County opens Kirkup Forest Tract

By Miriam King, Bradford Times

In 1921, Robert and Mary Kirkup began farming in what was then West Gwillimbury Township, on the 13th Line. Part of their extensive holding was the 'Kirkup Woods'  - a wooded area, used for maple syrup making and timber.

Their son Robert Douglas and his wife, Gladys (Moriarty) Kirkup continued to farm, using horse-drawn equipment to harvest timber and deliver cordwood in the Woods, which also served as a playground for the Kirkup children.

On September 13, members of the Kirkup extended family gathered at the Kirkup Woods, to celebrate the acquisition of the 104 acre parcel by the County of Simcoe, and its addition to the County's municipally-owned and publicly accessible forests.

“This is rare, especially here in South Simcoe,” noted County Forester Graeme Davis – an area of rapid growth, where loss of forested land has been the rule. The property will be added to the County's 150 parcels and 32,700 acres of forested land,  “the newest in a long line of County projects.”

Bradford West Gwillimbury Mayor Rob Keffer welcomed the gathering. “This is a particularly significant property because of the role the Kirkups played in the community,” Mayor Keffer said, noting that at one time, Robert Douglas was known as “the Potato King of Bradford,” while his wife Gladys was a popular elementary school teacher. Through the County acquisition, he noted, “the land that was enjoyed by the Kirkup family will continue to be enjoyed by the residents of Bradford West Gwillimbury... It's a great acquisition to the Town, and the County.”

Unveiling the Kirkup Woods Tract sign, Shirley Smith, speaking on behalf of the family, noted, “The Kirkup family is very happy to know that this forest will be protected for generations to come.” She shared some of the family memories of the woods – harvesting herbal remedies, hiking, picking flowers, making maple syru0p, skiing, tobogganing, enjoying “all the hidden magical places.”

By creating a County Forest, Smith said, “We will continue to have access to our childhood playground.”

The Kirkup Woods Tract, 2175 Line 13 in BWG is open for hiking and other activities. Camping and motorized vehicles are banned; hunting is permitted, within provincial regulations and restrictions. The property is described as “ecologically diverse, with important stream corridors and associated valleylands, along with mature and diverse woodlands.”