The nature-loving owner of a private island in Ontario’s Cottage Country has made sure that her treasured property will be forever protected from development.
With a number of private islands recently being purchased by, or donated to, government and NGO conservation groups, it’s clear that this trend is here to stay. However, what happens when an eco-conscious island owner wants to ensure that their land is environmentally protected, but would still like the memory-filled haven to be passed down to future generations?
Mary Gilmour, the owner of Turner Island, found a way to strike this balance when she partnered with a local conservancy to create an easement. A 16-acre island in Ontario’s beautiful Lake Muskoka, the island has been in her family since her grandfather purchased it in the 1920’s, following in the footsteps of a close friend who bought a summer home on nearby Gibralter Island.
Popular with nature-loving urbanites since the late 19th century, Muskoka is a picturesque region on the eastern side of Lake Huron’s Georgian Bay, about a two-hour drive north of the city of Toronto. Dotted with 1,600 scenic lakes and a scattering of charming towns, the district’s population is a mere 50,000 people, but that more than triples during the peak summer months.
Cottages are the undoubted passion of Muskoka’s visitors, ranging from modest hideaways handed down through ordinary families, to stately homes owned by Canada’s financial and industrial elite – not to mention more than a handful of American celebrities, including Goldie Hawn, Tom Hanks, and Steven Spielberg. It’s no wonder that big names have started to discover Canada’s Cottage County; like a place from another era, Muskoka is a natural, laid-back and paparazzi-free paradise.
The attraction of famous faces has brought with it one thing that long-time residents fear, however – the spectre of excess development that could ruin the area’s unique charm. Now more than ever, Muskoka’s nature-lovers are feeling the need to protect against large cottage complexes and mega-mansions.
The Muskoka Conservancy, which partnered with Mary Gilmour to protect Turner Island, now has 28 properties under their care, totally more than 1,600 acres. “The Conservancy believes in working with our community to help them protect our natural areas for the benefit of the public,” said the group’s Executive Director, Kristie Virgoe, in a recent press release. The new easement adds 4,000 feet of near-pristine shoreline and adjacent forest to the Conservancy’s protected lands, which the group says is an important contribution towards protecting the animal habitats and water quality of Lake Muskoka.
Conservation easements like that on Turner Island are registered on the island’s title, and allow for the enjoyment of the current structures while typically prohibiting any future development. In this new era of growing environmental consciousness, it’s a smart choice for island owners who want to see their children and grandchildren enjoy the family summer cottage, but make certain that its natural beauty will remain untouched forever.
Read more about this story: Cottage Country Now