GaLTT is 10 years old this year. Let’s celebrate!

Jenni Gehlbach

Gabriola Land and Trails Trust

Monday, March 17 2014

In the print issue of this Sounder, Gabriola Land and Trails Trust (GaLTT) is sending Gabriolans our new brochure to celebrate our tenth anniversary and remind you what we do and what has been achieved.

Our community has always been supportive - we thank you, and at our recent AGM we awarded honorary lifetime memberships to Sally Robinson and to Luanne and Don McCollum, in recognition of their extraordinarily generous support of GaLTT.

GaLTT’s history

In 2000, there was no Cox Community Park, no Descanso Bay Regional Park, no Elder Cedar Nature Reserve, and no 707 Acre Park. Logging and housing development were damaging land and closing off access to many trails. Gabriola Walking group and Gabriola Horse Group were actively promoting trail access and the Gabriola Land Conservancy was advocating for preservation of the island’s ecosystems - ideas that became central to GaLTT’s mission.

The Parks and Open Spaces Action Committee (POSAC) for Electoral Area B was formed in 2003, to link the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) and our community. Several POSAC members saw that a registered society could help in fundraising and organizing volunteers for park and trail initiatives, and in the fall of 2004, GaLTT was founded as a charitable not-for-profit society. By 2005, there were 150 members.

GaLTT’s first major trail building project was in Cox Community Park, which had been purchased in 2002 by the RDN following a park referendum. GaLTT volunteers worked through the winter of 2004/5 to build “Yogi Trail,” parallel to Taylor Bay Road and the connecting trail to River Place.

Over the years GaLTT also helped with the protection and management of Elder Cedar (S’ul-hween X’pey) Nature Reserve, and we helped build the trails and the boardwalks over its wetlands. Later, we supported the establishment of Coats Marsh and 707 Acre Park, participating in their management planning, and last year we “adopted” the Gabriola Streamkeepers group as an integral program of our society.

Covenants

In 2010, GaLTT acquired the legal ability to hold covenants on private property to facilitate permanently protecting it against development or degradation. Covenant holders must ensure that the terms of legal covenants are maintained in the long-term. Our first covenant, (co-held with the Islands Trust Fund) is on a private tract of forested land near Brickyard Hill. As well, GaLTT co-holds (with NALT) the covenant on Elder Cedar.

GaLTT also worked recently with American Friends of Canadian Land Trusts to negotiate a covenant on Robinson Woods, owned by Sally Robinson. Such covenants enable US citizens covenanting land in Canada to claim a tax advantage through the IRS as well as reducing their taxable capital gains in Canada.

Public trails from Descanso to Drumbeg

From the beginning, GaLTT organized volunteer work parties (supervised by the tireless Randy and Lynne Young) to clear and maintain trails, setting a goal to have public trail connections from Descanso Bay to Drumbeg.

As well as the trails across public land, GaLTT now contracts trail licences with willing private landowners, allowing regulated public access across their land. GaLTT maintains these trails, puts up signs and holds the liability insurance. We have negotiated eight of these trail licences, which are key to completing our connected trail system.

Last October over 70 people took part in GaLTT’s first “end-to-end” walk, starting at Descanso Bay campground and ending up at Silva Bay Pub. To do this, we reopened an overgrown trail connecting the southeast end of 707 Acre Park with Tait Road, effectively linking the trail systems at the south and north ends of the island.

Our fifth edition trail map printed on tough, water-resistant paper is very popular with locals and tourists; maps are sold at the Farmers’ Market and through the Co-op, North Road Sports, and Pages Marina. The map may also be accessed on our website: www.galtt.ca.

Community engagement

GaLTT has a display table at the Farmers’ Market all through the summer, and at other community events, and in the last couple of years we have also tried to reach out more to the community, both in person and through our website and Facebook.

The Streamkeepers group engaged with children at Gabriola Elementary. GaLTT led guided walks and talks in the Descanso Bay/Cox Park area, along False Narrows, throughout 707 Acre Park and at Whalebone Beach. We also held guided birdwatching walks in Coats Marsh and Sandwell Park. Hundreds of people participated in these events.

GaLTT maintains a good working relationship with provincial and regional parks departments and other government bodies. We provide many volunteer services maintaining trails and removing invasive species such as Scotch broom and Daphne laureola on public lands. We work closely with Gabriola Commons, helping them to manage invasive species and building trails and boardwalks to protect their wetland.

Members or supporters?

We do get asked, “What does my GaLTT membership buy me?” Your GaLTT membership fee is a charitable donation with tax receipt precisely because you receive no direct benefits. But there are benefits to our community.

Your membership money is the primary source of funds to support GaLTT’s work:

· preserving ecological systems;

· maintaining trails and parks;

· insuring volunteer trail builders and walkers;

· paying for the legal work needed for trail licences and covenants;

· buying tools and materials for trails and boardwalks;

· controlling invasive plants;

· supporting the Streamkeepers, and so on.

 Not bad for $20 a year.

The brochure you have received includes a membership form - send it with your cheque to GaLTT at the address on the form. 

Annual fees or monthly donations?

We’re volunteers and have no paid staff. Our income from membership fees barely balances our routine expenditures. Because it’s a hassle to remember to renew each year, we hope that our supporters will now choose instead to donate a small amount (as little as $5) monthly by automatic bank transfer, or by using a credit card through Canada Helps. Please email us at info@galtt.ca to find out how to set up these types of donations.