The Orono Crown Lands were originally purchased in 1922 to establish one of several provincial tree nurseries and forest stations in Ontario. The need for tree nurseries arose in the late 1800's due to the sandy soils being turned into blow-sand wastelands caused by forest clearing for agricultural lands. Development of the Orono Nursery began in 1922 with the purchase of the original 350 acres. This site was chosen for reforestation due to its proximity to rail and road transportation, an adequate water supply and a good labour force. The forestry was a major employer for local residents while it was open.
The first seedbeds were prepared and sown that year, creating 200,000 seedlings to be transplanted. Windbreaks and hedgerows were planted, more seedlings and transplanted beds were established and at the peak of production in the mid-1950's, about 7.5 million seedlings were shipped annually throughout the Province in order to refurbish lands that had literally turned to desert and other areas that had been destroyed by forest fires.
In addition to providing tree seedlings, these lands were also used for forest research projects. Research was conducted in tree improvements, cloning, fertilizers, fungicides, genetics, growth acceleration and pest control. A number of plantations exist that have significant genetic importance, including a seed orchard and a stand of Scots Pine.
By the late 1900's policies had changed and privatization increased which left the demand for provincial tree seedlings very low. The Orono Forestry closed in 1996, and the 633 acres were retained as Crown Lands that are owned by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry but managed by the Orono Crown Lands Trust.
After the nursery’s closure the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) started to sell off parcels of the property to private individuals. Concerned that all the property would suffer the same fate, a number of locals interested in maintaining the property approached the MNR proposing to act as stewards. This ultimately led to the formation of the Orono Crown Lands Trust; a board consisting of volunteers who donated their time and effort to lay the foundation for the trust as we know it today.
The lands that you see today contain abandoned nursery production beds, natural forested areas, portions of Wilmot and Orono Creeks, a decommissioned railway line, an abandoned canal, a road system and an extensive network of footpaths and trails.
The property is now a multi-use area with a variety of natural heritage values and public uses. The Crown Lands have significant natural heritage resources, particularly relating to aquatic resources, forest resources and landscape connectivity.
Due to the potential for conflicting uses and environmental degradation that occurs with increased public pressure on natural areas, it is essential that these lands be managed to ensure the long-term benefits to the environment for many generations to come.
The Linton Tract at the south end of the Orono Crown Lands is named after George Meredith “Med” Linton who established the Orono Provincial Forestry in 1922. He was superintendent for 39 years.
As the first superintendent of the Orono Forestry, his leadership resulted in the planting of many test plots and silviculture experiments to find the best way to produce millions of trees that were needed for reforestation in Ontario.
Linton tirelessly travelled the region to promote the benefits of planting trees on the sandy wastelands of the Oak Ridges Moraine. He convinced landowners, lawmakers, and the forestry industry that reforestation would be worthwhile and economically sound. His dedication and initiative enabled the Orono Forestry to both support the local community and make enormous contributions to reforestation in Ontario.