Talking about prairie seed collection, ON (Photo by NCC)

Talking about prairie seed collection, ON (Photo by NCC)

Marylo Graham and family (Photo by Jennifer Graham)

Marylo Graham and family (Photo by Jennifer Graham)

Marylo Graham: Supporting NCC's work in the Lower Maitland River Valley

Marylo Graham raves about the incredible view of the Maitland River Valley from her home near Goderich, Ontario. "The first year of living in Goderich was formative in getting to know the area," recalls Marylo.

While her husband John had been raised there, Marylo was from Belleville and came to Goderich after she and John were married. She grew to love the area as much as John, and the two of them spent years working to protect it.

A force for nature

Marylo comes by her conservation ethic naturally. In fact, it's a family tradition. Marylo's father, George Wishart, was an accomplished entomologist who was a source for Rachel Carson's influential book Silent Springs. Her mother is still celebrated by her local conservation authority for her lifelong dedication to environmental work. And Marylo, along with her husband John, passed this ethic onto her children and grandchildren. She is a real force for nature in her work with the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC).

The Grahams first became involved with NCC in 1995. A property along the Maitland River was put on the market by Huron County, and many in the community recognized the Morris Tract as having significant ecological value. They were right. The riverfront parcel features rare older-growth forest, limestone cliffs and several rare species.

Though the community was ready to raise much of the money to purchase the land, they looked to NCC to negotiate a purchase from the county. Marylo, whose experience in local politics and council law helped to advance the project, advised the group to connect with NCC. She and John then championed the fundraising efforts that led to the protection of this special property, which is now managed as a nature reserve by Ontario Parks.

Since then, NCC has focussed its efforts in the Lower Maitland River Valley because of the extent and quality of forested land and riverfront habitats — remarkable in the southern Ontario context.

The Grahams' vision aligned well with NCC's, and they continued to support subsequent projects in the valley, even donating their own recreational property to NCC in 1999. "It was a matter of protecting it in the end," said Marylo. She and John felt that NCC was the right steward to continue looking after the land they have loved.

The Graham children have become land stewards in their own right, continuing on the path their parents set as an example. Marylo is glad they will be able to visit their childhood land as well, knowing it is protected for future generations of her own family, as well as others.

Though John passed away in 2004, Marylo is delighted to be able to go on doing the work that they started together 15 years ago, and hopes the community will continue efforts to protect the integrity of the river. "The Maitland Valley meant a great deal to John," Marylo said in explanation of her continued efforts. "It's been very rewarding and I think it's worthwhile providing an example to others."

We couldn't agree more.


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Funding provided by Environment and Climate Change Canada