2021 Awards for Excellence in Land Conservation
We are proud to celebrate and feature our winners for our annual Awards for Excellence in Land Conservation. In making these awards, CLCC seeks to recognize organizations and individuals who have made a substantive contribution to the ongoing success of land conservation in our state and projects that may serve as a guide to or be replicable by other land trusts and conservation organizations in Connecticut.
Read all about the event with special appearances from Governor Ned Lamont, Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz, and other state officials. And watch videos from the 2021 awards ceremony here »
Excellence in Conservation Organization Awards
East Haddam Land Trust – Video Series and East Haddam Historical Society Museum Exhibit
Saving Land, Saving History.
In 2020, East Haddam Land Trust partnered with the East Haddam Historical Society and created a museum exhibit and a series of four mini-documentaries written, produced, and directed by local historian, Ken Simon. The mini-documentaries focus on three East Haddam Land Trust preserves which hold sturdy stone dams, sluiceways and mill foundations as well as cleverly engineered turbines and waterworks from the old, historically significant mills of East Haddam.
In addition, one documentary focuses on the creation and history of East Haddam Land Trust.
The newly created exhibit at the museum features a large map (3 ft by 6 ft, designed by a volunteer) of East Haddam’s preserves and waterways, photographs, and a new interactive monitor to display the films. The exhibit area was updated with new paint, lighting, a partition, and a handcrafted bench built by local boy scouts.
In addition to the above, Ken Simon donated his time to create two “promotional teasers” and attached one of his original mini documentaries, “The Twine Capital of America,” to the YouTube playlist of our Saving Land, Saving History project.
Both the museum exhibit and video series further land conservation efforts in Connecticut by creatively telling stories. The exhibit uses maps, texts, and photos to tell visitors the compelling story of our conservation successes in East Haddam, and provides a timely reminder of our remaining work. An exhibit highlight is the large map which vividly portrays the thousands of connected acres of conserved land in the eastern part of East Haddam and the thousands of acres that remain to be conserved.
The four videos combine drone footage, historical photos, current interviews, and compelling music and sound effects to tell multiple stories. One video focuses on the story of the creation of EHLT. This video brings to life the original vision of the founders and how that vision has sustained over time.
Each of the remaining three videos tells the stories of the Bernstein, The Hammond Mill, and the Patrell Preserves. Videos on the Bernstein and Hammond Mill Preserves bring mill history to life. A video on the Patrell Preserve features the geologic history of the Eightmile River and the eskers and kettle hole remnants of ancient glaciers.
We hope the power of storytelling will work its magic to inspire, motivate, and educate our neighbors to conserve land. We also hope that other conservation organizations will consider partnering with historical societies to design and build museum exhibits. Lastly, we hope that other preservation groups consider using videos to tell their stories. We are available to lend a hand if needed.
Greenwich Land Trust – Converse Brook Preserve
After being given the historic and unprecedented opportunity, Greenwich Land Trust acquired the 72 acres of open space, now known as Converse Brook Preserve, on September 30, 2020. With large undeveloped parcels becoming increasingly rare in the community, conserving those that remain becomes vitally important.
Converse Brook Preserve will provide an expansive new greenway for the Greenwich community. This greenway strategically links important landscapes which connect critical habitat and increase ecological diversity. The conservation of larger blocks of undeveloped forest land is essential for the protection of wildlife, water quality, and the ecological health of our community.
Greenwich Land Trust partnered with the Town of Greenwich to purchase this treasured landscape, which preserves and protects our community’s character, critical habitat, and water quality in the Byram River watershed.
Since Greenwich Water Company purchased much of the forested land surrounding the Rockwood and Putnam Reservoirs in the late 19th century, the corner of Lake Avenue and Old Mill Road has retained its woodland character, reminiscent of the natural heritage that once existed throughout Greenwich.
