The Wilcox family,1955 on Lake Massawippi. Brandy (the dog), Bart, Gordon and Tom. Dr. Bud Wilcox on water skis. Who took the picture? Libby Wilson Wilcox sitting on the bow. The Wilcox camp in the background.

Tom Wilcox is a founding trustee of the Massawippi Foundation and the Massawippi Conservation Trust.

Tom is not new to Lake Massawippi, in fact he is a fifth generation American who is part of the long tradition of Americans who have been coming to Canada to escape the heat of the big city and enjoy life at the lake. His grandfather bought land 120 years ago and his father built the camp after the end of World War two.

When asked for his most memorable moment during his tenure on the board, Tom, who overflows with enthusiasm and love for the area, couldn’t stop at just one or two examples.

Peak memorable moments include:

The recognition of the Foundation and the Trust as legal entities.

  • Around 2010, Tom and a small group of individuals, sprang into action after noticing that a large tract of land on the mountain had been acquired for development. These neophytes decided that they needed to create a legal entity to preserve the pristine forest and ecologically sensitive watershed.

The acquisition of Louise Ransom’s property.

  • Tom was a neighbour of Louise Ransom (February 2021 article). He spoke to her for years about conservation, trying to get her to safeguard her land. At first he tried to get it under the protection of the Nature Conservancy of Canada but the piece was too small for them to consider. A small but significant parcel of land which Tom calls an anchor, pivotal to the conservation of the watershed of the lake.

The Challenge Grant to build the working capital of $ 100,000.

  • For every $2 raised a small group of donors were prepared to give $1 towards the goal. The money was needed to operate, buy land, pay taxes and legal fees etc. Tom, as President of the Baltimore Community Foundation, lent his expertise to the group. They were successful not only because of their personal passion but because donors recognised the need to protect and preserve the land for the community and future generations.The dedication of the Massawippi trail at the top of Côte du Piémont.

The dedication event was the shining jewel in the crown, commemorating all of the fundamental beliefs of the founding members and the donors.

  • First Nation, English, French, local residents, politicians, people of all stripes came together to celebrate the opening of the trails which gave the general public access to what was once private property. It was a recognition of the conservation values that the Wardman family  and others like Louise Ransom. Métis Paul Carignan and his wife Sylvia Bertolini sang an Anishnabe Sun Song. Their presence commemorated the original Abenaki people whose territory included this land. The land was recognized for its value and returned to the public as a protected space.
Tom spoke about the original idea of creating a legacy to secure what everyone loved most, the green space and fresh water of Lake Massawippi. Establishing an entity to ensure a clean, quiet, safe space. The group had a desire to work with the water protection association, Bleu Massawippi and the local communities to protect and preserve, to ensure the health and prosperity of the region.

From the citizen of Baltimore who settled in Baltimore Bay (on the west side of the lake) comes a heartfelt message for the community. The trails are the democratisation of the conservation acquisitions. The conservation efforts are not about creating green play grounds for the rich but rather something for the public. The idea is that private property is made available for public use. A concept which is more popular in the United States.

According to Tom, everyone who has grown up on the lake lived in fear of roads (a.k.a. development) appearing on the mountain. When he was a little boy, there were no roads to Blueberry point or northwards. Reaching their cottage was and still is by water access only. Properties would be worth ten times more if there were road access. The entire landscape would be different. And that is not why his grandfather bought the land 120 years ago.

Tom and his wife hope that the Wilcox camp will stay in the family and perpetuate the now six generations of family tradition. The surrounding property is protected by a conservation servitude. Along with the deep respect from the long family tradition comes the idea that through the Conservation Trust the area will be preserved for future generations and the public can have responsible access to the land. People cannot build more cottages on the land however the property can be sustained complimentary activities can be created.

To end the interview Tom said, “ General Motors is going to be carbon neutral by 2035 and all electric by 2045 so he would like to think that boats on Lake Massawippi could be all electric and quiet, a model, an eco-tourism center being one with nature like the Abenakis who lived here before we invaded. They were one with nature.”

Can we be?

