Following the passing of Chuck Peterson (2000), the original owner and visionary behind development of Stokely Creek Lodge and Ski Touring Centre, the Stokely Creek portion of his estate was eventually sold to Astina Forest AG. Astina Forest AG is a European-based forest management company which owns and manages more than 40,000 acres immediately north of the Stokely Creek-King Mountain parcel of land now owned by the Algoma Highlands Conservancy (AHC).
For many years the AHC has been working to ensure that Chuck’s long-term conceptual plan of protecting the area primarily for silent sport recreation and conservation purposes would be realized. As a result of extensive negotiations facilitated by the AHC, the Byker-Phair families assumed complete and independent ownership of Stokely Creek Lodge in 2007. This development represented a crucial and positive turning point in the long term plan for land use in the Stokely-King Mountain area as it ensured continued maintenance and development of the broader trail system, and a resurgence of Stokely Creek Lodge as a premiere cross-country ski facility in North America. The negotiations also provided the option for the AHC to purchase and conserve the land area comprised principally of King Mountain and its immediate surroundings as a protected forest area. The land parcel offered lies south of the Tupper township line and includes lower Stokely Creek, King Mountain in its entirety, and abuts with the Robertson Cliffs property that has been owned by the AHC since 2000 (see map page).
In addition, as part of this agreement a tripartite ten-year license for exclusive use of the entire Stokely trail system for silent sport recreation was successfully negotiated. The license with Astina Forest AG is held jointly by Stokely Creek Lodge and the AHC and commits the three parties to work together to optimize use of the trails for silent sport recreation. This license may be renewed by mutual agreement after the initial ten-year period.
Ownership of the “King-Mountain” property now completes strategic acquisition of a contiguous land area (3000 acres; 1215 ha) highly representative of the majestic beauty of the Algoma Highlands region. The lands owned by the AHC will be managed as a conservation forest and held in trust for the general public good in perpetuity. Through our partnership with Stokely Creek Lodge, we have also now been able to relocate our office to this site and will continue to use it as our home base from which we will continue to promote and facilitate silent-sport recreation, outdoor environmental education, research and environmental monitoring as well as general promotion of sustainable forest management in the broader region.
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
- Why did the AHC undertake a campaign to buy King Mountain?
Land ownership or establishment of conservation easements are the only effective methods by which conservation and environmental protection goals can be assured over the long term. Key factors in our decision to purchase were the tremendous “grass roots” support we had from many different donors on both sides of the border; significant financial support from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources Greenlands Challenge Program; the exceedingly generous donation of the Byker family and their willingness to support our initiative through short-term financial management arrangements; and the excellent partnership agreements we have established with both the Byker-Phair families. As a result of our land purchase, this ecologically significant and iconic landform and all of its associated natural and cultural heritage features are now conserved, in perpetuity, for the general public good.
- What is so special about King-Mountain and the Stokely Creek watershed area? The 3000 acre (1215 ha) parcel incorporating King Mountain, the Lower Stokely Creek watershed, and the Robertson cliffs, recently purchased by the AHC (see map), represents a sensitive ecosystem characterized by steep slopes and shallow soils that could be easily damaged by inappropriate use or human activities. The twin peaks of King Mountain are iconic remnants of an ancient chain of mountains that dominate the Algoma Highlands viewscape. Streams draining the north face of King Mountain supply high purity source water to lower Stokely Creek, itself a protected nursery for salmonid fish species. Peregrine falcons, which were endangered and are still specially protected in Ontario, nest high on the Robertson lake cliffs. The surrounding area is prime habitat for this unique and beautiful raptorial bird and potentially other rare bird species as well. Rare plants such as Braun’s holly fern (Polystichum braunii), oval-leaved bilberry (Vaccinium ovalifolium), and northern wild licorice (Galium kamtschaticum) have already been identified in various locations on the property. Ecologists on our board believe other rare and endangered plant and animal species are also likely to occur in this area but are yet to be confirmed. Most recently there has been a photographically confirmed sighting of an eastern wolf on King Mountain by conservancy assistant by Jennifer Allemang. While wolves are relatively common throughout central and northern Ontario, and have been seen in the vicinity previously, direct observation and photographic evidence is relatively rare. The role of wolves in the ecosystem is complex, however it is generally considered that their presence in Ontario’s forests indicates a well-functioning, healthy landscape that supports general biodiversity. To accurately document the biodiversity extant on AHC owned property, extensive surveys undertaken to identify and map all the key natural as well as cultural heritage features that occur there. Some of the most beautiful vistas over Lake Superior, our own inland sea to the immediate west, and over the surrounding Algoma Highlands area may be attained by hiking, skiing or snow-shoeing to the top of King Mountain. The network of trails that cloak the property provide unparalleled access to this beautiful area and are used through all seasons by numerous silent sport recreation enthusiasts, including those that enjoy more leisurely pursuits such as nature photography or an easy walk along the picturesque and pristine lower Stokely Creek.
