One Gift, and Chile’s National Park System is Born
By Pascal Bonnefoy/The New York Times
Photo by Mariano Montel/flickr
An eagle soared over the lone house atop an arid hill in the steppes of Chile’s Patagonia Park.
In the valley below, not far from the town of Cochrane, President Michelle Bachelet announced the creation of a vast national park system in Chile stretching from Hornopirén, 715 miles south of the capital, Santiago, to Cape Horn, the southern tip of South America, where Chile splinters into fjords and canals.
The park is the brainchild of Kristine McDivitt Tompkins and her husband, Douglas Tompkins, who founded the North Face and Esprit clothing companies, and starting in 1991, put $345 million — much of his fortune — buying large swaths of Patagonia.
Mr. Tompkins died
at 72 in December 2015, after a kayaking accident in Patagonia. Months before, Tompkins Conservation, an umbrella group of conservation initiatives the couple directed, proposed a deal to the Chilean government: It would donate more than one million acres of their preserved and restored territory to Chile if the government committed additional lands and designated new parks to create a Patagonian national park network.