“Our land is more valuable than your money. It will last forever. It will not perish as long as the sun shines and the water flows, and through all the years it will give life to men and beasts. It was put there by the Great Spirit and we cannot sell it because it does not belong to us."
-Chief Crowfoot, Chief of the Blackfoot Nation
Sandy Cross had a vision to preserve a piece of paradise. The landscape of rolling foothills, covered in native grasses, aspen forest, and groves of willow, is Sandy’s legacy.
Sandy began purchasing land south of Calgary in 1945 for what would become Rothney Farm (after his mother, Helen Rothney MacLeod). As the son of one of the Calgary Stampede’s “Big Four,” A.E. Cross, Sandy was known around Calgary as coming from a long line of cattlemen. Others would comment on his love for and connection to the rolling foothills he grew up on.
Ann Abbott captured the heart of Sandy, a long-time bachelor, and in 1973 they were married. As they settled into life on Rothney Farm together, they watched the expanding City of Calgary approach, and new acreages divide the farmland around them. Concerned about what the future held for the land, they decided to act.
In 1987, Ann and Sandy donated nearly 2,000 acres of their land to the Province of Alberta. At the time it was the largest private land donation in Canadian history. Sandy wanted the land to be preserved the way it was for future generations to enjoy. The Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) operated the area to ensure it was managed according to Sandy’s vision.
Funds were raised in 1991 to build the education centre, Belvedere House, and support the education programs at the Cross Conservation Area. In 1996, Ann and Sandy Cross donated another 2,800 acres of land, for a total of 4,800 acres or 12 square kilometers. That year the Sandy Cross Conservation Foundation was created to manage the Conservation Area independently of the NCC.
Their generous donation of 4,800 acres in now known as the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area. It is now independently operated and managed, and continues to fundraise. It offers educational programs year-round to groups of all ages and maintains several kilometers of trails that attract visitors from around the world.
Ann Cross passed away at the age of 92 on January 20, 2013; and Sandy Cross passed away at 89 years of age, on December 13, 2003.