By Jenn Watt
Many of my Saturdays of late have been spent on the trail, crunching through fallen maple leaves, trundling up ridges, and breathing in the fresh breeze that flows across the open field. I’ve returned again and again, delighted to have a healthy pastime outside of my own home that often includes spotting neighbours I haven’t seen since the pandemic set in.
These cherished hours are thanks to the donation of 500 acres of land to the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust by Margaret and Leopoldina Dobrzensky, providing access to the public in October of this year. Named for the water course that runs through the property, the Barnum Creek Nature Reserve features marshland, mature forest, open grassland, and plenty of gently rolling hills.
Three well-signed trails provide options for visitors: the heritage hike, a five kilometre loop; ridge trail, which is exactly what it sounds like; and waterfall way, which is close to the trailhead and provides a quick and picturesque jaunt.
According to the land trust materials, the reserve is particularly important to protect in part because of the flora and fauna it fosters with its diverse landscape. The fields provide space for species at risk such as the five-lined skink, whip-poor-will, and eastern hog-nosed snake, while the creek attracts the kind of animals we enjoy seeing in the Highlands: fox, wolves, beaver, deer and moose.
A bonus of the reserve, especially for those of us who live in Dysart et al, is its location. From Haliburton it takes about five minutes to drive there, by bicycle, you can take the Rail Trail and be there in 15. This is a big deal for this part of the county; while Algonquin Highlands has an excellent trail system established, and Minden Hills has several options including Snowdon Park and the Dahl Forest, around Haliburton there was very little.
And so I have been making my way to Barnum week after week, marvelling at the brilliant green canopy of leaves in October, quickly replaced by a forest floor blanketed in orange. I’ve soaked my running shoes while hiking after the rain and made videos of the gurgling creek. And I’ve crossed paths with many, many others doing the same.
What the Dobrzensky family did in donating this land will have a positive impact on this region for a very long time to come. Through the stewardship of the land trust, the awe-inspiring beauty of the Haliburton Highlands has become more accessible. Visitors to the reserve can get fresh air and exercise, calm their minds and learn about the natural world around them. And the land will be protected in perpetuity.
What a legacy to leave for the community and for our environment.