- When did the AHC assume ownership of the King Mountain property? Our purchase agreement with Astina Forest AG for this parcel was signed and completed on November 30, 2009.
- Having just spent $1.5 million dollars to purchase the King Mountain property, not to mention transfer fees and land taxes, what is the current financial status of the AHC and how do you plan to remain solvent?Thanks to the generous donations of so many different agencies, philanthropic groups, major individual donors, and all of our grass root supporters, we came very close to the total required to purchase the land outright (i.e., cash on the barrel head). Unfortunately, the timing of the global economic downturn played some havoc with our own investments and of course those of potential donors as well. As a result of this unfortunate timing, we fell approximately 20% short of our target. To make up the shortfall we undertook a mortgage arrangement to complete the land purchase transaction by the specified deadline date. Our challenge now is to pay off this mortgage as soon as possible. Given the success we have had to date, are confident that we will do so. In fact, we have several proposals in various stages of development that will help pay down our mortgage and further our four fundamental goals of conservation, environmental education, silent sport recreation, and promotion of sustainable forest management in the broader Algoma Highlands region. While our debt load is significant, it is manageable. Needless to say, we will continue to gratefully accept any and all donations which are so important in helping us to attain both our short and long term goals.
- If I have donated to the AHC, why do I still need to buy a trail pass to ski at Stokely Creek?Donations made to the AHC contributed significantly to the purchase, conservation and protection of the entire 3000 acre (1215 ha) parcel we now collectively own. The AHC is able to maintain backcountry trails for general access, hiking, and cycling during non-winter months essentially on our own. However, it is only through the excellent working relations that we have with our partners at Stokely Creek Lodge that trails can be maintained and groomed for cross-country skiing in the winter. As you may appreciate, the maintenance work (e.g., ditching, culvert installation, bridge building) and costs for repetitive trail grooming for cross-country skiing are significant and must be borne, at least in major part, by those individuals using the groomed trails. (Just as an aside, all AHC board members must also purchase trail passes or memberships to allow for their use of groomed trails in the winter period). The extensive network of trails on King Mountain, the potential for destination ski tours to Norms and/or skiing and snowshoeing the frozen waterfall trails are just some of the many reasons that the Stokely Creek Lodge continues to be ranked as one of the 5 premiere cross-country ski destinations in North America! An extensive network of some of the best snow shoe trails in North America now traverse across some of the most beautiful sections of our King Mountain property and a heart-throb inducing single track mountain bike trail is also under development. These options open up entirely new silent sport recreational activities for enjoyment of a much broader base of clientelle both from the local area and from further afield.
