Regional district dips into reserve to cover cost of Moorecroft park

The Regional District of Nanaimo has dipped into its reserves to make up a $384,000 shortfall for the acquisition of Moorecroft Regional Park.

The $4.8-million property, purchased in partnership with the Nature Trust of B.C. in March 2011, was paid for through approximately $2 million in park reserves, short-term borrowing, and a commitment from the Nature Trust to fundraise up to $500,000 toward the purchase price within a two-year time frame.

When the time came to hand the money over in November, the total money raised came in at $116,300.

Tom Osborne, RDN general manager of recreation and Parks, said the difference will be made up through parks reserves.

“There is no change in the tax requisition,” he said. “It does mean that some capital projects, mainly bridges, and some potential acquisitions down the road may take a bit longer to secure.”

Moorecroft Regional Park is a 34-hectare property in Nanoose, formerly owned by the B.C. Conference of the United Church of Canada. Due to its rare conservation and recreation value, the RDN first identified it as a priority in 1995. When the property came up for sale, it had an appraised value of $7.9 million and a requirement for a conservation covenant, which is registered with the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Osborne said that because the property was on the open market, it created an ‘act now’ situation for both the RDN and Nature Trust of B.C. to acquire the property.

Under the agreement, the nature trust was to provide as much of the $500,000 as they could before the deadline.

“It wasn’t a guaranteed amount, but it was an agreement to endeavour to raise up to,” Osborne said. “There was always the potential that they wouldn’t raise up to the $500,000.”

Jasper Lament, CEO of the Nature Trust of B.C., said every concerted effort was made to raise the half-million, including paid advertising, media releases, brochures, letters sent to donors, space on the trust’s website, and several fundraisers.

“Most of the transactions we are involved with ourselves don’t have a campaign of this length and visibility, and the amount of staff time that went into this Moorecroft campaign was very significant,” Lament said. “It’s unfortunate that the goal wasn’t reached but it wasn’t for a lack of effort.”

Osborne and Lament said the biggest challenge was that due to the way the real estate transaction happened, it allowed no time for the fundraising to be completed before the final contract was signed.

“The perception was that since the agreement was signed and closed on that date, there was less of a conservation urgency and so that made fundraising quite challenging,” Lament said. “It’s common for land trusts to have difficulty fundraising for projects that are already completed.”

The Nature Trust of B.C. has partnered with the regional district in past acquisition efforts such as the Englishman River and Coats Marsh on Gabriola Island.

“The RDN is very appreciative of the Nature Trust of BC – both their staff and volunteers,” Osborne said. “The nature trust coming on board at a critical time, to secure the [Moorecroft] property, was key.

“In the end, 85 acres of land is protected in perpetuity, and it includes 79 acres of land that is deemed of high conservation value. I think that’s good value.”

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