The name Ruiter in Potton Township comes from Colonel Hendrick Ruiter, an American Loyalist, loyal to Great Britain, who fled New York State with his family and settled in the area around 1793 after obtaining a few thousand acres of land.
Later, at the beginning of the last century, the Ruiter Valley and the Ruiter Brook were the scene of important forestry activities, notably for the famous Singer sewing machine company which owned factories in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. But from the middle of the 20th century, the place regained a certain calm.
It is in the heart of this valley that the Ruiter Valley Land Trust was created in 1987.
Inspired by the well-established Land Trusts in the United States and Great Britain, it was the first conservation Land Trust in Quebec. And it played a role as a source of inspiration: other Land Trusts based on the same model were later created in Quebec.
It all started with a dream. In the 1960s, Robert Shepherd, a psychiatrist practicing in Montreal and a nature lover, had found a place of escape and healing in the Ruiter Valley. He bought an old property and brought his children there on weekends. With mostly farms and forest and little construction, nature was almost intact, which enchanted him.
Over time, he acquired several other pieces of land and one day set up a help center for people with mental illness of various sorts Robert Shepherd and his wife, Stansje Plantenga, found in this valley the unique happiness of nature and contact with wildlife and its habitat.
“I was born in Amsterdam, but have lived in Montreal for more than half my life. It was fate that introduced me to the Ruiter Valley in Potton Township, and I literally fell in love with the valley,” recalls Stansje.
Five years before his death, Robert Shepherd and his wife started thinking of ways to protect this nature in its integrity for the benefit of future generations.
After much research and work, in the mid-1980s, Robert and Stansje decided to donate most of their land to create this Land Trust to ensure the protection and integrity of the territory they cherished. Inspired by this project, which was a bold move at the time, others joined them.
Contributing to the creation of the Ruiter Valley Land Trust was the best thing I’ve ever done »
— Robert Shepherd
In the 1960s, the wilderness of the Ruiter Valley drew Robert Shepherd, a Montréal psychiatrist who loved to camp, canoe and rough it in the woods. This father of three had bought an old farm in Mansonville on the eastern slope of the valley. Robert later bought other properties in the valley and constructed log buildings to house a living community for healing schizophrenics.
In 1987, Stansje and Robert gave 162 hectares of land to the land trust in the hope that the area would one day be covered with old-growth forests. The Ruiter Valley Land Trust was born. A few years later, on a clear, sunny day, Robert took his family for a drive in the Jeep pick-up truck. He drove as far as he could up the dirt road in the mountain. The view was magnificent. There lay the Ruiter Valley, surrounded by the Sutton Mountains. “Helping to set up the Land Trust is the best thing I have ever done”, said Robert. “When the time comes to head off on the long paddle, I’ll be proud of the Land Trust, and comforted to think the peregrine falcon will still have large tracts of forest to call its own”. The Land trust was then three-years old.
When Robert drove that truck up the mountain, his body was riddled with cancer. What drove him to undertake something so difficult at such a time? Certainly his love and his sense of responsibility for the wilderness and his determination to leave it as a legacy for posterity. He died a week later. The Ruiter Valley Land Trust lives on.
The Ruiter Valley Land Trust is an organization dedicated to the conservation of important natural areas in the Potton region.
The Trust aims to :
in perpetuity small and large territories, of great ecological value, in the heart of the Green Mountains, in Potton;
about the importance and beauty of nature, by offering educational activities and training, to children and adults, fostering better appreciation;
this richness with the community of Potton and all nature lovers, thanks in part to a network of trails on part of its territory;
with conservation organizations to increase the knowledge and influence of the conservation community.
Board of Directors
At its head, the Trust has a Board of Directors composed of 7 directors, Potton residents and cottagers. In addition to the Board, it relies on a network of members, friends, volunteers and donors to ensure the smooth running of its operation.