Manitoulin Nature Club donates funds to NCC for purchase of Vidal Bay

The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) purchase of 18,000 acres of Vidal Bay will create a complex of 248 square kilometres of protected area, the largest of its kind south of the Canadian Shield when combined with nearby NCC properties.

MANITOULIN – Members of the Manitoulin Nature Club have agreed that, due to the importance of the project, they would make a donation toward the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) purchase of the Vidal Bay property on Western Manitoulin. 

“I would strongly support this,” said Ellen Weatherbee, on donating funds toward the NCC purchase of the Vidal Bay property at a recent meeting. 

As was reported in last week’s edition of the Recorder, it was confirmed that a deal has been reached with Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) to purchase the Vidal Bay property on Western Manitoulin.

Gary Taylor, Wiarton broker for Chestnut Park Real Estate Limited confirmed on Tuesday, “the sale did close at 4:58 pm last Friday, January 26, 2021.”

“NCC did purchase the property,” stated Mr. Taylor, “and it is in our system that the sale has been closed. The property was purchased for $13 million. It was originally listed at $14,999,000.”

Esme Batten, NCC program director for the NCC, told the Recorder in an email, “I am able to share an update about the Vidal Bay property that NCC is about 85 percent of our way to our fundraising goal, which needs to be met before we can officially announce the successful completion of the project.”

“Although NCC now owns the property we are not in a position to announce it or develop any formal plans for the property until the fundraising campaign is completed,” wrote Ms. Batten. “We look forward to building our relationships with First Nations and local communities. We will be in touch when we can share more.”

Ms. Batten made a presentation to the nature club noting, “this is an exciting opportunity we have (to own the Vidal Bay) property. Our main focus is on land protection, but we also do a lot of work involving species at risk. We have an incredible opportunity to protect this property. It is a really amazing place.” 

She said acquiring Vidal Bay was the last piece of the puzzle, with NCC owning and protecting 60 percent of Cockburn Island and with the Queen Mum Park close by. “I never thought we would have this opportunity.” 

“It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and something we’ve been waiting for, for a long time,” she said. It protects 18,800 acres, globally rare alvar communities, coastal cliffs, over 18 kilometres of undeveloped Lake Huron shoreline, inland lakes and wetlands and intact forest systems and maintain significant habitats and species found on the property. 

“Our focus right now is fundraising for the amount we have to raise,” said Ms. Batten. 

“What activities will be permitted on the property?” asked Maja Mielonen. 

“This will all be decided through the five-year management process we will be working on with local townships, First Nations and groups like yours,” said Ms. Batten. She noted that trails, for example, on other properties NCC opens remain open. “Most NCC properties are accessible to members of the public.” 

“Will hiking be included?” asked chair Marcel Beneteau. 

“Yes, where there are opportunities in place they will, this will all be part of the planning process,” said Ms. Batten.  

After Ms. Batten’s presentation, the club members discussed a possible donation to NCC towards the Vidal Bay purchase. “We had a suggestion from Chris Bell that the club set aside and donate funds toward this,” said Mr. Beneteau. “Chris had mentioned a donation of $1,000.”

John Diebolt put forward a motion (which was seconded by Jan McQuay) for the club to donate $1,000.

All 32 people in attendance at the meeting voted in favour of the proposed donation to the NCC.