GUELPH/ERAMOSA — On June 1, Charles and Anna Simon were honoured at a community event in Eden Mills to celebrate the transfer of 12.8 acres of land to the Rare Charitable Research Reserve.
The reserve is a charitable urban land-trust stewarding over 1,200 acres of environmentally sensitive lands across eight properties in Waterloo Region and Wellington County.
It engages the community to build support for understanding and protecting these lands.
“We always saw it as a public resource, not something that we could privately cut off, which apparently had happened,” Charles explained.
The reserve maintains over 12 kilometres of trails that are free and open to the public and runs research and education programs to build an appreciation of these lands and their importance to the health and wellbeing of the surrounding community.
The Simons have owned and taken care of the Eden Mills property, which stretches back from the Mill Pond and the west branch of the Eramosa River, for decades.
“I bought it after it burned down for the second time, it had come through two fires, and converted it into a home and my office, and it also has an apartment in it,” said Charles.
After renovating the mill to be their home, the Simons decided to donate and transfer the lands to Rare. They did so through the Ecological Gifts Program managed by the Government of Canada.
Officials say the couple spearheaded projects that championed sustainability with the backing of their community, including efforts since 2007 to make Eden Mills carbon neutral.
This initiative improved building methods, renewable carbon-free energy installations, and the planting of 40,000 trees.
Their many acres of property, now transferred to Rare, contains wetlands, a large floodplain and also some dry forest.
An agreement was made when donating these lands, and this is the culmination of over two years work. During this time, the Simons negotiated between the community of Eden Mills, the Township of Guelph/Eramosa, Rare, as well as the Eden Mills Eramosa River Conservation Association.
“The Simons, as well as the community of Eden Mills have been tremendous stewards of the land for the past few decades,” stated Rare executive director Stephanie Sobek-Swant. “The donation of these lands to Rare will honour this relationship with the land. We are humbled by what is being placed in our trust, and we will ensure that these lands will remain protected.”
Charles added land “should always remain open to the public to use, whether they are in the water or whether they’re just walking on the land next to it.”