Bear Creek Community Land Trust (BCCLT) is an intentional community situated on 184 acres of land in the rolling hills of northeast Missouri. Our mission is to uplift the health of people and the earth by weaving our lives together as an inclusive, interdependent community. We are co-creating a culture that keeps us rooted in place, wild at heart, and connected to all that is sacred. We come together to responsibly grow food and build homes; reimagine and recreate the Commons; and explore traditional crafts and technologies of human and animal power. We choose to live more simply, creating a sanctuary from ways of life that undermine health and wholeness. We seek to offer to the world what we know and create through cottage industries, education and immersion opportunities.
One aim of a land trust is to avoid seeing land as a resource to be speculated on and profited from, and rather conceive of land as something to be cherished, protected and held in common. BCCLT aims to be a reasonable and fair land-holding structure that provides clear guidelines for the process of leasing a plot of land within the community. We strive in our decisions to seek a balance which is best for all living beings. Decision making happens through a group consensus process or by the committee affected, with the membership voting on issues that come up at a minimal number of meetings. We ask members to agree to abide by a conflict-engagement process to help maintain strong, authentic relationships. We also ask members to agree to a baseline set of guidelines regarding energy use and ecological stewardship.
Upon entering membership within the Land Trust, each member is asked to submit a Land Use Plan, to be reviewed by the other members. Within the Land Use Plan are proposed impacts the member plans on making to the land, air, water, sound and animals on their leasehold. Also submitted by incoming members is a map of proposed and possible infrastructure, additional residents, and developments, etc. Through this process, other members can give advice and feedback and flag any potential impacts to the land and neighborhood. Land use plans can be updated and reviewed at any given point for any leasehold, and serve to hold us all accountable while still allowing freedom of expression on individual leaseholds.
Individual leases are valid for the duration of a lifetime (or 99 years), and can be transferred, or inherited as per the discretion of the member. They can also be sold to anyone approved for membership, along with whatever improvements are made at a value set by the parting member. Leaseholds can only be bought by members, and therefore there is a clearly defined process for incoming members as they learn about the community and what it means to live here, which includes a period of “getting to know you” residency time.
It is our hope that by joining together within this community land trust structure, we are creating the equivalent of a table that we can all sit around, facilitating fairness and good relationship between members, and clear procedures for coming, going, and sharing boundaries and Commons together. The life we create together from there—the cooperatives, the traditions, the culture—as we live and grow in community is the feast we all share at that table. We hope that this blend of private leaseholds and Commons will allow everyone to have the right balance of autonomy/privacy, and collective/togetherness that will allow us all to thrive. We also hope that it will be a structure that can evolve and be amended over time, as we learn through experience.