- What does the future have in store for the AHC? We’ve got a ton of ideas and a very bright future ahead. To date, of course, our activities have necessarily been focused, almost exclusively, on acquiring the King Mountain property as an essential base for all of our operations and broader goals. While we still have some fund-raising to do to retire our mortgage debt, we can now begin to turn our attention and focus to specific conservation and environmental education goals in particular. Of course we will always be actively promoting the use of sustainable forest and land management techniques throughout the Algoma region more generally. On the conservation front, our first priority is to complete marking of all of our new property boundaries and to conduct detailed surveys, mapping and monitoring of natural and cultural heritage features therein – commonly referred to as baseline documentation reporting. In terms of environmental education and promotion of sustainable forest management, we are working on a proposal with some key local organizations to develop a series of high-end seminars and workshops to be held at Stokely Creek Lodge that will provide a key mechanism for knowledge sharing. Stay tuned for more news on that aspect as the initiative continues to develop. A major new research project led by board member Dean Thompson, has now been established to monitor the ecological integrity of forest wetlands and associated amphibian and bird species in this area under a changing climate. Meanwhile, in our spare time, we are all intending to be actively engaged in silent sport recreation on the new estate we collectively own with all of you – our grass root supporters. We hope to see you all out there really soon – hiking, biking, snow-shoeing, cross-country or back-country skiing!
- Does the AHC intend to acquire any other lands in the broader Algoma Highlands or surrounding region? While we would admit to being a little exhausted by the King Mountain land acquisition effort and do not have any specific plans right at the moment, this is certainly within the realm of feasibility sometime in the future. In the near term however, our primary focus will of course be retiring the current mortgage debt owing for King Mountain. We also have the option of accepting lands that people may want to donate as an ecological gift. In general, we will always be evaluating and considering options that are directly consistent with our four primary goals and particularly in relation to conservation and protection of lands in the region that harbour significant natural and cultural heritage values.
- Will there be any forest harvesting or other land management activities on the AHC owned property in the King Mountain area? There will be no commercial forest harvesting undertaken on the King Mountain/Robertson Lake Cliff property owned by AHC. Single-stem tree removal may be required from time to time to assure safe use and maintenance of trails. As of November 30, 2009, any tree cutting, or in fact any other human activity on AHC-owned property, must be specifically approved by the AHC Board and recorded as such in the minutes of our monthly board meetings. This includes any further development of trails of any kind, as well as maintenance of trails or huts on the property, and any scientific research activities that may be proposed to take place within our property boundaries. The area is being specifically managed as a conservation forest with allowance for low impact silent sport recreational activity only.
- Can I donate stock to the AHC? Yes, your donation can be made in the form of stock. You will receive a tax receipt for the market value of the stock at the time it changes hands. If you are interested in this option, please contact our treasurer, Bob Beggs at email@example.com for details.
- Can I donate using a credit card? Yes, credit card donations in either Canadian or US dollars can be made via the “Donate Now Buttons” below.
- Where can I get more information about the Algoma Highlands Conservancy? The best electronic source of information about the AHC is via our website at http://www.algomahighlandsconservancy.org . We also have a 3-year strategic plan (2009-2011) and annual work plans that can either be downloaded from the site as PDF files, or requested in hardcopy by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact us directly by calling our office at Stokely Creek Lodge (705-649-5751). Stokely Clubhouse office hours are Wednesday and Thursday from 9:00am- 5:00pm. We are happy to respond personally to any of your questions via email or phone. Even better, if you happen to be in the area, we would be more than pleased to show off our new office space in the loft at the Stokely Creek Lodge Clubhouse. Our goal and intent is to openly share all information pertaining to the AHC, its goals and objectives. More importantly we want to share this little piece of heaven on earth that we now truly call home with all of you…. Come and check out your conservation property – if you love nature we guarantee you’ll love this!
We truly appreciate all of your support to date and any suggestions or ideas you may have to offer that might help to make the Algoma Highlands Conservancy and our initiatives even better in the future. Together, we are making a big difference in the Algoma Highlands region to benefit current and future generations of individuals with interests in nature conservation and silent sport recreation – come out and see what we have accomplished so far and keep a close eye on new developments in the future!