This sixteenth year of operation of the L.M. Montgomery Land Trust has been our most promising year to date.
By far our most significant achievement of the year was the acquisition of “the Ash Property” at the end of the Cape Road, 135 acres of coastal agricultural land that was under immediate threat from development.
We had been interested in preserving this property for many years: we first made contact with the Ash family, residents of the U.K., through their New York lawyer 11 years ago and expressed our interest in working with them to preserve the property.
In the intervening years, despite the difficulty of keeping in touch, we persevered, and when the family put out a request for expressions of interest in the land – which raised the possibility of development – several years ago we made sure to reinforce our interest.
After many meetings and countless email messages, finally, in early 2010, the Ash family agreed to sell us the land outright, at its appraised value of $1.57 million, with the proviso that we attach a restrictive non-development covenant to the deed at purchase, a condition we obviously happily agreed to.
While a combination of market conditions and timing made sale to the Land Trust attractive to the Ash family, we know that in no small way a love of the land and a desire to see it preserved in its current agricultural state drove the family’s decision as well, and for this we are truly thankful.
To pay for the land we took out a collateral mortgage with Malpeque Bay Credit Union, secured with the land itself and guaranteed by the Province of PEI, and have launched an ambitious fundraising campaign to pay off this mortgage over the next 3 years.
When we acquired the Ash property, 90 acres of it was in its first year of a 3-year lease with a local farmer, a lease we assumed. It is our intention that the land remain preserved in agricultural use forever.
We announced the acquisition of the property last week with a press release and an announcement in the Legislative Assembly by Hon. Robert Vessey, Minister of Tourism.
While the Ash property is no doubt the “crown jewel” of the L.M. Montgomery Seashore, it is by no means the only property, and we continue to work toward the preservation of the other properties in the area, either through outright acquisition or by working with land owners to have restrictive covenants attached.
In all cases our goal is simple: to support the continued use of the land for agricultural purposes, underpinned by the desire to preserve viewscapes, provide farmers with a financial alternative to development, and to pay homage to the rich heritage of the land.
To support the financial obligation of the Seashore project we have established a very active Fundraising Committee over the past year and it has been meeting weekly to chart a course for us to raise the several million dollars the project will require. Scott Stewart will provide more details on the work of the committee in his report.
Another important development this year was establishing a formal relationship with the Heirs of L.M. Montgomery. When the Fundraising Committee set out to establish the “L.M. Montgomery Seashore” project, the question was raised as to whether we had ever formally sought permission from the heirs to use the name “L.M. Montgomery” in the name of our organization.
It turns out we hadn’t – a case, it seems, where everyone thought someone else had handled this issue.
With the assistance of Sally Keefe-Cohen, the heirs’ literary consultant, last year we made contact with the heirs and made a formal request to use the name “L.M. Montgomery” both in the name of our organization and in the name of the Seashore project, and, I am happy to report, this was granted. We made adjustments to our printed materials and to our website to this effect, have kept the heirs informed on our activities, and hope to conclude a formal licensing arrangement shortly.
None of our work would be possible without the generosity and cooperation of our donors and supporters, a few of whom deserve special mention – the Marc Gallant Estate, Subway restaurants, and COWS – but all of whom, large donor and small, we value and appreciate.
I’d like to finish by thanking our directors and staff for their hard work over the past year.
My fellow Executive Committee members, Scott Stewart, Joan Sinclair, George Campbell and Monette Connaughton, have provided much useful advice and guidance over the year.
Executive Director Bill Bishop and our new Fundraising Coordinator Doris Poole have kept the Land Trust running on a day-to-day basis ensuring that minutes are prepared and distributed, charitable tax receipts go out, meetings are held, foundation proposals are prepared and that all of the other tasks required to keep a small non-profit organization on track are carried out.
Hon. Marion Reid and Bill Andrew, our L.M. Montgomery Seashore Campaign Co-Chairs have generously donated their time and energy to helping the Land Trust raise the funds required to bring the Seashore project to fruition, aided ably by Kevin Lewis who has been volunteering his time and abilities to the Fundraising Committee.
Joan Sinclair, who had to step away from the organization due to other commitments this year, was instrumental in getting the Seashore campaign off the ground and deserves our gratitude for that.
Our Treasurer George Campbell and his staff and Kindred Spirits continue to go above and beyond the call of duty in handling our finances, reporting, payroll remittances, and tax returns.
Thanks to Paul Michael, who having served 9 years on the board is required by the bylaws to step away for a year, has, with his colleagues at Campbell Lea, provided us with legal services and advice for almost a decade and has helped us navigate through several complicated property and development rights acquisitions.
Grant Thornton in Summerside, especially Lori Ramsay, has again generously donated their accounting and tax advice services.
We continue to receive helpful clerical services from Barb MacDonald at Island Nature Trust; it’s a service that’s easy to overlook because Barb always does such a good job.
Our 17th year of operation promises to be a busy one: the fundraising committee has laid excellent groundwork for the L.M. Montgomery Seashore project, and our fundraising efforts will start in earnest in the weeks and months to come. Our goals are ambitious and have forced us to evolve as an organization; fortunately the dedicated work of our volunteer board, donors and supporters has proved, so far, up to this task and I have high hopes that over the next several years we will realize our goal of preserving a significant portion of the scenic coastal lands in this area in agricultural use forever.