2014 Excellence in Conservation Awards

2014 Connecticut Land Conservation Council

Excellence in Conservation Awards 

Katchen Coley Award for Excellence in Land Conservation

Tom ODell

“I am awed by Tom’s never-ending energy and enthusiasm for protecting land in Connecticut and enhancing our state’s important natural resources. His passion for conservation does not skip a beat.” Alicia Betty, State Director, Trust for Public Land

In 1959, Tom began his career as a research entomologist with the USDA Forest Service in Hamden. His work focused on the development of biological control techniques for reducing damage caused by forest insect pests. After his retirement, Tom started his “second career”, packing many volunteer environmental and conservation activities into his schedule.

Tom has been a member of the Westbrook Conservation Commission since 1968, and its Chairman since 1970. He’s been on the Board of Directors of the Connecticut River Coastal Conservation District since 1975, and has led the District as Chairman since 1991, successfully seeing the organization through many major changes over the years, and logging many hours in support of District services, programs and conservation efforts. He has served in various capacities with the Connecticut Association of Conservation and Inland Wetland Commissions (CACIWC) since 1977, as a board member, President, and Executive Director, and is currently the Editor of Habitat, CACIWC’s newsletter.

Building on his reputation as “one of the busiest retired people” in Connecticut, Tom has his irons in many other fires, volunteering on the Eastern CT Resource Conservation & Development Council, Connecticut Council on Soil & Water Conservation, CT DEEP Landscape Stewardship Advisory Committee, chairing the Rockfall Foundation Awards Committee for the last 15 years, and serving on the CLCC Steering Committee. As Chairman of the Westbrook Conservation Commission, Tom is very active in town land conservation and management and has been instrumental in many important efforts. He led the campaign in 2000 to create the

Westbrook open space fund by taking a proposal for $2.2Million for open space to the Town’s voters. The establishment of the open space fund and use of it over the years has resulted in the protection of many parcels of land that includes Westbrook’s most important natural resources. Following protection of each parcel, he has lead efforts to assess natural resources on the land and create management plans, including invasive species removal and restoration work.

On a statewide level, Tom has been a dedicated advocate for CT’s Conservation Districts, active in reorganizing the District from 8 county-based groups to 5, more along watershed lines, working to increase the District’s stature with the state legislature and to secure state funding for conservation; continuing to build knowledge, skills and capacity of conservation and wetlands commissions through training programs; and pushing for stronger statewide erosion and sedimentation control programs.

Sidney Van Zandt

“Our entire community benefits from the quiet beauty and clean waters from the lands that Sidney Van Zandt, along with others, has worked tirelessly to protect. She is a charismatic and persuasive leader, and a skillful fundraiser. She has led efforts to transform the Groton Open Space Association (GOSA) from a small grassroots advocacy group into the financially sound and mature environmental protection organization that it is now.” - Joan Smith, President GOSA

Sidney and Priscilla Pratt formed GOSA in 1967 to lead a grass roots effort to save Haley Farm. More than 50 years ago the 250 acre farm was slated for development of duplex housing. Life Magazine published a story called “Battles Won” in its July 4, 1970 issue featuring several open-space success stories from across the country, including the fight to save Haley Farm. Connecticut Forest and Park Association (CFPA) served as an umbrella organization to accept funds, and GOSA led a town-wide drive to match state funds. Even the high school pitched in with a rock concert to raise funds. In 2001, after 32 years of effort, 57 more acres were added to the park. Haley Farm is now one of the state’s beloved coastal state parks.

The Bluff Point Advisory Council, formed by the legislature in 1972, lead to the creation in 1975 of Bluff Point State Park (BP) and Coastal Reserve. Sidney, served as co-chair of the BP Advisory Council, along with Omar Allvord. Plans had been underway to fill the marsh and make room for a 4,000-car parking lot; 52 acres had been sold for industrial development and 7 acres for a marina. By the early ‘70’s the remaining 447 acres were slated for housing and was subject to proposals for extensive commercial and industrial development.

