Reflections On Our First 25 Years
by Charlie Adler
I remember when I first learned about land trusts. It
was at a conference held at Wheaton College in Norton on March 3, 1990.
The focus of the conference was protecting land in the Canoe River
Watershed, but the lessons from the conference could be applied
anywhere. With the enthusiastic support of Ted and Debby Leach, I
organized a meeting at the Attleboro Public Library on April 11, 1990,
to explore the possibility of starting a land trust in Attleboro.
While preservation of the Locust Valley Golf Course,
then threatened with a development of 300 homes, was a top priority, the
50 residents at the meeting brought up other areas also worthy of
protection, and they expressed a general concern about the rapid pace of
residential development and equally rapid loss of open space. There was
unanimous agreement to form a local land trust. Larry St. Pierre agreed
to head up a charter committee to pursue non-profit status. A hat was
passed, and the amount was matched by Locust Street resident Fred
Thomson, resulting in a total collection of $251.
Within a few months, the group had incorporated and been
recognized as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. In addition to Ted,
Debby, Larry, and me, the incorporators were Leslie Leger, Patricia
Campbell, Ron Carlson, Howard Bibeault, Carol Haslehurst, Joanne Wright,
Eric Brown, and Robert Schoch.
The first two years were focused on attempts to save
Locust Valley. At first the land trust tried raising funds to acquire
the property, but then decided to support city attempts to purchase all
or part of the land. In the spring of 1991, the land trust held a
membership outreach event featuring photos of scenic New England by
teacher and photographer Bob Thayer. A year later, the land trust
received its first gift of land from Adele Colman, a local resident who
had attended Bob's presentation.
The 77-acre Colman Reservation was dedicated in 1993 “to
all those who set foot here. May they visit this place often, enjoy it,
and be its caretakers. And may they pass it on unharmed from one
generation to the next.” Those sentiments were soon to motivate other
Celebrating Our First Gift of Land in
Board Members and Guests (from left to right): Larry St. Pierre
(President), Joanne Wright, George Largess, Carol Haslehurst, Shanthi
Raam, Adele B. Colman, Mayor Judith Robbins, Robert Schoch, Ron Carlson,
There is not space enough here to list all of the
donations of land we have received since that first gift, never mind the
financial support and thousands of hours of volunteer time that have
been contributed in support of our mission.
While land conservation has been and will continue to be
at the top of our agenda, the story of our first quarter century
includes many other themes:
Stewardship: Acquisition of a parcel of land is just
the first step. There are species to be identified, boundaries to be
monitored, trails to be developed and maintained, invasive species
to be controlled, and visitors to be managed.
Recreation, Health, and Fitness: Our trails provide
passive recreation for many. We are concerned that children in the
21st century are more comfortable surfing the Internet than walking
in the woods and are missing the health benefits of being outdoors,
in all kinds of weather.
Advocacy: Although not our main focus, we
occasionally speak out on matters of public policy related to
conservation and the environment.
Education: Education and advocacy go hand in hand.
We can't influence public policy in matters of concern to us unless
we educate the public on the importance of protecting the
environment. We have stepped up our efforts recently to provide
educational resources for the schoolchildren in our
community--publishing a brochure inviting them to explore our
Partnerships: We often find that we can multiply our
effectiveness by partnering with other organizations. Perhaps our
longest and most successful partnership has been with the City of
Attleboro in creating the Attleboro Area Community Garden in 1998.
Another very fruitful partnership has been with Mass Audubon. Over
the years we have partnered with many other organizations, including
schools, youth groups, fraternal organizations, the Rotary Club, the
United Way, and the Attleboro Arts Museum, to name a few.
Future Focus: When a generous donor gives us land,
we pledge to protect that land in perpetuity. This is an enormous
responsibility that our volunteer board takes very seriously, and it
requires us to always take the long view when considering the
consequences of our policies and actions.
When someone first encounters a land trust, they may be
puzzled by the name--it sounds like it has something to do with finance.
That's intentional. We think saving land is a good investment from which
the public reaps many benefits. To paraphrase advice that may have come
from Mark Twain, "Save land, they're not making it anymore!"