Due to the tireless work of many land conservation organizations in both Canada and the United States, a new policy allowing for cross-border property donations is already showing an impact.
Americans have long fallen in love with Canada’s natural beauty and majesty, from the island-covered lakes of Ontario’s Georgian Bay, to the remote, intricately-carved coastline of Nova Scotia. Throughout the decades, many U.S. residents have purchased weekend or seasonal properties in Canada’s great wilderness, including in ecologically-sensitive areas. Much as in the United States, property owners with a deep appreciation for nature have wanted to use their land to leave a legacy of conservation – but until recently, challenges stood in the way.
Americans who attempted to donate their Canadian properties to conservancy groups faced a morass of bureaucratic red-tape, and were unable to claim customary tax benefits. In 2005, an organization called the American Friends of Canadian Land Trusts was formed to help facilitate change, heavily supported by the Nova Scotia Nature Trust, and five years later, a system was finally established that gave cross-border donations legitimate charitable status.
One of the first donations under the new rules came from Polly Naughton and Mary Nelson, both nee Palmerton, two octogenarian sisters from Massachusetts with an enduring love for Georgian Bay, known widely as Muskoka, Ontario’s ‘cottage country’. While living in New York State in the 1930’s, their parents visited a friend’s cottage in the area for a holiday, and the natural beauty and quiet character of the region inspired them to make a purchase of their own; Ingersoll Island, a virtually-untouched 50-acre island not far from Parry Sound, in what is now known as the Township of the Archipelago.
The island and the Muskoka area became an intrinsic part of the family’s life, and the source of countless wonderful memories. For many years, the sisters had seen the soaring popularity of Georgian Bay and the encroachment of large real estate developers, and sought a way to donate the island and forever preserve it. It wasn’t until 2007 that they could begin the process, finally completed in September of 2011. The majority of Ingersoll Island was given to the Georgian Bay Land Trust to be integrated into their Sandy Island Natural Area, save for a few cottages that the sisters passed down to their grandchildren.
The popularity of the Georgian Bay area with American cottagers has only increased throughout the years, including purchases by, according to Muskoka’s tourism website, celebrities like Steven Spielberg, Cindy Crawford, and Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. As property values have increased, the temptation to allow large real estate developments has increased, but a strong culture of conservation has saved much of the area’s untouched wilderness. This has led Mrs. Naughton and Mrs. Nelson to have high hopes for the preservation of even more American-owned land in Muskoka.
They recently expressed their appreciation to the Georgian Bay Land Trust in a press release after their gift of Ingersoll Island, and their hopes that the new rules would encourage more American ‘islanders’ to donate properties to the group or other conservancies. There are some things that it is impossible to put a price on, and the sisters made a valiant effort to save the natural treasure of their island for future generations. “It really was, as still is,” said Mrs. Naughton, “such a magical place.”
Read the original article in the Canadian Press: Link
Visit the Georgian Bay Land Trust: http://www.gblt.org/