National Trust battling fiscal woes, building relationships

The National Trust for the Cayman Islands is looking to this financial year with “cautious optimism,” attendees of the organization’s annual general meeting were told last week.

Although it has valuable land reserves, the National Trust is facing financial difficulties due to reductions in government funding and private sector charitable donations.

In its annual report, released at the meeting at the Barcadere in George Town on Thursday, National Trust Council chairwoman Carla Reid said, “Each year brings different challenges. However, over the past three years, the one constant has been the continued, annual reduction of government funding.”

Ms Reid said the past year saw a further decrease in funding levels below that of 2005. Because of this, she said, the trust was forced to make cutbacks, including reductiond in staff and maintenance to some of its historic sites. However, despite tough financial times, much had been accomplished, the report stated.

Ms Reid thanked members, volunteers, donors, sponsors and staff for their continued support and generosity. She said the trust looked forward to the next financial year with cautious optimism, as the organization looks to build a working relationship with the new government and forms new partnerships with international agencies, such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

She outlined some of the accomplishments and acquisitions that had been made to protect landmass during the past fiscal year, including the purchase in September 2012 of 2.74 acres of land in Preston Bay, as well as 8.25 acres in the northern section of the Mastic Reserve – bringing the total there to 843 acres.

In Cayman Brac, the family of the late Dr. Roy Herrman and his wife Estelle donated an additional 8.6 acres, for a total of 26.1 acres. The purchase of a further 82.3 acres in Little Cayman brought the total land acquisition for the trust in the 2012/2013 financial year to 101.9 acres. A total of 3,302 acres is now under the group’s protection.

The report also highlighted changes in its historic programming, including the loss of the Mission House tour coordinator and the transition of Denise Bodden into the new role. Renovation work on Fort George and Eldemire House are ongoing and Cayman’s indigenous Blue Iguana has been downgraded from critically endangered to endangered.

In order to meet the financial challenges, general fundraising events were increased and a robust public awareness campaign was launched. Fundraising efforts gained $103,000 in 2012/2013 from donations and various events.

In her report, the trust’s executive director, Christina McTaggart Pineda, made mention of a new educational initiative – heritage studies seminars with Tasha Ebanks-Garcia, who is with the Ministry of Education.

Ms McTaggart Pineda also said the trust was looking at developing new international strategic partnerships, as well as staging a new fundraising initiative called “Adopt Nature,” in which people can sponsor an area in one of the trust’s reserves. Additionally, a Sister Islands eco-heritage tour is being developed along with an after-school club for middle school students called “Heritage Heroes.”

Increasing the trust’s membership base is another goal, she said.