North Grenville — “It just seemed like the logical choice,” said Wally Kaczkowski as he pondered his decision to donate land to the Rideau Valley Conservation Foundation (RVCF). “The donation benefited me and the community in many different ways.”
In early 2017, Mr. Kaczkowski started to reflect on his ownership of a 1.55-acre parcel nestled along the shore of the Rideau River just north of Kemptville. Too small to develop and with dwindling interest in the property from his sons, it just didn’t seem to make sense to keep it anymore.
“It is a nice chunk of shoreline and wetland,” said Mr. Kaczkowski, while admitting that where it may not have been the best development purchase, it still has a value to the community. The retired teacher and MacSkimming Outdoor educator appreciates that the property has significant natural features and turned to the Rideau Valley Conservation Foundation to see if they were interested in protecting the green space.
The RVCF has an active procurement plan and an established track record in receiving land donations. More and more families and individuals are considering giving their land to the Conservation Foundation. Some donors want to keep it undeveloped and in a natural state forever — others welcome the tax benefits of their donations. Regardless of the motivation, the RVCF reviews the environmental benefits of the property prior to acceptance. The RVCF is particularly interested in land that is ecologically sensitive or has unique water-related features (wetlands, shorelines and aquifer recharge areas). The Kaczkowski property fit the Foundation’s review process.
“Normally we don’t accept such small properties,” said Kristy Giles, Conservation Lands Planner. “But this property will support the growing neighbourhood of public properties in the nearby vicinity — making the area a much more productive and well-functioning natural zone along this stretch of the Rideau River.”
Natural shorelines and wetland areas are valuable areas. They help maintain clean water, they prevent soil erosion, reduce the impacts of flooding and provide wildlife with food and habitat. They are incredibly productive ecosystems — comparable to rainforests and coral reefs. The Kaczkowski property is the perfect blend of natural shoreline, wetland and trees that provides value habitat for many species including the endangered Henslow’s Sparrow and the rare Eastern Musk Turtle which have both been seen at the site.
“Staff were easy to approach and discuss options with. And what’s impressive is that all costs are covered, making it very appealing to donors like myself,” said Mr. Kaczkowski. The Conservation Foundation pays all of the costs associated with the transfer of title.
Although donated, gifted lands are not free. Each land donation could have a cost of up to $10,000 in terms of legal, surveying and appraisal fees plus the ongoing taxes, maintenance and fund in addition to the land itself. Some trust and conservation groups may only accept new lands if such fees are forthcoming.
“It cost me nothing — instead, the Foundation gave me a charitable tax receipt for the fair market value of my land and the satisfaction of providing a lasting gift to future generations of watershed residents,” said Mr. Kaczkowski.
“The RVCF has a fund to help offset the cost of accepting these lands on behalf of the public,” says Michael Poliwoda, Executive Director of the Rideau Valley Conservation Foundation. “These hidden costs of a donation are in large measure funded by the RVCF’s Environmental Land Fund made possible by annual support from Mattamy Homes. Obviously, it would be a shame to lose the opportunity to protect an important piece of the Rideau Valley — after all, no more wilderness is being made.”
The local community can help RVCF continue to accept important land donations by donating to the Steve Simmering Endowment Fund. This fund supports the perpetual costs of maintenance and ownership.
Mr. Kaczkowski’s waterfront is now one of 51 unique parcels owned by the Conservation Foundation and managed by the Conservation Authority. The sites, including the Boucher Property, Curtis Property and DePencier Property, are to be kept in a natural state in perpetuity and are located across the entire Rideau watershed.
RVCF is a member of the Canadian Land Trust Alliance and adhere to the Standards and Practices set out in the Land Trust documents. Guiding principles in our land donation program include integrity, perpetual responsibility, and excellence in public service and good governance.
Special thanks to Wally Kaczkowski for his community-minded gift. If you are interested in learning more about land donations here in Eastern Ontario’s Rideau watershed, contact Michael Poliwoda or visit the RVCF website at www.rvcf.ca.