February 17th, 2021

FMF/MCT _ Letter to our Trail Visitors –

Dear Visitors to our Trail in Ste. Catherine de Hatley,
As many of you know, on Sunday, February 14th, a complaint was made to the Magog police
about cars parked on Côte du Piémont and parking tickets were issued to at least 19 visitors to
our trail. We are very sorry to those who received tickets and want you to know that the
Massawippi Foundation, the Massawippi Conservation Trust, the municipality of Ste. Catherine
de Hatley are working on both a short term and a long term solution to this traffic situation to
everyone’s satisfaction.
It seems that during the pandemic, we have become a victim of our own success! Until answers
are found, we need to warn you that until the end of March, you are still at risk of receiving a
parking ticket on Côte du Piémont, especially on weekends.
We know that you and your families need these trails during these difficult times and we want
you on our trails so we are working as quickly as possible to facilitate your access to the trail
without fear of receiving a parking ticket.
We will keep you informed on our progress.

Thank you.

Margot Heyerhoff
President,
Massawippi Foundation

Following our article last month about the Quatre Vallons cross-country ski trail maintained by Mr. Gilbert Beaupré, here is a sequel about the old Skiwippi trail which many readers will fondly remember.
The old 33km (20 mile) long trail went from Auberge Hatley (Robert and Lilian Gagnon) via Hovey Manor (Stephen and Kathryn Stafford) to the Ripplecove Inn (Jeffrey and Debra Stafford). It was the 1980’s and cross-country skiing had become very popular. Herman Smith-Johannsen (1875-1987), nicknamed Jackrabbit, is credited with introducing the sport to Canada. Originally from Norway, he was a  pioneer in North America and spent his life promoting his sport. Interesting fact – He died in 1987 at the age of 111.
In 1985 three of the Townships top inns created an innovative and luxurious skiing and dining experience. This award winning idea, recognised by the provincial government as a first in co-op marketing was a hit with tourists and locals. The alliance offered the clients a unique opportunity to ski from one end of the lake to the other. The package included six nights’ luxury accommodations, six country breakfasts and gourmet dinners. Skiers slept in a different hotel every second night.  Bags and sometimes guests were transported to the next stop.
When interviewed, Mr. Stephen Stafford said people loved the idea and quite a few of his customers came to the hotel because of the huge amount of publicity generated by the Skiwippi package.

Articles appeared in the

HEADLINES

Nordic Skiers Pampered with Fine First Class Fare
SNOW-COUNTRY DEALS HELP TO BREAK THE ICE

“QUEBEC’S SKIWIPPI TRAIL links the Hatley Inn and Manoir Hovey in North Hatley, and the Ripplecove Inn in Ayer’s Cliff overlooking Lake Massawippi in the Eastern Townships.”
High Class Ski Week
Canadian Skiing Trail Is the Inn Place to Be 
“The best part of the trail, however, is that it links three of Quebec’s best inns. After a day in the frosty outdoors, the inns–Auberge Hatley, Hovey Manor and Ripplecove–glow in the darkness, beckoning skiers to evenings of fine dining and vintage wines.”
CROSS-COUNTRY WITH COMFORT IN QUEBEC
“The scenery and serenity of skiing from Inn to Inn.”
An Anglo-French Corner of Quebec
“Outward appearances in Estrie may suggest New England. But this is not New England. It’s certainly not Ontario either, the nearest Anglo province, nor even the Quebec beyond its boundaries. Trying to define it, the Quebec Government guide book describes it as being “a celebration of bicultural existence possessing a discreet Anglo-Saxon charm blended with ‘quebecoise’ joie de vivre.”
Find LINKS below.
The trail was free and open to the general public as well as guests of the hotels. Each hotel contributed to the upkeep of the trail. The rights of passage agreements were held between private landowners and the group.
Along with the three hotels another favorite stopping place was the Refuge Les Sommets, an outdoor base in St. Catherine de Hatley. It was at the end of chemin des Sommets, which turns off Chemin de la Montagne.
The view was amazing as was the lunch and hospitality offered by Madame Juliette Deland. She served rich hot Québecois food, including ragout, tourtière and the “best pea soup you ever tasted” to quote Stephen Stafford.
Michael Greyson, North Hatley native remembers Mme Juliette, an older silver haired lady, quite petite, who ran a great kitchen and large dining hall, with many tables often filled by Scouts, cubs or girl-guides. Especially in summer, but also winter weekends. During her 30 years, she welcomed and fed thousands of people, from diverse groups from all over the world. There were testimonials to her all over the walls, signed by grateful campers, who stayed in dormitories in separate buildings.Michael also fondly remembers skiing through the field alongside Highland cattle, dropping down to the Hovey for a hot drink and carrying on afterwards down the lake. It was not an easy trail. It was filled with hills where you had to be sure of your skills.
The south end of the trail was in Ayer’s Cliff. You had to ski across the frozen lake before joining the southern mountain trail. The views were breath taking. The hospitality was the best blend Eastern Townships English and French culture and tradition.
The Auberge Hatley and the Refuge des Sommets are both gone. However sections of the trail are still available to the public via the Quatre Vallons trail which crosses the Massawippi trail.

