'My uncle's rolling in his grave': Relative angry donated conservation land sold off by LTVCA
IONA STATION, ONT. -- The descendant of a respected Elgin County doctor, teacher and entrepreneur is fuming after a substantial family bequest was sold off.
Jim Crane is now demanding the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority be held accountable for its actions.
The property is a 3.25 hectare (eight acre) woodlot off Iona Road, in western Elgin County.
At its centre sits a rock cairn built in the memory of his uncle, Dr. James Crane.
“He was known as probably one of those most generous people in Elgin County. He was a giver not a taker,” Jim tells CTV News.
James Crane was a medical doctor, teacher and an area pioneer of the telephone system.
He also loved the woods, “His goal was to preserve the conservation, he was a real conservationist,” Jim says.
And so a few years prior to his death, in 1959, James planted trees and donated the woodlot to Western University.
It was not long after that Western decided to pass the land off to Elgin County for a dollar.
Then in the mid-1970s Elgin County did the same, and transferred the land to the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority (LTVCA).
A plaque on the cairns cites the conditions all public owners were to follow for the Dr. Crane woodlot.
It reads, “To be maintained thereafter as a demonstration woodlot, as a park, and as a memorial to the distinguished native son of Elgin County.”
But that’s not what’s happened. Jim discovered recently the lot has been sold to a private buyer by the LTVCA.
He’s most upset to have discovered the sale price was $9,000, “My uncle’s probably rolling over in his grave over this.”
But enter the other side of the story.
While, conservation authority admits it did have plans to turn the lot into nature trails, spokesperson Randall Van Wagner says funding cuts in the 90s killed the concept. As a result, the property was declared surplus.
Now 25 years later, it says tax issues and a bill for a new drainage forced the sale, with a big condition.
“They put a restrictive covenant on that title, and when you do that, it’s not developable. You cannot bulldoze it all and plant corn.”
However, CTV News has discovered the township has approved a permit for a new home on a portion of land, something allowed under the sale agreement.
That leaves Jim saddened that a portion of his uncle's legacy may be lost.
He's asking for the memorial to Crane be moved off the property at LTVCA’s expense.
“As far as this monument goes, I believe it should end up in the cemetery where my uncle is buried.”
And that could happen. Von Wagner says the money from the sale sits awaiting a future purpose, "We do have capability to do something with that fund.”
Which suggests Crane’s legacy may yet live on, in a new way.