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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Essex County gains over a 100 football fields’ worth of protected land

by Greg Layson

Ofreo Lucchese spent 25-years enjoying and preserving more than 20-hectares of Essex County’s natural beauty.

He would share his slice of land roasting chestnuts over a bonfire with friends and family. It was a tradition he brought with him from Italy. It’s one of Manuela Lucchese’s fondest memories of her late father.

Soon, the land Lucchese shared with those closest to him will be accessible to everyone – without the bonfires, of course.

That’s because the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) on August 23 said it bought the property, creating a new and permanent nature reserve.

Lucchese transformed a rural farm and woodlot property on McCormick Road, between the 5th and 6th concessions in Harrow, into what NCC calls “a vibrant forest, meadow, and wetland sanctuary” that will now “be protected forever.”

Trees grown from acorns that Lucchese and his family planted, now shelter species listed under the federal Species at Risk Act. They include birds, such as the Eastern Wood Pewee, Painted Turtles, and the vibrant pink flowering Swamp Rose Mallow, a plant Manuela said would excite her father.

“This was his baby,” Manuela said of the property. “We couldn’t go walking in a forest without him quizzing us on the trees. He just had a true, true love and affinity for the wilderness and of Canada.”

Aside from Lucchese’s Upper Cedar Creek land, NCC will also protect Hillman Sand Hills, a 30-hectare ecological plot that contains pristine forest, ancient sand ridges formed during the glacial retreat, and low-lying wet areas that offer habitat for salamanders and other at-risk species.

All told, NCC secured 50-hectares of land, the equivalent of over 100 football fields. Since 1962, NCC has conserved and restored more than 15-million hectares for Canadians to enjoy.

The land was paid for through a partnership between NCC, two levels of government, private donors, and other foundations. The federal government contributed $982,000. The Government of Ontario provided $555,741. And the U.S. government contributed $292,000 through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act.

“Wildlife doesn’t consider borders,” Mike Hendren, NCC Vice President for the Ontario Region, said.

Other funds came from the private sector, individuals and foundations.

“This is what attracts people to our community and our region,” Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk said, who was on hand for the announcement. “And, this is what keeps people wanting to be here and raise their families, and retire, in this community, because they have all the amenities of a city and a region, but they also have the ability to get out to the great outdoors. And I think that’s why this is so important, too. It’s quality of life.”

Manuela said the bipartisan effort highlights “the importance of the partnerships” when it comes to preserving the environment for everyone.

“Don’t take the conservation for granted or that these green spaces are just always available,” she said. “It does involve a lot of people working together towards that goal of conserving green spaces.

“We are happy that not only we, but many people, will still be able to enjoy this land.”

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