Threaded with the remnants of colonial era stonewalls, the land has remained untouched for generations, offering a respite from the developed areas of Town. Converse Brook Preserve is now Greenwich Land Trust’s largest preserve and will be maintained and stewarded as a natural area while allowing the community to partake in outdoor activities and educational programming through guided walks and hikes, nature study, and family events.
Katchen Coley Award for Excellence in Land Conservation
Gwen Marrion, founding member and President of the all-volunteer Bolton Land Trust since its inception twenty years ago, is just the tireless advocate for land conservation and the environment that the Katchen Coley Award seeks to honor. A warmly welcoming individual of endless energy, high intelligence, passionately strong will and never-failing grace, her individual efforts have resulted in a remarkable body of achievement that will benefit her beloved Bolton forever. – Richard Treat, Bolton Land Trust
Gwen’s conservation contributions on behalf of Bolton began long before the Bolton Land Trust was formed. She was a member of the Bolton Inland Wetlands Commission and the Town of Bolton’s Open Space Acquisition and Preservation Committee. She also served on the Bolton Charter Revision Committee. Bolton has benefitted from Gwen’s leadership and her strong voice for conservation in each of these important town roles. She was also a founding member of the Friends of Rose Farm and has been a longtime project volunteer for the East Coast Greenway.
Gwen worked tirelessly in every role she held, winning numerous awards and recognitions for her efforts. Some of those awards include Commissioner of the Year and the Golden Lopper Award (an honor earned by only three other recipients in the world). She played a key role in acquisitions, such as the 100-acre Rose Farm, the 21-acre Pistritto Property, and the 53-acre Stangeland Woodland. She was instrumental in winning a $56,000 grant from the USDA Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program to fight an invasive plant infestation at the Bolton Heritage Farm. The Bolton Heritage Farm is today a place of inspiring beauty, of history in full voice, because of Gwen’s hard work.
For a number of years, whenever their teachers asked, Gwen would guide a nature tour of the Heritage Farm for the fifth grade classes of Bolton Center School. The young visitors walked from school to discover secrets of nature right there in the fields of the Farm. This was a joy that Gwen particularly relished.
The Bolton Land Trust, at the very center of Gwen’s heart, has been the greatest beneficiary of her efforts: 16 parcels totaling 307 acres, each shepherded into preservation forever by Gwen herself. Astonishingly, Gwen at this very moment has six deals in the air, each one the result of at least 15 years of cultivation.
Gwen recognized early on that outreach, with fun as the critical element, was the key to winning hearts, minds, and members. She brought the BLT Calendar of Events to life, four to six events per year ranging from “Poses in the Pasture” (yoga in spectacular settings) to mushroom hunting. She learned that an event often gets the Land Trust onto a hosting owner’s land for the first time, and this entry can blossom over time into preservation progress.
Another path to the people was Gwen’s “Land Trust Musing,” a one-page dispatch with images on the first of each month via email, an engaging piece from an English major with a quick mind, sharp eye, and a sense of humor. Her “Land Trust Musing” was a first. Other land trusts now follow her lead, using exactly the same title.
Gwen has elevated existing practice to unheard-of heights. She is a master of the thank-you note, with an exquisite gift for just the right and honest words to make a recipient know in his or her heart that their contribution did make a difference, that they are proud of what they have done, and that they will do it again. She has written such notes to every contributor of more than $100, more than sixty a year, for the last twenty years. And she distributes to every BLT director a “thank you kit” (with a list of assigned recipients’ names, addresses, envelopes and printed notes with some blank space) for every donor of less than $100, more than 200 a year, so each one of them will get words of gratitude in ink from a live friend at the land trust. David Allen of Development for Conservation in 2015 recognized the BLT for its excellent communication methods and outreach which have consistently garnered around 300 members a year, resulting in a BLT member in an astonishing 15% of the households in Bolton. The Bolton Land Trust is well known, well liked, well respected, and easily accessible. It is a part of the landscape of Bolton.
Gwen Marrion is the consummate conservation advocate, giving ceaselessly of herself and her many abilities for more than thirty years to bring into being many real and permanent results.