Below are two letters written by Sheila Maxwell, Merv’s niece, to The Land Conservancy about the sale of Wildwood. There is also a reply from Cathy Armstrong of TLC. At the bottom you will find a comment posted to the Wildwood Protectors facebook page and Sheila’s response.
I am very disappointed with TLC’s announcement of the sale of Wildwood to a private individual. I found the announcement contained information that was inaccurate and blames Ecoforestry Institute Society (EIS) for all the delays in transferring the property to EIS. I certainly hope that the courts are given accurate information and recognize that friends and family donated to pay off the mortgage on Wildwood so that it would be protected as Merv wanted, as a teaching and educational centre for all. I am really disgusted with TLC for purporting to protect “important habitat for plants, animals and natural communities as well as properties with historical, cultural, scientific, scenic or compatible recreational value” then agreeing to sell Wildwood to a private individual. The many times I was visiting Wildwood, Merv, my uncle, was very clear that he wanted Wildwood to be preserved as a teaching and educational centre, showing how selective logging was the best way to use the trees but maintain the forest for the future. He taught children the importance of preserving the forest for all lifeforms and how a healthy forest is necessary for a healthy world. He trusted the TLC to do as they promised to do just that, NOT sell it to cover TLC’s poor financial investments. Wildwood supporters and EIS raised the money to pay off the property mortgage and have it declared INALIENABLE. How can you even consider selling it to a private individual? I certainly hope that Madam Justice Fitzpatrick of the Supreme Court of B.C. and the Court-appointed Monitor ensure that TLC acts in accordance with its own bylaws and insists that Wildwood be transferred to an appropriate charitable society, such as EIS. (Please read TLC’s Bylaw Page 31: END#2B: PROTECTION OF “SPECIAL PLACES”.)
I also received a response from Cathy Armstrong from TLC with regard to my letter. She doesn’t specify who exactly asked for the adjournment in April but does say EIS “again withdrew” shortly before the June date, suggesting that all delays were the fault of EIS. Here is her response:
Sheila, I see your concerns outlined on the EIS Facebook page and wanted to contact you directly.
The Board has spent a year analyzing the covenant and management plans presented by both EIS and Mark Randen. Both contain provisions for ongoing ecoforestry practices, and the continued access to the public for education purposes. We have also had these plans vetted by ecoforestry experts.
TLC accepted the offer from EIS last November and scheduled a court date in December. Shortly before the scheduled date EIS withdrew indicating loss of donor support. TLC worked with EIS to bring a subsequent offer forward, this time including a mortgage from VanCity and a vendor take back mortgage from TLC. The TLC mortgage was necessary for two reasons, one to provide return to creditors, and secondly to provide a means for TLC to act in the event there was default on the first mortgage. We scheduled a court date for April, but this was adjourned to June. Shortly before the June date EIS again withdrew citing inability to complete the deal. We feel we have acted in good faith to bring about a transfer to EIS.
Subsequently, the Board considered two offers, from EIS and Mark Randen. The Board accepted the Randen offer because it protected the property with a strong covenant and management plan and did not incorporate a mortgage. The Board is confident that Wildwood will remain as an important demonstration site to continue Merv’s legacy.
Do not hesitate to contact me to discuss this further, thank you for sharing your concerns.
TLC The Land Conservancy of BC
PO Box 50054 RPO Fairfield Plaza
Victoria, BC V8S 5L8
Re: Selling Wildwood
Thank you for responding to my concerns. I have been told that it was TLC that postponed the April date, not EIS as was suggested by your announcement. I would really like to know what the “strong covenant and management plan” is that has been offered by Mark Manden, a sawyer not a forester, and what protection is given, should Mark choose to sell the property or should pass away. Merv chose TLC, a charitable society. to make sure that Wildwood remained in the public domain available to all in perpetuity, yet you have chosen to sell it to a private individual. I understand that you sold over 2 dozen other inalienable properties to the Nature Trust and Nature Conservancy for approximately $1.5 million. Why are you wanting so much for Wildwood, when supporters raised over a million dollars to pay off the mortgage to protect it? I really don’t understand your actions other than that TLC is looking at Wildwood as a “cash cow” to help them out of their financial difficulties without concern for the promises TLC made to Merv and all the Wildwood supporters.
Until the supporters, myself and my family included, are assured that TLC is truly looking at the very best interests of Wildwood, we will not accept such a deal. Merv chose TLC because of the promise to protect the property as an example of sustainable forestry and an educational centre for everyone to learn the importance of biodiversity for a healthy forest and a healthy world. He certainly knew Mark Randen and allowed him to use his portable sawmill at Wildwood. He also knew that Mark was trying to use sustainable logging on his own Gabriola property and gave him advice and assistance, but he certainly did not consider selling Wildwood to Mark. Merv wanted Wildwood kept in the public domain and available to all.
Perhaps it would be very helpful to allow Wildwood supports to see the details of the the covenants, management plans and long-term succession plans for Wildwood in both Mark’s and EIS’s offers, so that supporters are able to compare and know exactly what type of covenant is being offered to protect Wildwood forever, as Merv wanted. Without such specific information, Wildwood supporters, myself included, will never accept moving Wildwood out of the public domain where it is protected by a charitable organization and listed as inalienable. All the supporters who donated to make sure that Wildwood’s mortgage was paid off and declared inalienable so it would be safe from such private sale are angry and may well start to demand their donations be returned.
On behalf of the many Wildwood supporters, my family and myself, I want to express my anger and disappointment that The Land Conservancy is considering selling Wildwood to a private individual. We worked very hard to make Merv’s dream come true, we believed you would honour the commitment made to Merv and we hope that the courts will recognize that such a sale not only goes against your own bylaws, but is actually not only illegal, but highly immoral!
I am sending copies of this letter to the other TLC board members as well as the EIS board members and Friends of Wildwood as I feel that the public deserves to know all the facts.
5 hrs · Nanaimo, BC
Can anyone tell me why the opposition to Mark purchasing Wildwood? He was taught by Merv, his stated objectives are the same eco-forestry and education, the problem with having Wildwood in public hands should be apparent to all of us! Just look at how well it has gone so far! If you don’t think that priorities for these trusts or societies will change, you are ignoring human nature.Bring in enough new members with a different focus and presto- new direction ! Merv was a friend of mine, I used to shoe horses on the property. Lets not forget that Wildwood became what it is under private ownership.
Sheila Thomas Maxwell Hi Pat, I am Anne and Merv’s niece and I also know Mark Randen. He is a lovely person but not a forester. He used his portable saw at Wildwood to cut lumber. Merv certainly knew him well but chose to leave Wildwood in the hands of a society to keep it in the public domain. I know that both Mark and Tisha together have tried to purchase Wildwood over the past year. I also know that Grace, Merv’s 2nd wife, filed an affidavit to say that Merv had talked about leaving Wildwood to a charity to save it as a teaching and learning centre for years. Without the inalienable designation, there is absolutely no guarantee that Wildwood would not be sold off in the future. That is what we are concerned about! It can only have such a designation if it is kept in the public domain. I want to support what Merv wanted, not what TLC needs to do to get out of its financial dilemma.