COLUMBIA — The Greenbelt Land Trust of Mid-Missouri is asking for volunteers to help clean and manage open space on land they have purchased or received through donations.
“There is enormous potential for a private land trust like this and there is a niche for this environmental, nongovernmental, nonprofit organization,” said Fred Young, president of the land trust. “It treads the line between public parks and private property.”
In 1999, the 75-acre Hinkson Valley Nature Sanctuary, accessed by Rock Quarry Road, was donated to the land trust and is now a nature conservancy with a trail running through it. Saturday, the land trust is holding its last work day of the season at the sanctuary from 10 a.m. to noon.
“We’re destroying invasive, non-native plants that have infested the woodlands — mostly cutting, poisoning and uprooting the Bush Honeysuckle shrubs growing in the understory of the creek side forest,” said Jeff Barrow, project manager of the land trust, in an e-mail. “We’re attempting to remove these non-native plants to allow the return of the native shrubs and flowers.”
The land trust started in 1993 as a coalition that aimed to be proactive of open space and water quality in Columbia, and Barrow said it’s now a land trust for protecting agriculture lands, water quality and open land and is now a member of the Washington, D.C.-based Land Trust Alliance. The local land trust works with landowners, managers and the City of Columbia to help mid-Missouri protect its open land.
In the early 2000s, residents of the County House Branch neighborhood raised money to purchase two acres near their homes and donated the land to the land trust to manage. The land was full of Wintercreeper, a type of evergreen vine which the group has worked to get rid of.
In 2005, Tom Vernan, owner of a vineyard near Huntsdale, was interested in protecting land and made an agreement with the land trust for an agriculture easement. “Tom is committed to agricultural preservation,” Young said.
Within the past year, the land trust has made many accomplishments. Through a grant from the Missouri Department of Conservation, the land trust was able to hire a paid, part-time project manager to monitor activity in the Bonne Femme watershed. It also worked with MU students to improve its Web site and design other materials, and continued to monitor their two properties, the Hinkson and Spring Valley nature areas, and maintain their easements.
Goals set for the upcoming year include increasing the number of easements. The trust currently has three land owners interested in donating land.
“We have laid a lot of the groundwork that a Land Trust needs,” said Dee Dokken, board member of the land trust. “We have to have high standards so people know we will be able to keep our agreements to protect the land.”