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Deal saves green space near Thetis Lake park

Development on Millstream Road prompts couple to register covenant

When Jim and Anne Ginns decided the property they owned in the Highlands should be protected from development, they had no idea that giving away land could be so complicated.

"It has taken two years, but it has almost run its course now. The covenant has been registered," said Jim Ginns, a Penticton resident.

"It was a learning experience for us. We thought we would just give it away, but there are all the legalities and hoops you have to jump through to have it approved," he said.

Habitat Acquisition Trust, in partnership with Cowichan Land Trust, will hold a covenant on 20 hectares of property adjacent to Thetis Lake Regional Park, off Millstream Lake Road. In about five years, the property will be offered to the Capital Regional District as an extension to the park.

The couple bought the property in 1967, when they were living in a nearby cottage and intended to build a home on the land.

However, after several work-related moves, they settled in Penticton and decided that, rather than selling, they would give away the property - provided they could be assured it would be protected.

"We looked at lower Millstream Road with the big box stores and we didn't want that," Ginns said.

Under the current arrangement, they will continue to own the land, for financial reasons, until all parkland requirements have been met.

In the meantime, the covenant will protect it.

"We are both in our early 70s now and we can see we are slowing down. ... We wanted to get it done the way we wanted it done while we are still here and still competent," Ginns said.

Wendy Tyrell, Habitat Acquisition Trust's covenants and acquisitions co-ordinator, said the property provides a vital link between Thetis Lake and Gowlland Tod parks.

Another part of the corridor is Mary Lake, which a Highlands group is working to protect.

"This is a special place. You feel as if it's miles away from anywhere and the landowners are just an amazing couple," Tyrell said.

The property contains a diversity of ecosystems, such as wetlands and rocky outcrops and the natural ecosystem has been preserved with few invasive plants such as broom, she said.