Today the two sites, Haley Farm and Bluff Point, protect over 1000 acres of contiguous open space on Long Island Sound. Sidney served as GOSA’s President from 1967 to 1981, when she went off with her husband to build a boat and sail around the world. Upon returning to Noank after a 14 year 95,000nm sailing odyssey, Sidney became re-involved with GOSA and now serves as Vice President. She has participated in successful acquisition efforts for the 75 acre Merritt Family Forest (2008), the 63 acre Sheep Farm (2011), the 91 acre Candlewood Ridge (2013), and GOSA’s latest acquisition project, the 300 acre Avery Farm. These projects are all part of a greenbelt that protects wildlife, trail and riparian corridors extending from Long Island Sound well into Ledyard.

Sidney has been active in many environmental organizations. She was elected to the CFPA board in 1969 and now serves as an honorary board member. Sidney was one who pushed for the founding of Mashantucket Land Trust, now called Avalonia Land Conservancy, and was elected as an early board member. She has collaborated with Avalonia Land Conservancy and the Town of Groton to create the Cross Town Trail, and she leads a cross town hike every year on the CFPA Trails Day. As a Friend of the State Parks, Sidney participates in GOSA’s stewardship of Haley Farm, financing the annual field mowing, hosting clean-up days, mitigating invasive plants, maintaining trails and welcoming scout, navy and other volunteer groups. She was appointed by Governor Grasso to the Board of CT Council of Environmental Quality in 1977, and Appointed to the Coastal Area Management Advisory Board in 1976.

Tom Crider

“Tom has cracked the toughest nuts in Southbury, developed personal, thoughtful relationships with their families and come away with stunning land conservation arrangements. He has successfully, repeatedly, piloted the Southbury Land Trust through project after project after project. Each deal with its own set of idiosyncrasies, surprises, unpredictable family members, and financial challenges. Extremely persuasive, around town, it was often said, if Tom Crider and Dr. Marc Taylor came a knocking and asked to sit down at your kitchen table to discuss land conservation, you might as well save a lot of time and give them what they want right away....” - Karen Huber, Executive Director, Southbury Land Trust

Thomas Speakman Crider first made big land conservation news in 1996 when he and his wife, Mieke and brother-in-law, Hank Maas, donated an 84-acre conservation easement of open space – including nearly 2,000 feet of riverfront –to the Bent of the River Audubon. The other exciting news that year was that Tom had joined the Southbury Land Trust (SLT) Board of Directors! By the following year, Tom was Vice President and has been making conservation news ever since. On January 14, 1997, Tom, the late Dr. Marc Taylor, & Ben Metcalf unveiled the Pomperaug River Greenway Project, an ambitious land preservation movement focused on preserving all properties abutting the river, which received its official designation from the state in the summer of 2012.

In 1998, in response to headlines that Southbury was the fastest growing town in CT, many residents turned to the SLT in support of land preservation – and Tom delivered! In just one year, Tom helped to draft and enact a Town Ordinance preserving Scenic Roads, a major preservation influence in town; presided as the State deeded 40 acres of beautiful upland forest to the SLT; and masterfully edited and organized “A Nature Lovers Book of Quotations”, which has inspired countless environmentalists over the last fifteen years with its pearls of wisdom, insight, humor and appreciation for nature.

SLT President since 2000, Tom continued to shepherd the organization through 13 years of growth, preserving open space throughout Southbury. His vision for the land, patience and persistence has preserved seven family farms and thousands of acres of habitat. SLT itself has acquired 787 acres of fee properties and 283 acres of eased properties, and raised $6,300,000.00 in grant money, essentially tripling its holdings.

Tom has gently guided Southbury Town Hall in the art of land conservation, the how-to’s of state open space grant applications and the subsequent stewardship of the land. Tom has steered many independent conservation-minded citizens toward sensitive, confidential arrangements which preserved generations of their family land and heritage.

Publicly, he has achieved his many conservation successes through bi-partisan collaboration with local, state and federal officials. As the many administrations have come and gone, Tom’s been there all along. With an eye toward preserving Connecticut farmland in perpetuity, Tom was key to the passage of legislation which directed the Farmland Preservation Advisory Board to review state-owned agricultural land and to recommend ways to preserve it. Of the six properties in study, the largest and most significant of these tracts - 1,000 acres of prime farmland at the state-owned Southbury Training School property - scored the highest. Tom maneuvered through Hartford red tape via countless, endless hours of testimony, steering committee meetings, hearings, municipal coordination, federal collaboration, walks, talks, PowerPoint presentations, diplomacy galore in all corners.

When Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed a bill pledging to preserve more than 800 acres of the Southbury Training School for agricultural use, it was a very fitting tribute to Tom’s tireless dedication to conservation!

