SLO Tourism Land Conservation Fund
Cottontail Creek Ranch started a voluntary land conservation fund as of July 1, 2009, whereby guests will be asked to make a charitable donation to the fund in the amount of at least 2% of the rental rate. Cottontail Creek Ranch guests have overwhelmingly exclaimed at their enjoyment of the wide open spaces and working agricultural landscapes during their visits and hope the area will retain this magical quality for their return visits. The creation of this fund gives our guests and others an ongoing opportunity to be part of conserving the natural beauty of the area. A directed giving fund has been established with the San Luis Obispo County Community Foundation whereby guests make their donations to a specific earmarked fund called the SLO County Tourism Land Conservation Fund. In turn, the Community Foundation will make grants as directed by Roger and Susan Lyon to non-profit land trusts or public agencies for land conservation projects in San Luis Obispo County. Initially, planned grant recipients from the fund are the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County, the California Rangeland Trust, the American Land Conservancy and the Cayucos Land Conservancy. Each of these land trusts has a proven track record in this County.
2% was the most obvious number because guests staying in all of SLO county except for this north rural area are charged in addition to the 10.5% Bed tax, a 2% BID (Business Improvement District assessment for marketing). For more information on the how and why please go to "The Making" below.
Our Goal is Participation in making a difference
Cottontail Creek Ranch is participating by matching our guests 2% donation and anticipates and invites other businesses in the County, not only the lodging industry, to share our excitement about the possibilities and choose to participate. The goal is to generate sufficient funds to make significant donations to conservation projects in San Luis Obispo County. We hope you will join us in continuing to make a difference to preserve this pristine region of California for generations to come. Your donation is tax deductible and soul enriching.
Over $45,000 in Grants have been awarded since 2009
Grants have been made to the Cayucos Land Conservancy, California Rangeland Trust, and the American Land Conservancy. Cayucos Land Conservancy's mission is to complete a green belt around Cayucos. They hold the conservation easement on the both adjoining 4 miles north of town, the 2 miles across highway 1 and are actively buying hillside lots from willing sellers. CTR's mission is to conserve the open space, natural habitat and stewardship of California's ranches. http://www.rangelandtrust.org
Susan and Roger Lyon are the owners of Cottontail Creek Ranch, an 850 acre ranch near Cayucos. They have operated a luxury ranch vacation rental since 1999 which has provided the opportunity to scores of people from all over the world to enjoy their working ranch and the drop dead scenic beauty of this area
The Making of the SLO Tourism Land Conservation Fund
When booking a stay in the county guests pay the lodging rental rate and an additional 10.5% transient occupancy tax, which goes into the County general fund. For the last several years the hospitality industry has proposed forming a countywide business improvement district (BID) to require hotels, bed and breakfasts and vacation rentals to collect an additional 2% of gross revenues. Although collected by the County, this 2% assessment is to be used by the BID exclusively to promote additional tourism in the County.
The rationale was that other counties and cities were charging upwards of 13% to their guests and SLO could not compete for tourist dollars. Many hospitality business owners in the County, particularly small operators in the north county, objected to this additional tax/assesment. Part of the objection was that the type of marketing contemplated was not geared toward promoting the very small rural businesses and the reason their guests come as well as return to the area. Through the debate about whether the needs of these small rural operators would benefit from the BID, Susan came up with a rather novel marketing idea: Since the tourist industry benefits from the spectacular open spaces and scenic beauty of the area, why not earmark a significant portion of the proposed BID funds to a land conservation/stewardship fund that would be used to make grants to land trusts in the area which are working to preserve these open spaces. The BID could then promote the fact that the hospitality industry businesses, which benefit from tourists coming to enjoy these wide open spaces, actually put their money where their mouths are. While there seemed to be interest in the concept, the rural operators (including Cottontail Creek Ranch), felt that there was not enough commitment by the drivers of the BID formation committee to merit participation in the BID. By mutual agreement, the rural north county was excluded from the BID formed by the County in May 2009. Effective July 1, 2009, the 2% BID assessment has been collected by operators in the unincorporated area, Except for the rural north county. Because of the lengthy debate and subsequent solution, Cottontail Creek Ranch guests have the unique opportunity to participate in preserving San Luis Obispo County by way of their charitable donation to the SLO Tourism Land Conservation Fund.