When did you fall in love with nature?
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of Landmarks.
This summer our board and staff met to learn more about the cost of caring for the land we have protected. We wanted to understand more because we know that our stewardship spending will increase dramatically as we open up trails at San Vicente Redwoods and our Watsonville Slough Farm. And they would skyrocket if we acquired Red, White, and Blue Beach (see page 5 for that tantalizing possibility).
We began the meeting by asking the board and staff to briefly answer the question: When did you fall in love with nature? We had the idea that the answer to that question would tell us something about the importance of providing access to nature. We were right.
Most of us fell in love with nature on trips to parks, especially camping trips. “It was magical,” one board member said, recalling a camping trip when she was four years old. “It was more magical than Disneyland.” Another described a school trip from the Bay Area to Santa Cruz. “The trees, the mist, the ocean, it was another world.”
For others, the magic was found closer to home. One board member recalls lying in tall prairie grass and looking up in awe at the trees. I remember exploring the swamps around our house in Virginia and crossing fields to the woods while hunting. I am still drawn to wetlands and fields bordering woods (which is a pretty good description of our Watsonville Slough Farm).
By the time we finished going around the room, we all got the point: loving nature begins with being in nature.
We then moved on to how expensive it is to build parks and trails and how much more expensive it is to take care of them year after year. The chart below shows you the growth in Land Trust stewardship expenses over the past decade – and includes future costs as we open two new properties to public access.
It is easier to raise money to acquire land than to take care of land (and trails). And the cost of caring for the land, over time, far exceeds acquisition costs. A few years ago, a study was done that compared the cost of acquiring state parks in Santa Cruz County to the cost of taking care of them. It wasn’t even close. Over the past 100 years it cost five times more to care for the parks than to purchase them (yes, in constant dollars).
The challenge for those who love nature, and want others to love it, is to meet the cost of people being in nature. At the Land Trust, we have met the ever-growing stewardship challenge the past ten years. We met the challenge because members answered the call of nature inspired by their own formative experiences.
We know that nothing makes a nature-lover like being in nature. We will draw on that experienced certainty and give to others the opportunity to fall in love with nature the way we did – by being in it.