Gottlob Schmidt had a dream of preserving the land that he has spent so much time on.
And the realization of that dream will benefit all Albertans with the creation of the province’s 76th provincial park.
“It has always been my wish that someday I could leave this land to someone else,” said the 90-year-old farmer. “I felt that was the right thing to do because I couldn’t stand the idea that someone might want to come in with a bulldozer and clear out the trees, which seems to be a habit around here.”
Antelope Hills Provincial Park, 940 acres of uncultivated grasslands north of Hanna, is home to aspen groves, cacti, natural brush, wetlands and rare wildlife such as Sprague’s pipit, Baird’s sparrow, and the Thirteen-lined ground squirrel.
Schmidt, who has no heirs, was offered more than $1 million for the property by a developer, but valued the land and wildlife over the money.
He was born in Romania in 1924, moved to Canada in 1927, and his family settled on the land in 1933. Schmidt and brother Alex took over the farm and raised cattle together from 1945 to 1958, when Schmidt bought his brother out and became the sole operator.
From 1958 until the 1990s, Schmitty as he is known to his friends, raised purebred Hereford cattle. After getting out of the cattle business, he began gardening and raising pheasants and peacocks. He currently rents out his pastures.
Schmidt will be able to stay on the property until his death, when Alberta Environment will take possession. He has a room in the lodge in town, but still prefers to stay out at the farm, mowing the grass and doing chores around his place.
In a video acknowledging his gift, Alberta Environment and Sustainable Research Development Minister Kyle Fawcett said, “Mr. Schmidt’s offering is to all Albertans, and a legacy contribution representing his passion for the environment and his values of conservation and preservation.”
Schmidt received the province’s Order of the Bighorn Award in recognition of his donation.
The province will build a few trails, picnic areas and a parking lot, but will leave most of the property untouched. There will be no overnight camping, hunting or ATVs allowed on the land.
“I hope people will walk around and enjoy themselves,” said Schmidt. “I just want people to leave the grass the way it was, and let Mother Nature have her way.”