[may split this into a series of stories regarding OLT's financial background... winter reserves, reservoir, land conservation, human resources]
Do your eyes glaze over when you look at a spreadsheet full of numbers? Do you wonder where the money goes? Me too.
I was recently at a meeting where one person pointed out that a couple of decades ago, the rates at the hot springs were lower and there were fewer people on staff. What happened? Part of the explanation is that Neil and Terry wore a lot of hats and worked a lot of hours. When the land trust was formed, decisions that they used to make around the dinner table were being discussed around that same table by a board of directors. There was a lot of work to do, background context to be digested, lessons to be learned, intentions and cautions to be communicated. Even though the land trust idea had formed and there was a board, the tax free status with IRS had to be obtained, which took some time and effort. Hard on the heels of that giant step we were faced with the "Land for Sale" signs along Road GG. OLT, with Neil's personal connection with the owners, contracted to buy the ranch. A few years later, and with much gratitude to you, the long suffering supporters of this place, we paid the bill and OLT became owners of the Everson Ranch. We have since purchased a couple more parcels along Road GG that protected the three mile view and the water shed of the hot springs.
In line with our land conservation mission and thanks to your generous contributions, one project that was undertaken after buying the ranch was the construction of a reservoir. There were dreams of using the water stored in the reservoir to irrigate a field using a circular pivot. The reservoir construction was costly and we learned from some mistakes. Now there is a nice reservoir that is part of a fish habitat project that we have with NRCS and the DOW. The fish are flourishing and the agencies are enthusiastic about the success. The reservoir (land trust?) successfully protects the whole cycle of the hot springs waters from recreation to power generation to natural areas to working farm and ranch.
Along the way, Neil and Terry still wanted to donate the hot springs and their other land to the trust. That took a while to accomplish and there were the inevitable legal fees and hurdles. At the same time, we entered into a conservation easement with The Nature Conservancy that provides another layer of protection for the springs, the hydroelectric property, and the ranch. We also have a conservation easement agreement with the DOW on the bat habitat at the mine. Now OLT holds a hot springs, a ranch, an old mine and bat habitat, a handful of tours and educational programs. There are still the usual (and unusual) aspects of maintaining the place with the added amenities of the new pools and carefully upgraded infrastructure. With our own water, waste water treatment and electric power systems, OLT provides all the infrastructure of a small municipality. It takes more people to keep up with it all and still attend to the requirements associated with the being a non-profit organization and the services and programs provided. We can never thank you, our members, enough for your patience and support.
Another question that was asked at that meeting was how much will the WWTP cost. As I tried to answer that question I remembered an initial presentation a few years ago from a company with a designs ambitious and innovative treatment systems. It was inspiring and beautiful. As we explored that option, we realized it was also very expensive. There were costs connected to investigating that possibility even though we ultimately decided to choose a less expensive avenue. Since then, we have paid a design firm for their work, we've paid fees to the state for inspections and permits. Each conversation with the experts includes a price tag. Altogether, we've already spent more than a $100,000 dollars ($118,000) for the WWTP even though we don't have many actual holes in the ground to show for it. Our estimate for the remaining actual construction costs of the facility is about $180,000. That is the amount for which we are taking donations. Your admission fees have not only kept the hot springs going, we have also covered all the costs of the WWTP so far.
We have also made improvements at the ranch. Existing, historic structures have been stabilized and maintained. Mike, the ranch manager, has been mending fences, irrigating hayfields, cleaning ditches, and tending animals while he has also worked on a bath/kitchen facility that will make it possible to have people visit and volunteer at the ranch. Once again, we offer our gratitude for your generous support.
by Doug Bishop, Executive Director