The Judson family has donated 47 hectares of land on Crown Point to the Island Nature Trust, increasing the non-profit's holdings in the area to 121 hectares and saving the property from any future development.
The property off the southern coast of P.E.I. in the Stratford area southeast of Charlottetown is mostly salt marsh, but there are also sections of coastal forest, said Simon Andrea, the land acquisition co-ordinator with the trust.
"It's a great wildlife refuge and it has many different ecosystems," he said.
Andrea said they don't see donations this size very often, and he expressed gratitude to the donors.
"They really understand the importance of donating and protecting such an ecologically rich property," he said. "It basically just means that no more development will happen in this area."
A news release about the project said Donald and Virginia Judson bought the land in the late 1960s to become part of their family farm.
This map on the Island Nature Trust site shows the parcels of land on Crown Point now protected from development, outlined in yellow. The Judson parcel is marked with a red pointer. Salt marsh is represented in pink, and freshwater marsh is light blue. (Island Nature Trust)
"My entire family has actively worked to protect the land and keep it in its natural state," family representative William Judson was quoted as saying. "When we were approached by [Island Nature Trust], we decided the timing was right for us to donate the land to ensure its continued protection...
"We spent many years, while growing up, experiencing what the marsh had to offer — picking cranberries, hunting ducks in the fall, and playing in the marsh. We would follow the fox and raccoon runs, catch minnows in buckets, and dissect owl pellets. We knew where every water hole was located, and we watched the changes in the marsh year after year."
A group of lesser yellowlegs foraging along the shore at Crown Point. (Brett MacKinnon/Island Nature Trust)
Andrea says no camping or campfires will be permitted on the newly protected land, but it will be open to the public.
Its mostly wetland nature makes it not the most friendly kind of geography to reach, he said, but the trust is still encouraging people to visit.
"It's definitely great to go and look at the bald eagles that are soaring above," Andrea said. "It's fantastic. When we were there in May, we just sat at the marsh and we were watching the birds."
A beaver lodge in a pond along the Crown Point Road, in the Alexandra area of Stratford, P.E.I. (Ben Russell/Island Nature Trust)
Andrea said the surrounding areas of Pownal, Alexandra and Stratford will benefit from this land being preserved.
"It's great to have ecosystem services there, like carbon storage and protection from wind and storm surges," he said, adding that salt marshes can also filter any agricultural byproducts in water runoff, preventing silt, bacteria and chemicals from getting into the ocean.
Andrea referred to the land as "fairly undeveloped, at least recently." Once mostly farmland, it has been partly returned to forest within the last 20 or so years.
Three juvenile bald eagles hang out in a tree at Crown Point. (Ben Russell/Island Nature Trust)
He also acknowledged the land's origins, saying Mi'kmaq used to hunt seals from the sand flats as well as harvest oysters.
"The area is believed to contain Mi'kmaq and Acadian burial grounds, along with evidence of Mi'kmaq camps and French battlegrounds," the Island Nature Trust news release said.
Andrea said the Island Nature Trust plans to work with Indigenous groups to have the property regain its traditional name.