Conservation groups buy up Parkland County forest for public use

Five families donated portions of the land and then sold the rest for below the market value.

'Our hope is that we can enhance the trail system so that the public can access it'

Nature Conservancy of Canada acquires old growth forest in Devon

5 years ago
Duration 1:08
Five Devon families have ensured that some of the province’s untouched forest will be conserved for the public. The park area is a habitat for many animals, from moose to salamanders. 1:08

An Edmonton-area old-growth forest is being protected as a natural oasis after it was acquired by the Nature Conservancy of Canada and the Edmonton and Area Land Trust.

Leaves crunched beneath the feet of a dozen people as they toured the trails of Bunchberry Meadows, 30 kilometres west of Edmonton, on Tuesday.

It's a thick forest of jack pine trees with plenty of wildlife.

A dozen people toured of the trail Bunchberry Meadows on Tuesday. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Kim Laskin's family owned a portion of the land near Range Rd. 261 and Township Rd. 514 for more than 45 years.

"When you drive here through all the farmland and then you hit here, it's like an oasis," Laskin said.

"We have coyotes, of course, moose, elk deer, there's everything."

Laskin and four other families donated a portion of the 260 hectares to the conservation groups and then sold them the rest at a price below market value.

As the public gets more urbanized their exposure to nature becomes less and less.- Bob Demulder

The two conservation groups bought the land to keep the forest unspoiled while also sharing it with the public.

"It is just on the doorstep of the city of Edmonton and the greater capital region where there's over a million people," said Bob Demulder, regional vice-president of the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

"As the public gets more urbanized, their exposure to nature becomes less and less. It's our job to keep those opportunities available," he said.

"Our hope is that we can enhance the trail system so that the public can access it using muscle power, foot access or skiing in the winter."

The groups can't complete any work on the property until nesting season ends, according to Canada's Migratory Birds Convention Act. They hope to have it open to the public in the fall.

The Alberta government created the Alberta Land Trust Grant Program in 2011. The Bunchberry Meadows project required $1.1 million in provincial funding.

"It means holding water on the landscape. It means being able to adapt to climate change," said Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips. "I think, most importantly, it means a legacy for the five families that donated this land for future generations."