­On July 21, South Nation Conservation (SNC) unveiled its new Community Lands GeoPassport at SNC’s recently donated property: the Oschmann Forest in North Dundas. SNC also issued an important update on the future of their annual Maple Education Program.

SNC’s new Community Lands GeoPassport, available online or in the form of a handbook, guides users through a real-life adventure within SNC’s jurisdiction in Eastern Ontario. It features twenty geocaches to help you discover the ecological, economical and social benefits of forests in the area. Geocaching is described as a real-life game of treasure hunting using GPS-enabled devices, in which participants navigate to a specific set of coordinates and attempt to find the geocache hidden at that location.

“You don’t need to be an avid geocacher to participate,” explains John Mesman, SNC Team Lead, Communications. “This new booklet guides everyone to get out and explore hidden forest gems among SNC’s 13,000 acres of Community Land.”

Upon completing at least 15 of the 20 geocaches in the Community Lands GeoPassport, geocachers are rewarded with a geocoin. Ten coins were issued to eager geocachers on Saturday who had arrived at the event having already completed the new GeoPassport. Others in attendance enjoyed refreshments, geocaching demonstrations, free trees and were provided with a preview of the new Oschmann Forest and future plans for the site.

“Geocaching is an interactive and fun way to discover South Nation Conservation lands and learn about our programs and services,” says Mesman. “The new guide helps to demonstrate the importance of forests and trees, and what they do to contribute to a healthy watershed.”

The GeoPassport unveiling was followed by an announcement that SNC’s recently donated 18-acre Oschmann Forest will become the new site for their annual Maple Education Program. The not-for-profit education program hosts over 1,000 students a year, providing them with a hands-on environmental learning experience at a local sugar shack. SNC suspended the program in 2018 to complete a review and select a new venue; SNC plans to host students at this new site in the spring of 2019.

SNC settled on the Oschmann Forest as it features an existing sugar shack, nature trails, a great natural legacy and boasts municipal partnership opportunities. Funds are currently being raised to again render the forest fit to demonstrate maple syrup production. SNC plans to create accessible trails, build demonstration infrastructure and update the forest’s maple sugaring equipment. Once complete, the forest will also be open and available to families, visitors and geocachers alike.

“We have to thank George Oschmann for donating this forest,” says Bill Smirle, SNC Vice Chair. “It will both serve as an educational hub for students in the region and will work to revitalize the loss of forest cover in Eastern Ontario.”