How protecting lands can boost community well-being

Guest Column for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle

May 18, 2023

Great communities have both incredible amenities and world class services. While these assets don’t necessarily need to be close to one another, when they can be, it creates a wonderful synergy. Nearly a decade ago, two local nonprofit groups, Gallatin Valley Land Trust (GVLT) and Haven, collaborated on a project that came to fruition earlier this month, one which promises to make our community better.

Last weekend, Haven opened the Barnard Center, a new shelter and community resource center to support survivors of domestic violence. The new shelter is located on 3 acres of a 12-acre property that GVLT helped to purchase for the purpose of parks, trails, open space and, yes, a new Haven shelter. The shelter is the culmination of a creative partnership between Haven and GVLT to build a community in which everyone can find safety.

The location of the shelter is shared publicly to bring domestic violence out of the shadows and to reduce the stigma that survivors often face in a hidden location. For the first time in Haven’s history, survivors will be able to bring their pets with them. The new shelter couldn’t come at a better time: Just last year, Haven served 12% more people than the year before, a signal that as Bozeman grows, so does the demand for our services. And this location — near a grocery store, an elementary school, and trails — is critical, and frankly would have been out of Haven’s reach had we tried to work alone.

So how did a nonprofit serving survivors of domestic violence, and a nonprofit focused on building connections through conservation and trails find a common cause? At the time that the 12 acres at Bozeman Pond went up for sale, Gallatin Valley Land Trust (GVLT) had been searching for opportunities to expand parks and trails to provide services and resources to underserved community members. Meanwhile, Haven was searching for a location to build a new secure shelter facility to serve families affected by domestic abuse.

With several offers to develop the property already on the table, GVLT and Haven had to act fast to secure the property. Realizing an incredible opportunity that would produce both environmental and social benefits, we teamed up to pool our resources rather than compete against one another. GVLT purchased the entire 12-acre property using bridge financing from The Conservation Fund, sold three acres to Haven at below market value, and the city of Bozeman purchased the remaining nine acres with funding from the Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOP) Bond.

More innovative partnerships blossomed from the project; other supporters included Run Dog Run, Hyalite Elementary, Bozeman Police Department, city of Bozeman, Bozeman Wind Drinkers, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and the TOP Committee. Thanks to all of these partnerships, Bozeman Pond Park is now a 24-acre park featuring a fenced dog area, paved and natural surface trails, stream, picnic facilities and a natural playground, all situated along a popular Streamline bus route.

This unique project demonstrates that effective land protection can also enhance the health and well-being of a community. It is a testament to how GVLT’s unique skill set is a catalyst for visionary partnerships and bringing people together.

Each year, thousands of people walk the trails, play with their dogs and kids, fish, and cook out and picnic in Bozeman Pond Park. By expanding Haven’s presence and services in the area, we will help all members of our community find connection and safety. The park and surrounding area serve as a critical connection, a shared backyard, and safe haven for all of our neighbors across the valley.

Erica Aytes Coyle is the executive director of Haven. Chet Work is the executive director of Gallatin Valley Land Trust

Read the original article here.