Wilmot Township blocking 230 acres of land donated to community by Schneider family over parking dispute

By Justine Fraser

The Schneider family has generously opened their property in Wilmot Township for the community to use freely for over 40 years. Many people use Schneider Wood’s interconnecting trails to go skiing or hiking, as the trails remain open year-round.

Over 230 acres of land are maintained by the Schneider family and for the past four years they have been trying to donate that land to the rare Charitable Research Reserve, to fulfill a wish made by the matriarch of the family.

Jane Schneider is now 94-years-old, still healthy, and wants to see the land kept as a conservation area that the community can continue to use whenever they want.

Wilmot Township is making it challenging for the Schneider family to donate that land to conservation, as they insist a parking lot must be placed on the land and paid for by the Schneider family.

In a letter on rare Charitable Research Reserve’s website, Jane Schneider’s family is asking for the community’s help to get the application approved before their mother passes away.

“The Schneider family really wants to make sure that the property is protected forever, both for conservation but also maintaining the public access,” said Dr. Stephanie Sobek-Swant, executive director of rare Charitable Research Reserve.

“The Schneider family has been clear that is not an option for them, the neighbours do not want additional parking either, none of the residents or users of the property are in favor of it.”

Currently, there are a few properties, all owned by the Schneider family, that they want to be severed off to allow existing tenants to continue living in.

“It’s probably going to be, single handily going to be, the most important donation that will be made for conservation in the region because it’s such a large parcel of land and because it’s so highly ecologically significant,” said Sobek-Swant.

The family is giving the land to the community for free, with no additional requests.

In the letter online, the Schneider family stated, “We have successfully addressed many other issues demanded by the township but as a family we do not want a parking lot on our lands.”

Sobek-Swant added that some of the plant and animal life in that 230 acres can’t be found anywhere else in the region.

The Schneider’s alongside rare submitted an application to the Township of Wilmot in March last year and have faced several roadblocks since.

“What we hear from the township is that there are liability and insurance concerns being cited but don’t have any real information. I requested more information when this first went to council, but we really haven’t received much,” said Sobek-Swant.

She added that the advice from their lawyers and hired individual planners is that there is no legal requirement to the demands made by Wilmot Township as the property is simply changing ownership.

“We even have an agreement with the Schneiders that would keep us from advertising the property and things like that, so there is a plan in place to manage and continue to balance this public use as it has happened.”

The land the Schneiders are hoping to preserve is worth a couple million dollars, all of which could end up in the provincial government’s hands if Wilmot Township continues to sit on theirs.

“The clock is just ticking because Jan Schneider, the family matriarch, who owns those properties, she would really like to see this donation completed during her lifetime. There’s a worry that if Jane passes, the family has been very clear they will not be able to go ahead,” said Sobek-Swant.

The Schneider family is asking Waterloo Region’s community for help to get the 230 acres of land donated.

They are asking the community to write, phone, or email their support for the land donation to Wilmot council and Wilmot’s mayor, Natasha Salonen, so the property can remain free and open to the public for future generations.

Photo courtesy of rare Charitable Research Reserve.

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