2016 Excellence in Conservation Awards

Katchen Coley Award for Excellence in Land Conservation

Doug MacGillvary, Manchester Land Conservation Trust

Doug MacGillvary is every Land Trust’s ideal volunteer.  He brings so many skills to everything we do. Besides his land survey background, his people skills are extraordinary. His selfless devotion to our natural world elevates Doug to land trust sainthood. May every Land Trust have a Doug. – Malcolm Barlow, MLCT President

A Not-So-Retired Surveyor

Doug joined the Manchester Land Conservation Trust (MLCT) Board of Directors in 2007. The directors were thrilled to have a retired land surveyor on the board. In 2008, Doug was appointed Chief Steward, overseeing management of all thirty of MLCT’s properties. Doug used his career experience as a surveyor to study the boundaries of all of MLCT parks – then and to the present day. He determined where some neighbors had encroached on MLCT lands enabling the trust to compel removal of the encroachments, or make other arrangements to the satisfaction of everyone.

Risley Park:  His Footprints are Everywhere

As Chief Steward, Doug spent a great deal of time at MCLT’s Risley Park, a 155-acre woodlands preserve and reservoir.   Doug and his volunteer crew repaired existing trails, blazed new trails, put up signs at park entrances, built bridges over streams, set up fences, placed monuments with bronze plaques and put in a bench in memory of a long-time Manchester resident who regularly hiked at Risley. Doug also worked with a local farmer to maintain a hay field at Risley -- preserving a spectacular view of the reservoir. 

Inspiring the Next Generation

Doug helped at least a dozen Eagle Scout candidates from Manchester Troops 25 and 123 attain Eagle Scout status. The Scouts developed and carried out projects on many of the MLCT properties, including repairs to a dam at Buckland Pond, construction of sturdy walk bridges at Risley Park, installation of bluebird houses at several of the parks, a bat house and more. Eagle Scout Justin Pedneault liked working with Doug so much that he has now, as an adult, joined the Trust’s Board of Directors.

Fostering Partnerships to Create the Historic Cheney Rail Trail Park

The Cheney Railroad ran north and south through the heart of Manchester and, as Chief Steward, Doug was the main champion for creating the Cheney Rail Trail Park. Doug applied for and received a number of grants to pay for projects on the Trail, including working with the Towns of Bolton and Andover to create the stone dust path along the MLCT’s entire section of the Trail. Doug’s tireless work on the Cheney Rail Trail is a likely inspiration for the recent work of Town of Manchester staff and political leaders to purchase and improve the rail trail portion that runs alongside the Town’s Center Springs Park. 

Vision, Diplomacy and People Skills

Proof of Doug’s vision and diplomatic skills is found in many of the MLCT’s properties.  For example, Trust leaders had tried for years to work out a deal with the residents of a local condominium complex to build a trail across their property, which was unused, overgrown with brush and swampy. The residents resisted, even circulating a petition in opposition to the idea.  Enter Doug. With diplomacy and persistence he invited homeowners to come see what the Trust had in mind.  Not only did the residents agree to allow Doug to put in the trail, but they are among its most frequent hikers.  Another example is Marsh Pond, one of the earliest properties donated to the MCLT.  While the neighbors love its beauty, they disagreed over how best to care for the park. Doug’s diplomatic skills again brought peace to all the neighbors with a series of stewardship agreements, making Marsh Pond one of the Trust’s best known and loved parks.

A Recognized Conservation Volunteer

In recognition of his outstanding contributions as a volunteer land steward, Doug received the 2012 Connecticut Forest & Park Association Volunteer Appreciation Award and the 2015 Manchester Conservation Commission Stewardship Award.

Rob Smith, President, East Haddam Land Trust

Rob Smith is an unsung hero of land conservation in the region. He is a go-to source of information about parcels ripe for preservation, he constantly stays in contact with landowners potentially interested in preserving their land, and he understands how to bring local, regional, and state conservation groups together to complete a project or advocate for land and waterway protection. – Joene Hendry

Early roots

Described as having been born with an oak-twig in his mouth, Rob’s desire to conserve land began when he observed the deep woods and open, brushy fields, through which he rode horses as a youngster in Killingworth and Chester disappear to development.

A Career in Conservation – Standing up for Land Preservation Above All

Upon graduating college with a degree in Forestry, Rob began his career in conservation working for the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection as a state park patrolman and crew leader. Overseeing about 30 different parks at one time or another, Rob’s career in the state park system gave him opportunities to protect conserved lands, meet the needs of wildlife, fisheries, and forests, and provide quality recreational experiences for park visitors. He retired from his position of Assistant Director of State Parks in 2007.

