What Is A Land Trust? A land trust is an organization, usually not-for-profit, that works to protect land and its natural resources.
Land Trust Strategies: A land trust can use various strategies to protect land. It can purchase or otherwise acquire title to land. If the trust doesn’t want to own the land, it might wish to purchase an easement which would restrict all land uses other than the intended use: i.e., wildlife habitat or urban agriculture.
Baltimore Land Trust: Baltimore City is lucky enough to have a land trust devoted to preserving community-managed open space in urban neighborhoods, called Baltimore Green Space.
If a Baltimore City resident wishes to build a garden on a city-owned vacant lot, the city will likely agree, and the resident and her neighbors may use the space for the amount of time that the city allows: usually one year at first, then in increments of five years.
However, the city is still the owner of the lot and may retake the land if it wishes to sell the lot or use it for some other purpose.
If the resident wishes to buy the lot to preserve her project indefinitely, the city may agree to sell it to her. If the lot is adjacent to her home, which she already owns, the city has created a system whereby she can buy the lot cheaply. If the lot is not adjacent to her home, she can still buy the lot, and it will likely be relatively inexpensive (PDF application to purchase city-owned property), compared to other similar property. However, buying a vacant lot from the city may cost thousands of dollars.
Baltimore Green Space: A resident may instead choose to work with Baltimore Green Space to create a community-managed open space. Baltimore Green Space has a special agreement with the city whereby BGS can purchase a city-owned vacant lot for $1. The resident will need to fill out an application that shows her project’s viability and community support.
If all goes well, BGS will purchase the lot from the city and will enter into a long-term agreement with a sponsoring organization that agrees to be responsible for the lot. The sponsoring organization can be a community association or an nonprofit organization. Now the resident doesn’t have to worry about all her hard community development and garden work being lost!
Land trusts can be a huge benefit for community gardens and nonprofit farms; they provide a vital sense of permanency and community agency when dealing with tricky issues of urban community development.
A few urban agriculture-related land trusts around the country:
Atlanta: Lake Claire Community Land Trust.
Baltimore: Baltimore Green Space.
Chicago: Neighbor Space.
Kingston, NY: Kingston Land Trust.
Madison: Madison Area Community Land Trust.
Portland, OR: Oregon Sustainable Agriculture Land Trust.
Providence, RI: Southside Community Land Trust.
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