Cross-country skiing is experiencing another resurgence. People are rediscovering the joys and benefits of being outdoors. How lucky we are to have access to trails right here in our backyard.

An old sign, left over from the Skiwippi Trail, still visible today on the Massawippi trail.

LINKS
sun-sentinel
LA Times Dec. 1990
NY Times

Originally a forest inhabited by Abenakis, this land now comprising Scowen Park was partly cleared in the early 19th century for settlement. Over the years, a sugar camp was built in the maple grove high on the ridge. Blackberries grew abundantly. Below, a house and barn stood, while cattle grazed in the pasture nearby.

In 1980, the land was bought by prominent businessman and Townships historian Philip Scowen, and his wife, Eulah (Reed), residents of North Hatley. Eulah was a descendant of the Reeds, early settlers who built houses and mills in this area once known as Reedsville. Soon after buying the land, Philip and Eulah donated it to North Hatley and Hatley Township for recreational use by citizens and to preserve it as a green space in the center of the growing village.
After 30 years of sitting vacant a solution was found by involving the Massawippi Conservation Trust.
In 2015 Margot Heyerhoff, in her role as Chair of the Massawippi Foundation, spoke with Annis Karpenko, who is a grand-daughter of the late Philip Scowen. They agreed that the land be donated to the Massawippi Conservation Trust so that it could be used as originally intended. So much time had gone by that the original people involved in the donation, the Mayors and citizens of the time who knew the intention of the donation were no longer around.
After a period of negotiation which included reserving a parcel of 1 acre for the possibility of a future Fire Hall, the other 34 acres were transferred to the Massawippi Conservation Trust in 2016. We would like to thank the members of the family (Martha Maksym and Annis Karpenko in particular) and municipal councils who took part in the negotiations. The park officially opened on Thanksgiving weekend in 2016 with initial public trails and many Scowen family members present. These were the first trails built by the Trust on conserved lands. Now with 4 ½ kilometers of trails at Scowen Park they are enjoyed for hiking and snowshoeing on a year round basis.
The park is maintained by the Massawippi Conservation Trust. One hundred trees and shrubs were planted by the local school children in 2019 at Capleton Road to provide a shaded path from the road to the forest. In July 2021, we plan to have an event open to all at the park to celebrate our 10th anniversary. The official announcement will be posted on our website and Facebook page, as well as in our newsletter.

The park is a generous legacy from the Scowen family for all to enjoy and work together to protect. We thank Philip and Eulah Scowen for their visionary donation and we thank their descendants for their role for making this park what it is today.

*P.S. The trails need ongoing maintenance. You can continue to support them through your donations.  
Contact us at [email protected] for more information.

L. to R. Martha Maksym, Martin Primeau, maire du Canton de Hatley, Margot Heyerhoff à l’ouverture du parc Scowen octobre, 2016..

Martha Maksym chez le notaire signant, au nom de la famille Scowen, l’acte de donation, printemps 2016.

L. to R. Peter Scowen, Margot Heyerhoff (Chair of the MASSAWIPPI Foundation) and Martha Maksym, two grand children of Philip and Eulah Scowen.

Decendants of Philip and Eulah at Scowen park during the 2016 Thanksgiving opening.

 

Since its inception in 2011, the Massawippi Foundation has given over $ 450,000 to the community around the lake. Although the Foundation collects funds primarily for the Trust to buy land and build and maintain trails, it also gives back to the community.

One of the early recipients was Camp Massawippi 

The camp, located in Ayer’s Cliff, serves children and adults who have physical disabilities. Whether it be summer camp, day camp or respite days and virtual camp, the Camp provides an essential service for recreation, learning and growth in a beautiful
  
environment. It is a vibrant community which has dedicated staff who often come back year after year to work there. The current interim director, Mr. Jed Richman, was himself a camp counsellor for three years back in the 70’s.

In 2013, the Massawippi Foundation gave a grant to the camp for them to construct a safe and green path that was wheelchair friendly to facilitate access to their beach.

Always thinking about the future, the governing board of the camp is looking towards improving the kitchen facilities in order to make them accessible for educational programs. They plan to build a kitchen garden and will be needing volunteer gardeners for maintenance as well as people to teach campers about gardening.  Is this something in which you would like to PARTICIPATE?  

