One of the things I like most about my job at Ontario Nature is the opportunity to interact with people who have a very deep interest in natural places. Not only an interest in the plants and animals that live in a particular place, although that’s certainly part of it, but also an interest in the history of a place, in the way people first came to a place and how they made a living, in the stone walls and the old cart paths and foundations and all the other things that provide clues about a place and its history.
A few weeks ago Clarke sent me scans of old photographs taken in the reserve, a 281-hectare piece of heavily forested land that Bruce and Howard Krug donated to Ontario Nature in 1998.
Clarke also gave me all kinds of fascinating information about the reserve. The Krug brothers had owned a furniture company and had selectively logged their land for hardwood timber for the business. They also ran a couple of maple syrup operations on the property. Through Clarke, I learned that the syrup camp ran from 1918 to the early 1960s and at its peak, the crew, made up of local farmers and their sons using horses and sleighs, produced up to 2,800 buckets of sap in a season.
In the early 1950s, an infestation of forest tent caterpillars defoliated the trees. So Howard Krug discontinued the tapping of trees in 1953. No trees were tapped again until 1958 when a new evaporator house had been built closer to the west end of the property, which remained in operation until 1963.
Today, visitors can follow the main trail through the nature reserve and see the rusting remains of the first syrup camp at the junction of several trails about half-way between the east and west entrances.
Discovering the history of a place enriches my experience of going there. If you get the chance, visit our Kinghurst nature reserve, and you’ll see what I mean.
Clarke Birchard is a retired educator and long-time supporter of Ontario Nature. He is a former board member and currently serves as an advisory member of the Nature Reserves committee. He lives in Chesley, not far from Kinghurst Forest Nature Reserve.