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Couchiching Conservancy celebrates 20th anniversary 0

By Michael McClymont, Orillia Packet & Times

Couchiching Conservancy executive director Mark Bisset speaks at the group's annual general meeting Saturday afternoon at the Hawk Ridge Golf and Country Club in Orillia.
MICHAEL MCCLYMONT - THE PACKET & TIMES

Couchiching Conservancy executive director Mark Bisset speaks at the group's annual general meeting Saturday afternoon at the Hawk Ridge Golf and Country Club in Orillia. MICHAEL MCCLYMONT - THE PACKET & TIMES

ORILLIA - 

The Couchiching Conservancy has come a long way in 20 years.

However, there was very little in the form of celebration and more of a sense of business as usual at the non-profit’s annual general meeting Saturday afternoon at the Hawk Ridge Golf and Country Club in Orillia.

The roughly 140 people in attendance welcomed new members to the Couchiching Conservancy board and viewed a presentation highlighting the successes of 2012.

“We had a five-year strategic plan that, by 2013, we would have 10,000 acres protected and we’re well over that. We’re over 11,000,” said outreach co-ordinator Gayle Carlyle.

Other successes include the creation of the Heartwood Fund, a permanent endowment fund created to support the long-term sustainability of the conservancy; the creation of the 100-acre Kris Starr Sanctuary on Head River at the north end of the Carden Plain; the launch of a new website and a donation by Nancy Ironside of a mortgage on a 300-acre property in north Severn Township valued at $75,000.

For 2013, the conservancy is working on the Copeland Forest Stewardship Initiative. The group will also strive to wrap up its five-year strategic plan.

“We’re going to see where we’re going to focus our efforts in the next five years,” Carlyle said. “I know one of the things that’s coming out of (the strategic plan) is, rather than targeting another so many thousand acres to protect, let’s look at the ones that we have and how we can manage them better. Maybe we focus more on connecting people with nature, maybe some more walking trails on the properties we have.”

As part of the annual general meeting, the Couchiching Conservancy welcomed Dr. Brock Fenton, Ontario’s leading expert on bats, as its special guest speaker.

“Personally, I’m thrilled that he’s here,” Carlyle said.

She’s also thrilled the conservancy has made it 20 years.

“We have had so much community support, it’s unbelievable,” Carlyle said. “It’s unbelievable the support we get from the Orillia community.”

michael.mcclymont@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @MikeMcWriter

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