How and why did get involved with Hunterdon Land Trust?

I had been very interested in land preservation for a long time. I’ve lived in East Amwell for more than 30 years, where we’ve been very active preserving land, and the township had partnered with Hunterdon Land Trust on several preservation projects. Through that work, I was impressed with the organization and its staff. When I retired from my full-time job, I decided I’d like to volunteer with the land trust, so one day I went over and knocked on the back door.

In the beginning, I worked with (former HLT Director of Land Acquisitions) Kate Buttolph compiling monitoring reports, filing and so forth. After a year or so I was asked to join the Land Acquisition and Stewardship Committee, and sometime after was asked to join the Board of Trustees – that was 10 years ago. I’ve been around for a long time!

What keeps you going?

I stayed involved with the organization because I believe our mission is critically important, and it gets more and more important each year as we see what’s happening with our changing climate, and its impact both globally and locally. The work we do here at home to protect our water sources, the quality of our air and our food sources is so vital.

Besides my tenure here, I think it’s worth noting that the majority of our staff has been at HLT for more than 10 years. Most of them live in Hunterdon County, and their dedication and commitment to our mission says a lot. 

When you think back on your time with the organization, is there an accomplishment or two that really stands out in your mind?

I am really happy and proud of all of it! Stemming from our last strategic plan in 2017, we made a definitive shift toward focusing our efforts on partnering with other conservation organizations, municipalities, Hunterdon County and the state to put together funding packages to preserve more land in the county. We started moving away from our earlier focus on preserving land ourselves — which resulted in the eight preserves that we have now — to expanding our focus so we could have a wider impact within the county. That was an important shift in our direction and our work, and I think we’ve been very successful as we’ve preserved over 11,600 acres now.

We haven’t really touched on the most important part of what makes HLT so special. Could you discuss how important our volunteers and donors are?

None of this happens without our volunteers and our donors. It’s very interesting to me to see how many people who were involved with the land trust when it began, are still actively involved today. It shows that the board and staff have been doing a good job with the organization, otherwise, they wouldn’t still be with us decades later. It’s also worth noting that we are always looking for new volunteers and donors to help participate in the important work that we’re doing. 

What do you envision for HLT’s future?

For the short term – within the next few years – in addition to building upon our terrific preservation and stewardship work, I’m excited about the Dvoor Farm rehabilitation project, and the work we’ll be doing on the bank barn, the landscaping, and making the property more attractive and more accessible.

I also think we will be doing more educational and program work around conservation and stewardship. The changing climate has become such a large problem that individuals feel overwhelmed and aren’t sure how they can make a difference. So, it’s critical that we educate more people about what they can do as individuals or by working together to protect the environment – both locally and globally.

There are also opportunities to diversify and grow our audience by bringing in communities that might not necessarily know about what we have to offer – like our Farmers’ Market, our preserves and our programming. I’m looking forward to us tapping into those new communities. I would also like to see us do more for our special-needs communities, perhaps having some trails on our preserves be made accessible to those with special needs.

I also think it’s wonderful that our Farmers’ Market continues to be a tremendous resource. One of the things I like about the land trust’s work is the synergy that occurs from doing the work to preserve farmland so farmers can make a living selling their products to the public, and the public, in turn, gets local food that’s better and more nutritious. In the end, it all comes in a complete circle. There are very few places that do that as a focus of their work.