain the property and “help us to budget for some of the other projects we do want to take on,” says Cockwell.
“Every day it’s exciting to know that people are happy to expose themselves to this place and happy to have a good experience,” he adds.
Forests Ontario is “committed to the re-greening of Ontario through tree planting efforts on rural lands and in urban areas, as well as the renewal and stewardship of Ontario’s forests through restoration, education and awareness.” For more information on its efforts, visit forestsontario.ca.
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