Canadian Canoe Routes

Land Trust:Heaven's Gate Killarney Property Purchase
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Author:  cheryl [ January 20th, 2021, 12:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Land Trust:Heaven's Gate Killarney Property Purchase

Toronto-based conservation group is poised to acquire a large tract of wilderness that would provide a link between Killarney Provincial Park and other protected lands along the North Shore.

“From a conservation point of view, the number one thing this would do is unify these areas,” said Ted Cowan, volunteer treasurer with the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy.
The Ontario-focused land trust already counts a number of nature reserves in the Manitoulin-La Cloche region, including the Cup and Saucer bluff on Manitoulin and Willisville Mountain, on the east side of Highway 6.

The organization now has a tentative deal to obtain eight square kilometres of land on the other side of Highway 6, comprising more of the same rugged terrain.

To date this acreage has belonged to an American family, who have maintained it in a largely wild state and prohibited hunting and motorized vehicles, with signage demarcating it as the Skyline Wildlife Sanctuary.
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“It will be, when all is said and done, the largest property we’ve ever acquired by quite a bit,” said Cowan. “Our largest property so far is south of Tobermory, at 1,100 acres.”

The Willisville Mountain property, purchased from Vale in 2019, is 235 acres, while the swathe of land on the west side of the highway spans 1,984 acres. “So it’s eight-and-half times larger,” said Cowan.

It’s also not cheap, although the charity feels the asking price is reasonable and can be met through a combination of money already at its disposal, borrowing and fundraising.

“We would be looking at $1.75 million to buy the property,” said Cowan. “We are fortunate right now to have more cash on hand as an organization than we ever had before, in 20-plus years, but we would still have to raise in excess of $500,000.”

Some details remain to be worked out but the group expects to have an agreement finalized early this week.

Presuming everything falls into place, it will be quite a coup for the EBC, which has coveted the land for some time.

“We’ve been looking at this site for over 10 years,” said Cowan. “You can’t look at it and not be keen on it.”

About a dozen years ago, the EBC inherited a 50-acre property from the Red Deer Village Trail Association that provides access to the La Cloche Ridge Conservation Reserve north of Whitefish Falls.

The abutting Skyline reserve encompasses two mountains and a portion of the Heaven’s Gate hiking trail, which follows the spine of the La Cloche Mountains from Willisville to Sagamok, providing numerous views of the North Channel of Lake Huron en route.
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The conservation group approached the owners in the past but “our offers at those times were not accepted,” said Cowan. “I think it was a matter of price and maybe the family wasn’t keen on selling at the time — and I can understand why they might want to hold onto it, because it’s a place that grabs you.”

In the spring of 2019, however, the “former owner died at an advanced age,” said Cowan, and his widow passed away about a month later.

While surviving members of the family didn’t immediately indicate an interest in selling, Cowan said his organization was contacted just prior to Christmas by a Manitoulin realtor working on behalf of the estate.

“They gave us a price and it was good, as far as we were concerned,” he said. “The price per acre is virtually identical to what we paid for Willisville Mountain, and the family also offered a very substantial donation.”

Preserving this swathe of wilderness is important to the EBC, said Cowan, as it hosts at least a dozen species that are considered rare or endangered, and its waterways feed into the North Channel, as well as lakes to the north and east.

“It makes quite a difference to the whole area what happens to this site,” he said. “It’s not ecologically isolated; it’s critical to buffering quite a large area.”

The land is also a bridge between big wilderness zones already protected by the province, effectively connecting Killarney Park — which now stretches nearly to Willisville — with the 4,000-hectare La Cloche Ridge Conservation Reserve and La Cloche Provincial Park, south of Massey.
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“On its own, it is splendid,” said Cowan. “But when you join it to these other areas it becomes a combined conservation zone of about 500 square kilometres, 80 kilometres east to west.”

There may be a gap or two where the parklands don’t perfectly connect, but “if you are a jeweller or collector, it’s matching pearls,” he analogized. “Now you’ve got a string of them.”

Five members of the Group of Seven painted in this area, Cowan noted, especially Franklin Carmichael, who had a cabin built on Frood Lake near Willisville.

“All of those paintings are safe in houses and museums,” he said. “Now it’s time to take care of the land that inspired them.”

While hunting was already forbidden in the Skyline reserve, an EBC acquisition would protect the land further.

