Workspace: Bonnie Barnes, executive director, North Florida Land Trust
As executive director of the North Florida Land Trust, Bonnie Barnes works to preserve a legacy for the region that will outlast her, and likely many others.
Barnes took the helm of the land conservation and management nonprofit in August 2007.
A lifelong Girl Scout and outdoor enthusiast, Barnes started her first business at age 17 in her hometown of Las Vegas. She left a 15-year career in advertising, marketing and public relations to return to school in 2003. In three years, she finished degrees up through an MBA.
She then did work for St. Johns County that led to her position at the trust.
Barnes said the last three to four years for the organization have been a struggle to acquire funds. She said creative leadership, generous donors and committed volunteers who have taken on countless tasks have kept it moving.
“It was huge last year when we hired Marc Hudson as our land protection director and I can feel us turning the corner,” said Barnes. “It is easy to get caught in the humdrum of balancing the budget and keeping the doors open, and my wonderful volunteers are quick to remind me of the important, lasting reasons why I do this. “
To date, the trust has preserved more than 2,000 acres within a seven-county region that comprises Baker, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, Putnam and St. Johns counties.
Last year, the trust preserved nearly 500 acres, applied for a grant to establish the Jacksonville Downtown Streams Initiative and developed a series of North Florida Conservation Priorities maps to serve as a strategic tool for identifying the highest quality natural resources in the area.
According to its northfloridalandtrust.org website, the organization conserves land by developing long-term land protection strategies, promoting private and public funding and acquiring land and conservation easements, among other actions.
“You have to give back,” said Barnes, who from childhood has always been active in community organizations. “It’s what you