2021 is the 70th anniversary of the Camp which coincides with the 10th for the Massawippi Foundation. It is the perfect opportunity for us to highlight our strategic alliances. These alliances are key to the health and growth of the community. People helping people is INVESTING in our community!

To find out more about the dining hall fundraising campaign at Camp Massawippi simply click here.

As we celebrate the 10th year anniversary of the Massawippi Conservation Trust and Foundation, our neighbour, Mr. Gilbert Beaupré has been operating his trails for much longer than us. In 1977, Mr. Beaupré decided to build some cross-country ski trails. He has made this his labour of love and his duty to maintain over 12 kilometers of trails every winter for more than 40 years.

The circuit crosses over several private properties so he needs to get a seasonal right of way from the land owners to allow him to open the trails. Starting in the fall, he renews his permissions. He cuts back scrubby growth that might be in the way of the skiers. With the help of some family and his wife Yvette Beaupré, who acts as secretary, he cares for the trails. You can find him every weekend at the kiosk behind the Saint Catherine de Hatley community centre. This is the entry point. An annual membership costs $35 for individuals or $70 for families or you can pay the day rate which is $4.

The trail offers all the charms of the countryside: wooded areas, raised trails and panoramic landscapes. It is a demanding destination for skiers as the terrain is very hilly. When you start on the trail, you start by climbing up a field from which you have a beautiful view of Mount Orford and then you never stop going up or down afterwards. Where there are valleys, there are hills! At one point the ski trail crosses our snowshoe trail and in other places they run parallel to each other.

The contact phone number is his home phone. Mrs. Beaupré answers the calls. Gilbert laughed when he told me that sometimes people call late at night, expecting to leave a message on a business phone. After 10 p.m. he doesn’t answer.

Mr. and Mrs Beaupré don’t see each other very much in the winter as Gilbert is busy 7 days a week grooming and manning the ticket booth.
He used to ski as well, along with his family. He doesn’t ski anymore and his kids have moved away. When they come to visit, they still like to go out on the trails.

Website, Facebook page, other social media accounts? No, he doesn’t need any marketing. People discover the trails from friends and word of mouth.

Somewhat like the Massawippi Trail, Les Quatre Vallons ski trails are a treasured find for Townshipper outdoor enthusiasts.

“Thanks to the rights of way offered by the many owners, including the Massawippi Trust, we can offer very beautiful trails,” says Gilbert Beaupré, who looks forward to the arrival of the winter season every year.

Les Quatre Vallons will continue as long as Mr. Beaupré remains passionate. He intends to continue the picturesque circuit for as long as possible.

Address:
76 Rue la Grande, Sainte-Catherine-de-Hatley, (Quebec)
Téléphone : 819 843-7324

I think many of us are grateful that 2020 is over and are looking forward to starting anew in 2021.

The Massawippi Trust holds 1200 acres of pristine forest and land under conservation around the shores of Lake Massawippi. We have also built close to 14 kilometers of trails. We kept these trails open during the pandemic. This has enabled people to get out and enjoy nature, fresh air and help balance their mental and physical health.  We have been truly discovered in 2020, after 10 years of existence!

Sometimes alone, with a dog in tow, with a friend or family member, people have come to the Massawippi Trail whether at Scowen Park (North Hatley) or in St. Catherine de Hatley simply to GET OUTSIDE… 

OUTSIDE their 4 walls and INTO a green breathing space.

 

2021 is our 10th year anniversary

Our motto is: Discover Participate Invest

Discover: our mission to conserve land and to create a healthy community for the 5 municipalities around Lake Massawippi; your passion for the environment and beauty of the natural landscape; the trails and the health benefits for young and old, including our four legged friends. 

The four elements of conservation include: protection, research, recreation and education. Which one will you discover first?

Participate: in the conversation about conservation and healthy living; by walking on the trails as recreation but also an opportunity to learn; in sharing the sense of belonging to the community. The conservation mission requires participation. Do you want to participate?

Invest: in a healthy lifestyle that includes environmentally friendly choices; in your passion for a good life; support the work of the Massawippi Foundation and Trust financially, as a donor of land, or as a volunteer.  The Foundation has raised over 4 million dollars since its inception. In order to continue and ensure the perpetuity of our work, we need to build an endowment fund. Contributions come in many forms. You can invest yourself in the mission with time, ideas and financially.