Thursday, June 25, 2015

Brandon Park Sold To Chinese Conservationist

Brandon coverBrandon Park, the 28,100-acre former estate of William A. Rockefeller, Jr. (a co-founder of Standard Oil with his brother John D. Rockefeller) has been purchased by Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma of China for $23 million according to the Wall Street Journal. Alibaba is the world’s largest e-commerce company. The property was put on the market in 2012, and the sale was completed in May of this year.

He bought the property “principally for conservation purposes, but also plans to use [it] as an occasional personal retreat,” the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a spokesman for Ma. Brandon Park is located west of Paul Smiths and north of the St. Regis Canoe Area and includes about eight miles of the Middle Branch of the St. Regis River, nearly a dozen trout ponds, and 2,200-foot Buck Mountain.

Ma is chairman of the China board of the Nature Conservancy and is a member of the global board. The Nature Conservancy introduced Ma to the property the Journal said. Ma has extensive experience in conservation projects in China, including co-founding the Sichuan Nature Conservation Foundation and the Laohegou Nature Reserve in Sichuan, which protects giant panda habitat and is the first protected area managed by a non-governmental organization in China.

Brandon Park is one of the largest wildernesses sold to a private buyer in the last 30 years. It draws its name from the village of Brandon, which was already in decline at the turn of the 20th century when Rockefeller purchased it and the surrounding land. Rockefeller posted the property launching a dispute with local residents chronicled in Lawrence Gooley’s 2007 award-winning book Oliver’s War.

Until her death in 2000, the property was owned by Wilhelmina du Pont Ross. An easement Ross donated to the Nature Conservancy in 1978 bans commercial development except for the construction of nine residences and logging operations which are ongoing on some of the property. The estate includes about 40 miles of roads, and numerous other structures, including homes, guest cabins, a fish hatchery, a sugaring operation, lean-tos, and more.

The Wall Street Journal story can be found here.

Photo of Brandon Park from prospectus prepared by Merrill L. Thomas Inc.

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John Warren

John Warren has been exploring the woods and waters of the Adirondacks for almost 50 years. After a career as a print journalist and documentary television producer he founded Adirondack Almanack in 2005 and co-founded the geolocation services company Adirondack Atlas in 2015.

John remains active in traditional media. His Adirondack Outdoors Conditions Report can be heard Friday mornings across the region on the stations of North Country Public Radio and on 93.3 / 102.1 The Mix. Since 2008, John has been a media specialist on the staff of the New York State Writers Institute.

John is also a professional researcher and historian with a M.A. in Public History. He edits The New York History Blog and is the author of two books of regional history. As a Grant Consultant for the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, he has reviewed hundreds of historic roadside marker grant applications from around New York State for historical accuracy.

2 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    One goal of any owner of this parcel is conservation. There is no choice. 28 thousand acres and just a smattering of buildings allowed under the conservation easement. Very well protected whomever bought it.

  2. Dan Ling says:

    Some time during the early 80s my friend and I put in on Quebec Brook (last I knew choked with blowdown) and canoed down it to the Middle Branch. Quebec Brook was the most magnificent mini-river I can remember in my long life of Adirondack canoeing, in spite of lots of brush-whipping by alders. But what a spectacular view of Azure Mountain from the intersection with the St. Regis! We proceeded up the Middle Branch and were impressed by Colvin’s “16-Mile Level” – one of the most beautiful stretches of quietwater in the ‘Dacks, with large white pines on islands, huge turtles gliding beneath the canoe over swift gravelbeds, and large “middens” of mussel shells along the sandy shores. There used to be a residence visible from the river where I think the access road today intersects it, and while there, two gentlemen informed us that the Rockefellers were “arresting people out of their boats.” Never known to shy away from such things, we proceeded upriver and beneath a steel cable stretched across it. The next miles were at least as beautiful as below.

    I also seem to recall speaking with a caretaker regarding the heritage trout strains of Bay Pond (I think it was Bay Pond). There was concern that opening the river to fishermen could introduce non-native species to the pond. In any case, I was the paddler who testified about this stretch of water in the Sierra Club / NYS river access suit, as well as the East Branch and Little River. I am glad elites can no longer close public waterways with impunity. But we must be vigilant in protecting the rivers and their ever more rare inhabitants.

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