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1% for Green Space healthy first year

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On the first anniversary of 1 Percent for Green Space, a program sponsored by the Tecumseh Land Trust, progress can be measured by funds raised and increased participation by local businesses. The program has collected between $5,000 and $6,000 for green space preservation, and the number of businesses participating has increased from 10 to 27, according to Bob Barcus, co-chair of the Tecumseh Land Trust Development Committee. However, more important than the numbers, Barcus said, is the attitude of the business owners and the consumers, who willingly participate.

“This is nonprofit collaboration of the best kind,” Barcus said.

One Percent for Green Space is a collaboration between the Tecumseh Land Trust and Yellow Springs businesses, in which participating stores give customers the opportunity to donate 1 percent of their purchase price for green space preservation.

Modeled after a program in Crested Butte, Colo., that raised $1 million in its first seven years to preserve open space between their town and the scenic mountains that surround it, the Yellow Springs program targets the Jacoby Greenbelt to the west of the village. The area, which constitutes the Jacoby Creek watershed, is one that is not covered by the Tecumseh Land Trust’s easement purchase program, because most of the property does not qualify for state and federal agricultural easement funds, Barcus said.

“We have the green belt,” he said. “We are trying to preserve it close in to town.”

The funds raised may also be used for an area south of the village along both sides of U.S. 68. Easements have already been purchased on much of the land to the north of town, because of Whitehall Farm. According to Barcus, about 10,000 acres of farmland have been protected so far, mostly to the north.

Although the Tecumseh Land Trust is a Greene and Clarke County organization, all funds collected under the program are earmarked for the preservation of undeveloped land in Yellow Springs and Miami Township. Even though it is a two-county organization, “Yellow Springs is the greatest supporter of the Tecumseh Land Trust,” Barcus said.

“The villagers support 1 Percent for Green Space and we are affording that same opportunity for our visitors,” Barcus said. “Many customers are into it and bring it up themselves.”

Recognizing that it is expensive to protect land in perpetuity, TLT is initially saving the money, hoping that it will grow enough to fund a project sometime in the next year, Barcus said. The plan is that 3 percent of the money raised will go toward administrative expenses, but that has not yet happened, as generous startup donations have thus far covered administrative expenses.

The goal of the program is to collect a voluntary one-percent donation on all sales in the village. Ideally it would be collected automatically, similar to the collection of a sales tax. Signs posted in the participating businesses would inform customers that they may opt out by informing the sales clerk. But it doesn’t always work out that way.

Over the course of the first year, Barcus said, organizers learned that automatic collection is a problem for some business owners, so now participating businesses use one of three different methods for collecting the contribution. Besides the automatic collection, some of the participating businesses have chosen not to ask the customers for a contribution and instead they simply donate 1 percent of their net sales. Others have elected to ask their customers, “Is it okay if I add 1 percent for green space?”

But asking for a contribution is often inconvenient in a high-volume business or one where the owner is not the one operating the cash register, Barcus said. Next year, he expects to double the amount raised in the program in its first year, mostly due to the fact that there will be more businesses collecting contributions automatically.

Technical problems have also been a challenge for some businesses wanting to use automatic collection. Many of the newer computerized cash registers are equipped to record an extra fee, but programming the register has been a problem for some. As a result, Barcus said, five willing businesses are on hold from participating in the program.

The Tecumseh Land Trust has set aside funds for technical assistance for those businesses that have run into technical problems and have enlisted a local techie to help out.

“I would like to remind villagers to ask, if they feel the 1 percent is not being collected,” he added. “The businesses know their own clientele. Three out of four businesses asked have said yes.”

Every business has its own way of accounting, so monies collected might be turned over monthly, quarterly, or annually. What ever way a business might choose to collect the money or turn it over to the Tecumseh Land Trust is fine, Barcus said.

“There is a hassle factor, especially at startup,” Barcus said. “We appreciate the fact that this is extra work for them. They support the goals of what we are doing. They recognize that money isn’t everything.”

There was a one-year-long process before starting up, including polls, focus groups, and public meetings. However, on the first anniversary of operation, Barcus recognizes that they are still in the early stages, still learning, still growing.

Barcus has been to Crested Butte to talk to the merchants. He has also spoken on the program at the Ohio Farmland Preservation Summit. And, although one other land trust has inquired about the program, Barcus believes that the Yellow Springs program is only the second in the country and the only one in Ohio.

Currently, the participating merchants are the Arthur Morgan House, Asian Collection, Basho Apparel, Bentino’s Pizza, Carlos Computer Service, Cozy Critters Pet Sitters, Current Cuisine, Earth Rose, Epic Book Shop, Evelyn’s Dog Biscuit Kitchen, Garden of the Goddess, Glen Garden Gifts, Global Gallery, Greenleaf Gardens, House of Ravenwood, Ken Simon Framing, Little Art Theatre, Miami Valley Pottery, Peifer Orchards, Rita Caz Jewelry, Selwa’s Hairstyling, Springs Motel, Tibet Bazaar, Unique Creations, Yellow Springs News, Yellow Springs Pottery, and Yellow Springs Psychological Center.

“I am grateful to the merchants for their civic responsibility,” Barcus said.

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