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marmar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Sep-11-11 06:31 PM
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Trusts: A Uniquely Commons Form of Ownership


Trusts: A Uniquely Commons Form of Ownership
Not private, not government, they preserve resources for the public good

By Peter Barnes

Trebah Garden is a spectacular piece of paradise in Cornwall, England, a verdant ravine with a huge variety of trees and shrubs that winds its way down to a beach on the Helford River. Several years ago, I visited this garden to enjoy its beauty. I soon learned that its history and management structure are as interesting as its flora.

The property is first recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as belonging to the Bishop of Exeter. It passed through the hands of many squires and farmers until it was acquired in 1831 by a wealthy Quaker family, which developed the extraordinary garden. In the twentieth century, the property changed hands several more times, and the garden gradually deteriorated. The last private owners sank a small fortune into restoring the garden, then donated it to a trust so it could be opened to the public and preserved for future generations.

Today, anyone can become a lifetime member of this trust by making a donation of 250. Members get free access to the garden (other visitors pay an admission fee) and elect a council to manage the property. They receive an annual report, audited accounts, and notices of meetings at which they may vote and submit resolutions. At present, there are about a thousand voting members of the trust.

Gardens of Change

As I wandered through the acres of ferns and rhododendrons, it struck me that Trebah is a microcosm for the larger transformation we need to make. It has passed from private ownership to a form of common ownership that enables it to be shared and preserved. If we think of the world as a collection of gardensthat is, of ecosystems in which humans play active rolesthe Trebah Garden Trust model becomes extremely interesting. It illuminates both a process by which natural gifts can shift from private to common ownership and an institutional modelthe trustfor managing such gifts as permanent parts of the commons. ...........(more)

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