Dr. Eva Furesz of Ottawa's Land Donation Story

When Dr. Eva Furesz thought about what she would ultimately do with her summer island property, she knew one thing. She wanted it to stay as it is…a natural, refreshing, restorative place for people to visit and enjoy. She and her family enjoyed 30 years of peace and quiet on the one-acre dot in the middle of Eastern Ontario’s Upper Rideau Lake. She considers the island about as close to paradise on earth as anyone could ever hope for.

But, as in many families, the Furesz children grew up and moved away to start new family traditions in far away places. Eva continued to enjoy the island but it was becoming a burden to maintain the paths, the dock and the cabins by herself.

Eva approached the Rideau Valley Conservation Foundation (RVCF) for advice. The Foundation, founded in 1970, has an active land securement plan and strong track record in managing donated land through agreement with the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA). Other groups also accept gifts of land in exchange for a charitable tax receipt for the fair market value of the property. Groups like the Rideau Waterway Land Trust Foundation, local municipalities and the Nature Conservancy of Canada. Several donation options are available.

Within a short time, a plan to donate the island to the RVCF firmed up in her mind. With a call back to the Foundation, she was put in touch with Kristy Giles, Conservation Lands Planner at RVCA. Ms Giles is the person who goes to visit potential gifts of land to make sure the property is of sufficient environmental interest to the Foundation. And of course, Eva’s island meets almost all of the criteria the RVCF uses to determine its ecological value.

Of particular interest to RVCF are parcels of ecologically sensitive or unique water-related lands (wetlands, shoreline and groundwater recharge areas). Islands are near the top of the list. As if its unique waterfront wasn’t enough incentive for protection, the island is also home to the Black Rat Snake, an identified species at risk in the Rideau Valley watershed.

And so the process was underway…letter of intent, lawyers, appraisers, application to Environment Canada’s Eco-Gifts program and eventually to the transfer of title.

“We really appreciate the individuals and families who consider donating their beloved properties for conservation purposes in perpetuity”, says Kristy Giles. We can protect the fish habitat, the shoreline and the water quality of the lake with some simple shoreline plantings and buffers. We are pleased to respect the donor’s wishes to keep the land as a natural, functioning ecosystem.

Dr Furesz sums it up this way: “I draw great satisfaction from knowing that my little island will remain as my family enjoyed it for so many years. It is a gift to the people of the Rideau Valley. To know that there is a small piece of wilderness somewhere to escape to is good for the soul.” This beautiful island with its special habitats and species is now protected by the Conservation Foundation.

Although they are donated, gifted lands are not free. Each land donation could have a cost of up to $15,000 in terms of legal, surveying and appraisal fees plus the ongoing taxes, maintenance, signage and monitoring of the new property. Donors are sometimes in a position to offer a much-appreciated monetary gift to a maintenance fund in addition to the land itself. Indeed, some trusts and conservation groups may only accept new lands if such gifts are forthcoming.

The Rideau Valley Conservation Foundation takes a slightly different approach to the transfer and ongoing maintenance costs. It has set up a growing fund to help offset the cost of accepting these lands on behalf of the public. Gifts received from many sources go into the Environmental Land Fund and the Steve Simmering Conservation Land Endowment for just that purpose. This way, it can continue to accept key pieces of environmental land for public benefit without causing undue pressure or future obligations on public budgets.

Eva’s island (formally known as the Dr Eva Furesz Natural Area) is one of fifteen wonderful, gorgeous, unique water-based parcels owned by the Conservation Foundation and managed by the Conservation Authority. The Rideau Waterway Land Trust owns as many or more throughout the Rideau Waterway. All of these lands were donated by wonderful, gorgeous, unique, community-minded people who believe that some things can and should last forever…

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