maryVictoria, BC - He might just be the oldest “Tweep” out there. At 86-years-old, Vancouver Island resident Bob McMinn knows more about the power of social media than most people 40 years his junior. McMinn’s goal in learning about the growing phenomenon? To raise enough money to save a treasured parcel of land in his tiny community of Highlands, BC.

McMinn has lived in the District of Highlands for 53-years and also heads the Mary Lake Conservancy - an organization formed by a small group of residents who’ve set their sights on raising $4.5 million to save the 107-acre Mary Lake Property.

On October 24th, the group launched an unprecedented fundraising campaigned aimed at engaging people around the world via the social media platforms Twitter and Facebook. McMinn’s Idea? To get friends and followers to buy their own virtual piece of the property for $10 per square metre at www.savemarylake.com. Since the launch of the campaign supporters from across North America have purchased more than 11,200 virtual square meters - leaving their mark on the website for the world to see.

“When we realized we needed to raise this money to be able to preserve Mary Lake for future generations - we thought it was an insurmountable challenge,” said McMinn. “But then I started learning about the global reach we could have by engaging people through social media. I realized then that I had to get online and tell people about why the Mary Lake property is so unique and must be saved.”

He doesn’t profess to be an Internet whiz, but McMinn, who frequently communicates via email and Skype, says he’s slowly picking up on how to maximize opportunities online.

The 107-acre Mary Lake property is a stunning example of an imperilled dry Coastal Douglas fir ecosystem, so little of which remains intact. The property also serves as an important wildlife corridor and contiguous natural link between Thetis Lake and Gowlland Tod Parks and is a rare habitat for several endangered species.

To have a chance at preserving the property, the Mary Lake Conservancy must raise at least $1 million of their total goal by January 2011. “We have 400 supporters and we need 400,000,” says McMinn. “It’s ambitious, but I know it’s not impossible.”

Once the purchase price of the property is raised, Mary Lake will become a prized treasure for the world to enjoy. It will continue to remove carbon from the atmosphere as a natural carbon sink, provide home to hundreds of plant and animal species, and allow anyone visiting the southern end of Vancouver Island an opportunity to view nature as it was meant to be.

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