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Happy Trails in Trent Lakes: Marlys Kerkman Reflects on KLT-Protected John Earle Chase Memorial Park

Marlys Kerkman, Marnie Clement, and Thom Unrau at John Earle Chase Memorial Park in Trent Lakes

Long-time Kawartha Land Trust (KLT) volunteer Marlys Kerkman feels a special bond with John Earle Chase Memorial Park in Trent Lakes. Not only does she love to walk there, but she also has fond memories of the Chase family who donated the land that is now protected. Raised on a farm in Iowa, Marlys knows what it’s like to love the land. 

In September, KLT volunteer Marnie Clement, as part of KLT’s 20th-anniversary series, asked Marlys to share some of her personal memories of the Chase family and why she has such an attachment to the property.

Marlys Kerkman, KLT Volunteer

When I moved here, I was very interested in Ralph and Evelyn Chase and their lifestyle. Not living far from their farm, I would frequently see them taking the cattle to the lake for a drink. 

Having grown up on a farm in the Midwest many years ago, I knew the work necessary to keep things going and wondered how they kept up using simple and old equipment. I was further intrigued when I went to them for a fire permit and Ralph took out his old manual typewriter and started typing. 

While waiting for the permit and chatting with Ralph, Evelyn was boiling vegetables on the woodstove in the middle of July. We would get cream from them to make ice cream in the summer. They would pull the cream from the bottom of the well with a rope where they kept it cool.

In 1995, they donated the land to the Trent-Severn Waterway (TSW), Parks Canada. After their deaths, I noticed the property was being chewed up by ATVs. That hurt. I thought it would be a great place for trails and Ralph would be happy with the land being used by people who loved the land and the outdoors. In 2018, with the help of Kawartha Land Trust, Parks Canada, and the Buckhorn Trails Association, that is exactly what has happened. Of the 28 properties KLT protects in the Kawarthas, John Earle Chase Memorial Park is the sole property the organization protects as part of a land management agreement with other organizations. 

I love the place! My dog and I are there a couple of times a week. I love coming out of the woods at the top of the hill on the blue trail and looking out over the meadows, Gannon’s Narrows Bridge, and Pigeon Lake. I think the grasslands are so important to keep the balance with beautiful forested areas. And the water. I love sitting in the Adirondack chairs on the yellow trail and enjoying the water’s edge of Pigeon Lake. 

I have snowshoed here. I have brought friends. I almost had a musical concert scheduled, but COVID-19 intervened. Sometimes I take the time to drive by the parking lot on great weather days just to see how many cars are in the parking lot, which means that people are enjoying it. 

A trailhead sign, financially supported by the Buckhorn Trails Association, will be installed this fall. The sign will connect visitors to the history of the property and to the Chase family. 

I am thankful for the property!

To learn more about John Earle Chase Memorial Park, KLT’s involvement in protecting the property, and download a trail mapvisit the property page on KLT’s website.

 Is there a KLT property that you love? We’d love to hear your stories — message us at [email protected].  

This article was published on September 22, 2022. Main image: (R-L) Marlys Kerman, Marnie Clement, & Thom Unrau, Director, Community Conservation at the meadow at John Earle Chase Memorial Park in Spring 2022.

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