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
We would like to acknowledge that the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area is on the traditional territory of the Blackfoot Nations, which includes the Siksika, the Piikani, and the Kainai. We also acknowledge the Tsuut’ina and Stoney Nakoda First Nations, the Métis Nation (Region 3) and all peoples who make their homes in the Treaty 7 region of Southern Alberta.
Sandy was born Alexander Rothney Macleod Cross on April 11, 1914 to Alfred Ernest (A.E.) Cross and Helen Rothney Macleod. A.E was a prominent Alberta rancher, brewer, and politician who started ranching in 1886 at the Cross family’s A7 Ranche in Nanton. Helen was the daughter of Colonel Macleod and was the first Caucasian to be born at Fort Macleod. Growing up, the Cross family split time between the ranch and the Cross house in Inglewood.
Following in his family’s footsteps, Sandy began purchasing land south of Calgary in 1945 for what would become Rothney Farm (named after his mother). 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.
Image: Cross family at the A7 Ranche (from Glenbow Museum archives)
Ann Abbott captured the heart of Sandy, a long-time bachelor, and in 1974 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 2000 acres of their land to the Province of Alberta. At the time it was the largest private land donation in Canadian history. Ann and 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 their 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.
Image: Sandy and Ann photographed at the Conservation Area.
Their generous donation of 4,800 acres is now known as the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area. It is now independently operated and managed, and continues to fundraise to maintain the legacy of its donors. 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.
Image: ASCCA volunteers in front of an original barn at the Rothney Farm site.