The Board of Directors of the Ashby Land Trust is pleased to offer this Annual Report to our membership and friends.
This year the work of the Board focused primarily on fundraising to complete the purchase of Mt. Watatic. By December 31 we had paid expenses and repaid $575,000 plus interest on our loans. Only $25,000 remained to complete our financial obligation. The organizational effort to accomplish this goal was huge. We have many more skills and have learned many things that will continue to strengthen the Land Trust. We are also confident that our experience and increased visibility both locally and regionally will serve us well as we continue to protect land.
In spite of the focus on the Campaign for Watatic, the Land Trust also pursued other priorities this year. In the area of community outreach and public education, Bob Leary led a winter hike up Mt. Watatic in January, and we sponsored an information table at the Pumpkin festival in October. In November, Ken Brown, Jeanie Lindquist and Francie Steffian met with students at Ashby Elementary School for an exchange of ideas about land conservation. This was the first of several conversations we will be having with the students, and we were all pleased at their participation.
Our organization and structure continue to mature. This year we successfully underwent our first full audit, and appreciate the impeccable bookkeeping of Treasurer Chris Nash. We received our permanent 501©3 status from the Internal Revenue Service, which means that we were successful in meeting the criteria for a non-profit tax-exempt charitable organization. We opened a brokerage account and have accepted our first gifts of stock.
At the end of the year the Board voted to co-hold a Conservation Restriction with the New England Forestry Foundation on a portion of the William and Vincent Arnold property on New Ipswich Road. This is our fourth Conservation Restriction.
We include in this report a few highlights of the Campaign for Watatic in 2003. During this year the Campaign reached its highest level of activity and intensity.
For the past five years we have focused on protecting the most visible and threatened aspects of our rural landscape. We have successfully protected open fields and mountain slopes. Our primary goal for this year is to focus on our monitoring and stewardship responsibilities. We will craft a policy for assessing and accepting conservation restrictions, develop our monitoring teams, and document the properties under our protection. This year the Board will also evaluate our land protection priorities and discuss a focus on wetland protection.
A number of our goals carry over from year to year. We have ongoing relationships with a number of landowners who are interested in conserving their land. We look forward to more conversations with students and teachers at Ashby Elementary and to sponsoring more hikes. And we are planning a gala celebration on Mt. Watatic when we complete the installation of our donor recognition exhibit later in the spring.
The Board of Directors thanks you for your part in preserving the rural character of Ashby. The President would like to extend an especially heartfelt Thank you to the Board for all their help and support this year.