Land’escapes opens ‘Le Parc’ | The star
According to a March 21 Land’escapes press release, more than 26,000 acres in south-central Ontario have opened as a private nature reserve and members-only park known as “The Park.” of Land’escapes. It will be an all-season park, with a focus on conservation and low-impact recreation. Land’escapes PR representative Margaret Batuszkin of Kasama Marketing and estate owner Ben Samann comment on the grand opening this spring.
Land’escapes’ “The Park‘s” press release reveals that it currently offers prospective members over 150 kilometers of marked and mapped trails for beginner to intermediate hikers, while the myriad of lakes and wetlands offer many paddling possibilities through the surface. They also point out that no motor vehicles are allowed on the land “to preserve its landscape and uphold its 100-year leave no trace rule to preserve its landscape and protect wildlife for generations to come”.
While some people may balk at the idea of a private members-only nature reserve park, this approach preserves the natural features of this land and ensures that any use is of the low-impact variety. Also, for the general public, Land’escapes architect Ben Samaan has just donated 12,250 acres of his property to the Nature Conservancy of Canada and will donate an additional 8,250 acres to the NCC or other other special interest groups. These lands, currently 12,250 acres, will be administered by the NCC and will be open to the general public for low-impact recreational use.
As part of the press release that was sent out to prospective members by Land’escapes’, “The Park” opened this spring and the first 20 people who purchase one of the membership classes will receive a special promotion; 10 percent off their annual membership and a $500 gift card to Wildrock Outfitters in Peterborough (www.wildrock.net).
Samann purchased 65,530 acres in Hastings County under the trade name Land’escapes in 2021. He began speaking to the acreage’s former owners, the Forest Land Group, in the summer of 2020 and in early 2021 they had made a deal for Land’ Escapes to acquire the land. Samann said he and his team were inspired by carbon capture projects across Canada, like the NCC Darkwoods Conservation Area in British Columbia, when they came up with the Land’escapes concept.
While many welcomed the news of this sprawling new nature reserve and park, others weren’t so impressed. For example, some of the hunting camps that had been on this land for decades felt that they were not treated fairly by Samann and his team regarding the conditions under which they could stay on the land to hunt. Even the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters got involved at arm’s length, trying to arbitrate any disputes between the approximately 1,200 hunters and 70 field hunting camps and Land’escapes. While some of the hunting camps have signed on to remain under the new terms stipulated by Land’escapes, some have not. Samann and his team of course deny that they were unnecessarily hard on the hunting camps, saying they wanted to protect the natural integrity of the land and ensure that any parts of it that had been used in any way either can return to their natural state.
Samann was at Limerick’s March 18 planning meeting via Zoom to request a rezoning of his land, a process that could take months. This rezoning would be for a parking area, some small buildings and the trails. Even though this is an environmental and conservation initiative, the park is a commercial enterprise as a whole, so Samann wanted to make sure the proper zoning was in place. The March 18 meeting included council, Hastings County Director of Planning and Land Use, Justin Harrow, and Crowe Valley Conservation Authority Chief Executive Officer and Secretary-Treasurer, Tim Pidduck.
Land’escapes “The Park” memberships are divided into two categories; unlimited membership and limited membership. The first costs $10,000 per year and includes; year-round access for the member and three guests, guaranteed availability on peak dates and long weekends, access to park amenities and services, priority reservation options, one free guided group trip and up to three discoveries park freebies, access to the online portal and a premium welcome gift specially curated before the first visit. This latter membership option costs $6,000 per year and includes; annual access to the park for members and up to three guests except for peak dates, paid access to park amenities and services, access to the online portal for reservations, viewing maps, finding resources and interacting with other members and a specialized welcome gift offered to the member before the first visit.
The facilities and services offered by “The Park” are as follows; an equipment library filled with canoes, tents, cooking systems and all-weather recreational equipment, workshops and classes (beginner to intermediate level) led by experienced park rangers on topics such as camping, campfires, portaging, paddling, how to deal with everything wild, animal encounters and more, plus guided tours and parkwide experiences offered year-round. More details are available on the Land’escapes website at www.landescapes.org. Samaan told the Bancroft Times last year that the park’s 26,400 acres will be open to 100 members initially, with that number eventually increasing to 250 members. They will be able to engage in low impact private recreational use, such as; camping, hiking, boating, mountain biking, bike packing, photography and nature appreciation.
“We are running with this because we want to make sure we have very low numbers. My vision is that it will be a community of people who are all serious about the backcountry, all serious about conservation. And there will be benefits that you can only have with small numbers,” he says.
Samann says the small numbers will also guarantee members a campsite at all times.
“If a member wants to get away from town at the last minute and escape to ‘The Park,’ they just text and they’re guaranteed a campsite. Or if they want to go on a day trip, they just head to ‘The Park’ at their convenience and enjoy it,” he says.
For more information about this new park at Land’escapes, people can go to their website at www.landescapes.org, or contact Batuszkin by email at [email protected] Samann told the Bancroft Times on March 30 that preparations to open “The Park” are going well, and while it’s the level of frenzy expected at this point, there haven’t been many surprises.
“The feedback from the public has also been pretty much as expected. It’s a unique concept, so there are lots of questions, price comments, and lots of applications and interests. At this point, we have all the members from last year renewing and a lot of requests, but we haven’t really finished the process with most of them. It takes time to reach them on the phone and make sure they are a good match,” he says. “But I am confident that we will have a healthy squad this year.”
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