Excellence in Conservation Organization Award

Town of Southington Open Space Committee - Crescent Lake Recreation Area Community Forest Project

The Town of Southington’s Crescent Lake Recreation Area Community Forest Project is the state’s first community forest to receive the Connecticut Grown recognition for sustainable forest management. The initiative was first started by the Town of Southington’s Open Space Committee in August 2012 and continues today. A Forest Management Plan is now guiding on-the-ground decisions with the first steps of plan implementation underway. This project will serve as a model of collaboration amongst local and state stakeholders for future stewardship/land preservation projects throughout the state.

The CT Department of Agriculture (DoAG) CT Grown Program was developed in 1986to identify and promote agricultural products grown in the state through a diverse array of avenues in local, regional, national and international markets. In 2011 the Connecticut Grown Program was expanded to include wood products. The Town of Southington, one of the first non-commercial entities to apply for designation, was accepted into the program last year. Now, lumber and firewood from trees in the Crescent Lake forest will be designated with the recognizable “CT-Grown” seal, underscoring the economic benefits of open space.

The property is comprised of 223 acres including Crescent Lake, of which 161 acres consist of five distinct stands, and is located along Ledge Road and North Shuttle Street on the Southington/Plainville line. Predominantly a hardwood forest, the area provides key habitat for local and migrating wildlife, including one or more species considered to be threatened or endangered as identified in the state Natural Diversity Database, and provides the public with access to a network of walking trails. Crescent Lake Recreation Area’s Forest Management Plan includes use of sustainable forest practices, protection of water quality during forestry operations, compliance with Connecticut’s Forest Practices Act, adherence to the standards of the CT Grown Program, and responding to destructive forest pests and invasive plants, all of which help to qualify the project for this special distinction. The Southington Open Space Committee led the project with particular involvement from David Lavallee, AssistantTown Planner and committee members Dawn Miceli, Stephanie Urillo and Chairman, Robert Berkmoes. The Forest Management Plan was developed with the assistance of Thomas Worthley, Extension Professor, and his students at UCONN Cooperative Extension. The project’s designation as the state’s first community forest to receive the Connecticut Grown recognition for sustainable forest management was achieved with the assistance of DEEP and DoAg.


2014 CLCC Special Project Award

The Southbury Training School Project

On July 16, 2013, Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed H.B. 6542, An Act Concerning the Preservation of Farmland at the Southbury Training School into law, pledging to permanently preserve 825 acres of the state-owned Southbury Training School through a transfer of custody to the Department of Agriculture and a grant of conservation easement to a non-profit conservation organization – the Southbury Land Trust. This bill represented the culmination of years of work for many individuals and organizations to ensure that this critical farmland is available for agricultural production in perpetuity, while recognizing its value for compatible passive recreational uses and for bird and other wildlife habitat. By providing for a strong and comprehensive easement to assure the high quality stewardship and protection of the land’s valuable agricultural and conservation resources, the Act provides a model for protection of other state-owned lands. Today we honor individuals and representatives from the organizations that worked so hard, for decades, to bring this historic project – a true public-private partnership – to fruition. In their own words

“The agricultural land on the property of the Southbury Training School is a beautiful gem in our state that we should preserve forever as farmland,” Governor Dannel P. Malloy, April 25, 2013

“This southwestern Connecticut resource is one of a kind and the “crown jewel” of state agricultural products.” Commissioner Steven K. Reviczky, Connecticut Department of Agriculture, March 15, 2013

“The 1400+ [Acre] Southbury Training School property contains the largest parcel of farmland left in Southbury. Preserving the land would be a major step toward keeping what remains of the rural character of our town intact”. Tom Crider, President, Southbury Land Trust, March 15, 2013

“The importance of these lands to the environmental quality of our community cannot be overstated.” Ed Edelson, First Selectman, Southbury, March 15, 2013

“[G]iving a private party dedicated to the encouragement of agricultural use of the land an easement on the land would also provide an additional layer of protection to ensure that no secret or sudden decision either by the executive or legislative branches would change the long-standing policy of preserving these lands for agriculture.” Representative Arthur J. O’Neill, March 15, 2013

“If this land is permanently kept in agricultural use it will not only be a source of many healthy products, but it will preserve the historical and rural landscape we love so much about Connecticut.” Senator Robert J. Kane, March 15, 201