John Peirce, GaLTT’s fourth president

John Peirce and his wife Nancy settled permanently on Gabriola in 2009, having purchased, in 2000, the land they would turn into Namaste Farm. John had grown up in Massachusetts and Nancy in Vancouver, so when it came to retirement, after living in Calgary for many years, being near the ocean and having a hobby farm were top priorities. And so, Gabriola became home.

John’s parents were involved in land trusts in the 1960s, and the first land covenants he knows of date back to the 1880s in Massachusetts. John came to Gabriola with knowledge of this history, a belief in the value of land trusts in promoting conservation, and a professional background as a geophysicist, and was thus naturally drawn to GaLTT.

During his tenure as GaLTT’s fourth president, from 2011-2013, John helped bring trail licences to Gabriola. He acknowledges as a key inspiration his predecessor Tom Cameron’s focus on the importance of trails to community connectivity. John began by acquiring a copy of the trail licencing guidelines for the Trans Canada Trail, and was then able to adapt these for Gabriola. A significant piece was in arranging for GaLTT’s insurance provider to agree to protect, under GaLTT’s liability coverage, landowners who sign a licence to allow public access to trails on their property. John has a vivid memory of a windy October day signing of the first licence, by Diane and Bill Cornish, for the trail linking Barrett Road and Rollo McClay Park. By the end of John’s time as president, 8 licences had been signed, considerably enhancing access and connectivity around the island. John speaks with pride of this legacy, noting that today GaLTT has over 25 trail licences.

It was also during John’s tenure that GaLTT first became involved with conservation covenants. While other covenants on Gabriola use the Natural Area Tax Exemption Program through the Islands Trust Conservancy, this program doesn’t allow for publicly-accessible trails on the covenanted property. This posed a problem when Gabriola resident Sally Robinson wanted to establish a conservation covenant but also wanted to permit access to the beautiful trails on her property. The Islands Trust connected Sally, an American, to American Friends of Canadian Land Trusts, who were able to offer Sally IRS tax receipts for the value of the covenant. This American Friends covenant protects what is now known as Robinson Woods, with GaLTT monitoring its conservation and maintaining trails.

Inspired in part by this experience, John has spent the last eight years on the board of what is now called American Friends of Canadian Conservation (AFCC). Since 2011, “AFCC has completed 40 projects in six provinces and facilitated the flow of $40 million in cash donations from Americans to various Canadian land trusts”. He would like to see more property owners on Gabriola—American and Canadian—engage in consultation with GaLTT to “participate in protecting ecologically valuable parcels of land.”

A closeup of a hat with two buttons attached. One is GaLTT's logo, the other says, "You have to be more careful with an island."

John is a proud honorary GaLTT member. Reflecting on this history, he notes how gratifying it is to know GaLTT is a “highly respected organisation on the island”; adding, “it warms my heart to hear people speak highly of GaLTT, because I’m part of making that happen.”

We’re celebrating our 20th Anniversary with a series of posts capturing the reflections and perspectives of GaLTT past presidents. Thanks so much to Trish Matson for conducting the interviews and writing these articles. Watch for more in coming months!

Tags: , , , , Categories: HistoryPublished On: April 30, 2024

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