The Eternal Appeal of Maps

By Courtney Baker

There is something bewitching about maps. They begin to captivate the imagination when we’re small while there is promise of pirate treasure if we can just find a map with a big red X! As we grow older, maps retain their appeal and can still mean adventure – after all, you only look at a map if you’re going someplace new. Young or old, the pleasure remains.

It is because of their charm that one of my favourite things to do at The Couchiching Conservancy (CC) is look at the ‘Big Map’. If you’ve ever been to visit The Conservancy office at Grant’s Woods, you’ve likely seen it. I work with my back to the big map all day, but when I need a quick break from the computer screen or a bit of inspiration I spin around and examine it.

The map is old, more than a bit faded and rough around the edges, but it is still beautiful. Because it represents the succinct story of your local land trust, The Couchiching Conservancy.

Every time The Couchiching Conservancy acquires a new property or protects a new easement, we add it to the map. We carefully cut out the shape of the new property on coloured foam and stick it on like a puzzle piece (very high-tech.) Since I started at The Conservancy 7 years ago, we have added 11 new foam bits: this represents a whopping 11,500 acres.

The story of the Conservancy keeps growing and keeps changing. Every time a volunteer sees a new species they have a new story. Every time a toddler goes for their first hike at a Conservancy nature reserve it’s a new treasured memory. The Conservancy’s story is far more than the sum of its parts.

The next property the Couchiching Conservancy is working on is the Deverell-Morton Alvar, a 400-acre property. This critical habitat fits snug between the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s North Bear Alvar and the CC’s Wolf Run Alvar (a very satisfying puzzle piece) featuring habitats from wetlands to limestone pavement (alvar). The Deverell-Morton Alvar property, not even on the map, already has a story. It will cement the Corridors Campaign as our most successful fundraising effort to date. But there are several other properties currently being negotiated under the Corridors Campaign umbrella and we need just $93,000 more to push us to our goal. Whenever we add to the map you can see the corridors vision come together, impossible to see from the ground. A vision of protected places. A physical manifestation of all of our work that is actually fathomable rather than imagining 15,000 acres.

The dollars are essential, but they always miss the heart of the matter, the stories of the bear cubs who wander there, the salamanders whose habitat is now protected forever, or the writer who got the biggest soaker of her life there this past July. When it’s protected, the stories last forever.

Courtney Baker is Office and Acquisition Coordinator at The Couchiching Conservancy, a local land trust dedicated to protecting nature for future generations.