“It absolutely removes the threat of mining, forestry, subdivision, or a great big resort,” Cowan said. “If we don’t conserve it, it will in some way or another be developed.”

Jon Butler, who helped broker the protection of the Willisville hill as president of the La Cloche Mountain Preservation Society, will be pleased if the EBC is able to achieve its goal.

“It would be a great thing,” he said. “It’s going to protect the area even more than before and give an opportunity for people to hike now right across the La Cloche range. It will pretty well link Killarney park to the north shore of the North Channel.”

Cowan said his group will only proceed if it can raise enough funds to cover a portion (nearly a third) of the price, although he’s optimistic this is attainable.

“I’m anxious as all get out, but I do believe it is doable,” he said. “We already have a large donation from the vendor and informal pledges are coming already from people in the area.”

Anyone wishing to pledge money toward the acquisition is welcome to contact Cowan by email at, or text him at 416-660-5545.

To learn more about the Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy and the many reserves it already maintains, visit ... e-property

Author:  cheryl [ February 3rd, 2021, 8:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Land Trust:Heaven's Gate Killarney Property Purchase

Check out the great news! A change to conserve a huge piece of La Cloche. If someone can actually connect this to the post, I would appreciate it - there is a map!Terrific news today about Heaven’s Gate Trail.
Conservation Group Announces Deal to Buy
Heaven’s Gate in the La Cloche Wilderness
Purchase Will Create Conservation Zone Over 500 km2
Today, Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy (EBC), the largest Ontario-focused land trust, announced the acceptance of its offer to purchase the 1,984-acre Heaven’s Gate site in the Sudbury Basin, between the La Cloche Ridge Conservation Reserve and Killarney Provincial Park. This nature reserve will serve as a bridge, linking the two parks and forming a conservation zone of over 500 km2.
EBC has launched an aggressive fundraising campaign to raise the money needed to buy the land (the purchase price is $1.65 million) in order to waive conditions and close the deal. With a $500 thousand bequest already received, pledges at $200 thousand, and a generous offer by a Manitoulin resident to match donations of up to $250 thousand, it appears likely EBC will acquire the land. EBC has until May 5 to raise the remaining money.
Pledges can be arranged directly with EBC by emailing the Conservancy’s Treasurer or by text at 416 660 5545. All donors will receive a charitable tax receipt.
This stunning area, where the great granite hills of the shield come in sight of the limestone cliffs on Manitoulin, has three lakes and two mountains, Mount Arabella, and part of Mount Ararat. Species at risk known to be on the site include wolves, bald eagles, Blandings turtles, Whip poor wills, and the Peregrine falcon. Conserving this site removes real threats of development, preserves wildlife habitat, and allows future generations to experience this rugged landscape hiking the Heaven’s Gate Trail. It will create an expanded conservation area right where the Districts of Sudbury, Algoma, and Manitoulin meet, expected to boost tourism and assisting the post-COVID economic recovery in the region.
Chances for conservation do not come back. The power of this land lured the Group of Seven here nearly 100 years ago and is enshrined in their works. Their paintings are safe; now it is time to care for the land that inspired them. These nearly 2,000 acres in the La Cloche can remain undisturbed, an intact wilderness, a pristine stretch of Canadian shield with it wild species and quiet places. EBC will work with local people to ensure that conservation works for the region and its people as well as for the land and its creatures.
About EBC: Escarpment Biosphere Conservancy has been preserving Ontario natural lands since 1997. EBC has a volunteer board and charitable status, and is the largest Ontario-focused land trust with over 15,300 acres protected on 191 sites. EBC reserves protect 62 species at risk and 19 km of Lake Huron shore, while providing 70 km of trails to 25,000 plus hikers every year. Modest staffing, volunteers, and land donations ensure EBC’s costs are low. Notable EBC sites include the Cup and Saucer, Fossil Hill, Willisville Mountain and Trout Hollow, the home of John Muir, Founder of the Sierra Club and US national parks, while he was in Canada in the 1860s.
EBC’s charitable number is 88878 2570 RR0001.
For enquiries, questions, further information and/or to pledge support, contact:
Ted Cowan ​EBC Treasurer ​​​Phone: 416-660-5545 ​​Email:
Bob Barnett​EBC Executive Director​​Phone: 416-960-8161​​Email:

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