NALT’s Hourston steps down at AGM

Land trust still searching for new money, secures large property in Qualicum Bay

Nanaimo and Area Land Trust’s founder and longtime director has stepped down.

Barbara Hourston, who has actively worked for NALT for two decades, announced she is stepping down from her director position at last week’s annual general meeting.

Current directors, staff and NALT members were on-hand to celebrate the work Hourston has put in since NALT’s inception and thanked her for her commitment.

“That was definitely the biggest news of the evening,” said Gail Adrienne, NALT executive director, adding that Hourston was presented with an honourary director’s position.

Hourston first approached the idea of a land trust in Nanaimo in 1992 when she made a presentation to city council to help preserve Linley Valley. In 1992, she organized the Linley Valley Park Committee and in the spring of 1995, founded NALT, as well as the Cowichan Community Land Trust in Duncan and Habitat Acquisition Trust in Victoria.

Finances were also on the agenda and while NALT will have enough money to see it through the next year thanks to the Project NALT fundraising initiative, the organization will need to come up with a long term plan to make it sustainable, Adrienne said.

The land trust has struggled with money since the province clawed back grants for environmental agencies more than two years ago.

“We’re not sustainable yet,” said Adrienne. “We’re going to have to keep doing [fundraising] at least once a year for a while until we get that sustainable income. But we’re past the crisis of the last year.”

Project NALT was successful in attracting some new members, which NALT has to search further and further for every year, and people willing to commit to monthly giving through direct withdrawals are even harder to find.

“We’re not getting as much as we’d have hoped,” said Adrienne. “We’re reaching out to supporters who are a little bit more removed and haven’t been members so it’s a bit of a harder sell. They’re more willing to give a one-time donation.”

NALT is also going through the final steps in securing a property title for an eight-hectare piece of private land, which features coastal Douglas fir forests, in Qualicum Bay that was given to the organization by a supporter.

Adrienne said the Nanaimo River Initiative, an effort to increase awareness about Nanaimo’s water resource, will remain the focus throughout 2012.