In the true spirit of the Katchen Coley Award, Rob earned a reputation for standing up for land preservation above all, even putting future career advancement on the line by publicly opposing, and effectively ending, logging in Devil’s Hopyard State Park and all state parks. Rob also was one of the first, or possibly only, park supervisors to develop an acquisition plan, adding about 130 acres to Devil’s Hopyard.

Leading Locally

Rob began volunteering with the East Haddam Land Trust (EHLT) in the early 1990’s, initially working on trails and preserve maintenance and later serving on the board, including as President for a total of nine one-year terms -- stepping down only when required by EHLT’s by-laws. Rob is responsible for the vast majority of EHLT’s land acquisition over the last decade – protecting approximately 190 acres -- and is solely responsible for developing nearly every trail on EHLT preserves and the construction of EHLT’s Sheepskin Hollow footbridge.

Rob has chaired the East Haddam Conservation Commission since 2013, advocating for the town’s approval of a $5 million open space bonding authority, thereby allowing East Haddam voters to add, over time, about 1500 acres of town-preserved open space. He also laid out most of the 13 miles of trails now traversable through the town’s open space.  

Leading Regionally

AsEHLT’s representative to the Eightmile Wild & Scenic Study committee, Rob’s strong advocacy led to the Eightmile River’s designation as a National Wild & Scenic Watershed and the protection of the 312-acre Eightmile Wildlife Management Area in East Haddam and Lyme. He is also EHLT’s representative in the Lower CT River and Coastal Region Land Trust Exchange (LTE) – a regional conservation partnership he helped create and develop.

The Richard H. Goodwin Trail – Turning vision into reality

Rob is credited withconceptualizing what will soon be dedicated as the Richard H. Goodwin Trail, a  multi-town trail from East Haddam through Lyme to East Lyme, garnering support throughout the region, engaging volunteers in trail marking and clearing and advocating for multiple-group funding of a 75-foot footbridge spanning the Eightmile River in East Haddam’s Chapal Farm open space.  Rob envisioned the project, procured funding for all facets of its development and oversaw construction of the footbridge that is now 90% complete and open to the public. This 10+ mile trail carries forth a vision of the late Richard Goodwin, a highly respected conservationist, who hoped the public would, one day, have an opportunity for a true deep woods experience in the region.  Rob’s perseverance and dedication, throughout his career, fostered a vision for conservation that has become a reality today.

Excellence in Conservation Organization Award

The Trust for Public Land for The Preserve

“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of smaller things brought together” van Gogh once said. Congratulations to all who took part in all the small things that brought this Great thing together. What an amazing gift to this community and the millions of living organisms and critters ~ finned, furred and feathered ~ that will forever have this forest intact. With such big businesses moving into our towns and coming up the shoreline who knows what this area will look like in 100 years; it’s nice knowing this 1,000 acres and the amazing network of open spaces it’s connected to will remain forested and remain a place where people will always be able to seek and find refuge. – Suellen Kozey McCuin

On April 30, 2015, The Trust for Public Land announced that the last large unprotected coastal forest between New York and Boston, a 1,000-acre parcel known as The Preserve, was permanently protected. Located in Old Saybrook, Essex and Westbrook, the property includes 38 vernal pools, 25 miles of trails, and more than 3,100 feet of streams. A variety of birds, amphibians, and animals inhabit the property, including many which are of special conservation concern. The dense forest and the Pequot Swamp Pond are used as a refueling stop by migratory birds, and the land drains into three different watersheds, all of which flow into the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound.  

Thanks to the efforts of The Trust for Public Land and multiple local, state and federal partners, the land is now owned and protected by the State of Connecticut, the Town of Old Saybrook and Essex Land Trust.  Conservation easements held by the state and The Nature Conservancy will prohibit future development and require the land to be open to the public to enjoy for activities like hiking and wildlife viewing. The easements will forever ensure the connections to more than 500 acres of existing town parkland and miles of hiking trails.

Efforts to protect the land date back to 1998 when plans were announced for a housing development of more than 200 homes, along with a golf

course. Local residents and conservation organizations were galvanized by the threat and the Alliance for Sound Area Planning led the opposition, bringing a number of lawsuits to prevent the development. Over the years, multiple attempts to acquire the land for conservation were to no avail; and efforts to develop the property continued until 2013, when the Trust for Public Land successfully negotiated the purchase of the land and began fundraising.

This has been a long effort which began 17 years ago, but ultimately, we have been successful.  This land will forever remain a natural place for the enjoyment of everyone who lives here and visits.  The $10 million campaign was a success due to a large coalition which included the State of Connecticut, the Connecticut congressional delegation, the Towns of Old Saybrook, Essex and Westbrook, many nonprofit organizations, and many individual donors. – Alicia Sullivan, Connecticut State Director, The Trust for Public Land