Santiago (AFP) – Douglas Tompkins’s widow vividly remembers the suspicions the late billionaire raised when he started buying up land in Patagonia, the natural paradise at the bottom of South America.
Some accused him of preparing a storage site for American nuclear waste, she says. Others said he was starting a cult, still others that he wanted to launch a Jewish state — even though he was raised Episcopalian.
Now, just over one year after his death, she hopes her late husband’s final wishes for the land will lay the controversy to rest for good.
Tompkins, the co-founder of The North Face outdoor label and clothing brand Esprit, has donated a tract of land the size of Rhode Island to the Chilean government as a national park — the largest such donation in history.
This week, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet accepted the 407,000-hectare (one million-acre) donation in a ceremony held in a verdant Patagonian meadow and attended by Tompkins’s widow, Kristine McDivitt, a former CEO of the outdoor clothing and gear company Patagonia..
The ceremony came a year and three months after Tompkins’s death at age 72 in a kayaking accident in the Patagonia region he adored.
“Douglas Tompkins’s generosity and love of nature” shine through in his gift, Bachelet said on accepting the land on behalf of the Chilean state.
“If there were still…