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Update: The Land Conservancy accepts deal for Wildwood Ecoforest

The Ecoforestry Institute Society says it was shocked to learn a deal for Wildwood Ecoforest was accepted by The Land Conservancy. Pictured here, Kathy Code, society spokeswoman, Bruce Hepburn, Wildwood site coordinator, and Barry Gates, society vice-chairman. - Nanaimo News Bulletin flle
The Ecoforestry Institute Society says it was shocked to learn a deal for Wildwood Ecoforest was accepted by The Land Conservancy. Pictured here, Kathy Code, society spokeswoman, Bruce Hepburn, Wildwood site coordinator, and Barry Gates, society vice-chairman.
— image credit: Nanaimo News Bulletin flle

A former apprentice of late-ecoforestry pioneer Merve Wilkinson has made an offer for Wildwood Ecoforest, says the Land Conservancy of B.C.

Mark Randen, a local ecoforester, made the offer and the conservancy accepted, but it is still subject to court approval.

The non-profit land trust is looking to sell Wildwood, located south of Nanaimo, due to multimillion-dollar debt.

Cathy Armstrong, conservancy executive director, said Randen’s deal is $725,000 – $100,000 of creditor forgiveness and $625,000 cash.

“There is a financial consideration, the offer is cash, and we are solid around the ability of him to pay, so that that’s one aspect, that’s a little bit better for creditors ... we’re always balancing two things. As we’ve always said, it’s repayment to creditors and it’s protection of property,” said Armstrong.

The Ecoforestry Institute Society, a non-profit and Wildwood’s forest managers, had been working to purchase Wildwood and said it was shocked. The society most recently offered $700,000.

Wilkinson sold the 31-hectare site to the conservancy in 2000 with the expectation it would remain in the public domain and the society wondered if a private sale is against the Charitable Purposes Preservation Act.

“I guess the point of the matter is, they’re simply not allowed to sell a publicly donated property to private individual. That’s really the bottom line here, that people donated $1 million to purchase Wildwood for TLC originally. Those people thought that the property would be held in perpetuity,” said Kathy Code, society spokeswoman.

“They had every reason to expect that TLC would hang on to it. Now that TLC is in court-monitored protection, then they expected it to be transferred, or sold, over to another charitable society.”

Armstrong said consideration was given to the society’s offer and pros and cons were weighed.

“It included creditor forgiveness and $580,000 in cash, so a little less on the cash, held a mortgage and had a history of a year now spent trying to get it over the finish line, so those were the factors,” said Armstrong.

In terms of Wildwood being held in public domain, Armstrong said there will be a land covenant and a management plan, which specify what takes place on the property. Randen will follow Wilkinson’s vision of sustainable logging, she said.

Armstrong said a court date for the sale has not yet been set.

The News Bulletin could not reach Randen for comment.

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