The family that bought a Langley forest to preserve it for future generations was honoured Tuesday at Grey Pit.
Thomas Blaauw used to drive past the lands known as Grey Pit and McLellan Forest every day, his daughter Janet told crowds at the ceremony.
The farming family started out with Thomas and his wife Ann, farming in South Langley in the 1960s.
In 1980, they bought a cranberry farm near the Grey Pit lands, and Thomas liked the forested lots. He always spoke of buying the property someday, Janet said.
After Thomas's death, his family was looking for some way to commemorate his passing.
They realized that the lands at the centre of the intense debate between Langley Township and locals and environmentalists were the same properties Thomas had admired for so long.
The Blaauw family decided to donate $2.5 million to Trinity Western University to allow the school to buy 25 acres of the land, located north of 84th Avenue near 257th Street.
"I know it's not the conventional way, but dad, here's that property you always wanted," said Janet.
The land will be used for conservation, environmental research, and education.
Janet said it was groups like the Watchers of Langley Forests (WOLF) that brought to their family's attention the forest.
A stone at one of the pathways onto the land will include information about the Blaauw family's donation.
"He was just a plain, simple Langley farmer who never wanted accolades in his life," Janet said of her father.
If TWU ever decides to sell the land, the Township has the right of first refusal, and can buy it back.
TWU interim president Bob Kuhn said it was a special gift, one that will allow students to learn there for years to come.
"Creating green space in this kind of a community is a very special thing," said Kuhn.
"I'm very grateful for this," he added.
Mayor Jack Froese noted that the Township had its feet held to the fire over the land issue by the community.
The Township wanted to sell a considerable amount of land in the area to pay for other projects, but took some off the market after an outcry.
Froese said he had hoped that the community would come forward to find a way to preserve the remaining lands.
"Today we can say that the community has come forward," said Froese.
@ Copyright 2013