A large parcel of the Acadian forest that at one time covered the entire province is now being conserved for future Islanders to enjoy.
It’s also preserving the legacy of a well-known family that lived in the area.
The Island Nature Trust held a celebration for the donation of the 80-acre parcel of hardwood forest, located in Elmwood off Peter’s Road, at the Clyde River Community Centre last week.
Jackie Waddell, the trust’s recently retired executive director, said discussions began with joint owners Eric MacPhail and his sister-in-law, Helen MacPhail, about two years ago.
“There were long telephone conversations and keen agreements on the beauty and importance of the site to the Bonshaw Hills,” said Waddell. “They wanted to create a permanent legacy in the form of a natural protected area.”
The area, which has a rich collection of hemlock, maples, birches, fir and many other wildflowers, shrubs and animals, is also protected under a triple designation through the trust, provincial legislation and the federal government’s ecological gift program.
Waddell noted that not all protected properties can qualify as an “ecogift,” which is a joint venture of Environment Canada and Canada Revenue Agency that helps owners donate and protects land from changes in future use.
It also carries some strict guidelines.
“If we were to break the covenance on this property… we could be fined its market value,” said Waddell. “So we take it pretty seriously.”
The selfless donation also saw the area named the Malcolm MacArthur 1899 Natural Area after the family who lived on and owned the land.
Even today, it’s common for residents near the area to refer to the road as “MacArthur Road,” said Eric.
He said he and Helen were happy to conserve the property, but even more pleased when asked to provide a name.
“We thought this title would immortalize the family name,” said Eric, who gave a brief history on the family, which saw the final generation die childless.
Helen, who had also donated a parcel of land to the trust several years ago near Sleepy Hollow Road, said her late husband Lloyd had first purchased the plot about 50 years ago from Donald MacArthur.
The weekend ceremony had also occurred only a few feet from Clyde River Baptist Cemetery, where members of the family were buried.
Helen said the family would have been honoured.
“He (Donald) was a very kind man and always wanted to do things for people,” said Helen. “If they were alive they would be very humbled and appreciative of everything, probably a little bit overwhelmed.”