An Interview with Laurie Andrews: President of The Jackson Hole Land Trust, Save the Block Super Hero, and Now, a Part of "Citizen(s) of the Year"

When Laurie moved here 18 years ago, she knew she loved the place, but little did she know how much of the viewshed she would work to protect for the past 15 years. Running the Jackson Hole Land Trust (JHLT) she remembers the excitement of specific projects such as working with the Mead Family to protect Spring Gulch, the LOR Foundation to conserve and reclaim R Park for the community to love and use, and recently mobilizing over 5700 people to “Save the Block”.

Wind back the clock 40 years when a group of conservationists and long-time ranching families saw the future, realizing private lands were going to be the key to connecting pivotal wildlife corridors and migration routes, keeping Jackson’s ranching operations and heritage alive, and safeguarding the character and beauty of the Valley. With the newly created conservation easement tool they formed the JHLT and started to work with other landowners to realize the power of protecting the 3% of private land for the future community.

Fast forward to 2018, with more than 57,000 acres of conservation land protected in Northwest Wyoming by the JHLT…. Laurie and an eclectic team of individuals took that founding concept of conservation for the community and applied it to a treasured, historic block in Downtown Jackson. 

So began the "Saving of the Block".

save genevieve

Here's a quick summation of the of one of the most outstdaning fundraising projects in the community's history.

  • Fall 2018 - The Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance Leadership Institute Group held several community awareness meetings to educate people about the threat of the development of the historic “Genny Block” and rally the community to speak out against the zoning application filed by a hotel developer with the Town of Jackson.  During this time, the Teton County Historic Preservation Board were linked in to explore the potential for placing a historic easement or historic designation on the block. JHLT was approached about the potential of holding historical easements, but historical easements had not been in the JHLT’s wheelhouse, nor were they directly tied to the organization’s mission. However, the JHLT did know how to put together complicated land deals and when the hotel developer fell out of contract with the block’s seller, Max Chapman, Laurie said “Let’s work together and see what we can do.”

  • Laurie reached out to several local families who had a connection and interest in the history and community space that the block offered to downtown. She discovered that many people cared about green space in town as much as large land parcels out of town. Quality of life was important, especially to those who live and work in town and turned to the businesses and the shade of the cottonwood trees on the block for a moment of tranquility during the busy days of summer.  

  • February 2019 - With a buyer “AKA the anonymous local family” considering a community solution, JHLT joined them and sat down with the seller, Max Chapman and associates and asked them for an opportunity to find a community solution. The response was a delighted YES, and they set a 6 month deadline, Aug 16 2019 to close.

  • Spring 2019 - A task force of JHLT staff, land attorneys, architects, block business owners, boards and accountants went to work. How could they keep character, preserve history, keep open space AND find  the $22 million needed to cover the project cost (which later was reduced by an amazing selling partner, but that’s another #JHHumans of Jackson Hole story to come. After several months of research, planning, and design to determine project feasibility, the task force decided to take the project to the community with the JHLT owning the outreach and fundraising portion of the campaign to raise the funds needed to cover the purchase of the conservation easement and fee on the greenspace portion of the block. At the end of April the first Block Party occurred to roll out the Save the Block project to the community and start the fundraising campaign.

As Laurie says, ALL we had to do was raise $8m in less than four months and we had no donors leading the launch of the campaign. That is not the usual equation if you are in the fundraising business. Spoiler Alert…they worked it out with the help of some creative community challenges and the incredible generosity of the Save the Block donors! Here’s how you do it, should you ever find yourself in this situation.

  • On April 26th launched the first challenge with a $100K donor challenging the JHLT to secure100 gifts to match at any amount.  The was result 376 gifts in one day raising over $240K.

  • At the beginning of May, on the heels of the successful $100K campaign, a family brought forward a $1M challenge to get 1000 gifts by the end of May. Million Dollar May was launched and resulted in over 1300 gifts to the campaign.

The next challenge brought another $1M donor for the $4 Million by the 4th Challenge - $4M match – role out the Super Heroes in 4th July Parade – result match met.

save the block antler arch

The seller reduced the price by $1m. We are in the Strike Zone! “closing in on reality” as she describes.

  • End of July - Last Chance, Last Challenge - goal of 5,000 gifts by August 14th. – Charged towards goal, $1.5m raised, result over 5700 gifts.

  • Challenge Met and Deal closed on Aug 16...Sounds easy when you put it like that right?

  • In September, 2019, the "Save the Block" group was awarded the "2019 Citizen(s) of the Year", a highly-coveted honor given to one indvidual, or a small group of individuals in this case, who made an outstanding impact in the community over the past year. Upon recieving the title, Laurie Andrews and Chamber President, Anna Olson, sat down to talk about the campaign and what made it award-winning.

Laurie, what still moves you about this experience? As a community we came together and made a statement about what our community looks like going forward. No divisiveness, this project embraced people and created something so huge that spot lit the power of working together, finding middle ground and tangibly resulted in work that mattered.

What was the hardest time? After Million Dollar May we had made some big asks for the next challenge, the project was very public and as President of JHLT I felt very exposed. Whatever "Daring Greatly" or "Leaning In" teaches you, those nights felt very lonely and worrying. Had I put JHLT on the line? Was it going to work out? Is there a path forward? Dark times for sure. Then she found the energy to pivot and ask herself and her team, onward.

What Next? Couple of different thoughts…as a community we have shown that character matters and defining it is difficult, but we learned that certain things are important and we need to decide and move on that. If we are not careful we will lose character and we need to understand that so we can help other entities like the Historical Preservation Board and commercial business partners be productive. From the JHLT perspective we feel that community spaces regardless of their size are really the heart of what makes our mission relevant to the whole community.

Would you do it again? Of course…give me a little time to breath and we will be back for more!

save the block group photo

Pictured above (from left to right):
Josh Governale, Daryl Peightal, Jeff Golightly, Liz Long, Robbin Levy, Laurie Andrews, Scott Page, Jenny Wolfrom, Ali Cohane, Amberley Baker, Adam Janak

Not pictured:
Morgan Jaouen, Ryan Nourai, Fred Peightal, George Putnam, Skye Schell, Jessica Vendenbroeke, Katherine Wonson

Join us in celebrating Laurie Andrews and all of those who Saved the Genevieve Block and the other 2019 Jackson Hole Chamber Annual Award winners the evening of Friday, October 25th at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. On behalf of the many people who nominated you, the enthusiasm from the Annual Awards committee members, the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce and our members thank you for all you've done!

cute genevieve

This story is a part of our #humansofjhchamber campaign, which focuses on the faces of our local businesses and nonprofits. Learn about their inspirations, why started in their industry and more! Find the Chamber on Instagram at @jhchamber. For information about the program, please contact Director of Membership, Elisabeth Rohrbach, or 307.201.2301.