Land trust looks back, and ahead

 

“We’ve had a truly amazing year,” is how Bobbe Stultz characterized the Lewisboro Land Trust’s 2015. Stultz, a member of the organization’s executive committee, took some time to look back at the 12 months just ended, as well as to look forward in anticipation.

Access Nature

“I guess the one thing we are most proud of is the Access Nature Program,” said Stultz. “This is a program designed to connect disabled and disadvantaged populations with nature, through visits to our preserves with naturalists, educators and interpreters.”

The Lewisboro Land Trust (LLT) piloted this new initiative in 2015.

“The first outing, in August,” said Stultz, “was with the Community Center of Northern Westchester’s 60 clients, at the Leon Levy Preserve.”

The Community Center of Northern Westchester, located in Katonah, offers services and resources for area families in need.

“It was extremely well received by the community center,” said Helen Peeples, another executive committee member, who was in charge of the program. “The children loved finding all sorts of critters and plants in the forest, and the naturalist (Chris Evers) was informative and created fabulous conversations and curiosity.”

One young girl, said Peeples, came with a nature guide on plants and insects, “and as she found specimens in nature that matched the picture in her book, she marked them and made notes so she could ‘teach’ her friends that did not come on the hike. She truly enjoyed herself.” Peeples added that the parents also got in on the discovery process.

“The community center is thrilled that we are working to do two more programs with them,” said Peeples.

“The land trust has applied for a grant this year for five more individual programs, involving diverse communities in several different preserves with population-geared activities,” Stultz added.

The Lewisboro Land Trust has helped preserve more than 1,000 acres in Lewisboro since it was founded 22 years ago. LLT leadership describes the independent organization as having a “renewed passion and commitment” to environmental stewardship, responsibility for nature, and education of adults and children through experience, exposure and education, to fulfill its goal of “linking people with the land” and offering the community many ways to use and enjoy “our beautiful open space.”

In December the LLT was awarded the Westchester County Soil and Water Conservation Achievement Award.

Highlights of 2015

Among other LLT highlights listed by Stultz for 2015:

  • Work was begun on the renovation of the Brownell Preserve in Goldens Bridge, which has been largely inaccessible for more than 10 years. New trails have been cleared and marked. Water crossings will be installed in the early spring, and a new parking area added. The grand opening is planned for late spring.

“LLT has been put in charge of the renovation of Brownell by the town’s Open Space and Preserves Advisory Committee,” Stultz said. “Due to a grant from a very generous donor, LLT is able to foot the bill for the renovation, so there is no cost to the taxpayer. LLT will be monitoring the preserve on an ongoing basis with Mike Surdej as the current and future supervising manager.”

  •  A 5,000-square-foot educational native plant garden was created at the Leon Levy Preserve, adjacent to the parking lot. This garden is low-maintenance, deer-resistant, and sustainable. There is a small path through the garden with an informative kiosk (with brochures also available) detailing all plants in the garden. An award for Soil and Water Conservation was presented to LLT by Westchester County for this project.

 

  • The native garden was underwritten by the Jerome Levy Foundation and was planted with the help of students involved in the John Jay High School senior internship program. LLT hopes to expand this program in 2016 to include even more students.

“One of the most exhilarating experiences of the year was watching the evolution of the JJHS seniors from their first day working on the garden to the last — as they grew in knowledge, expertis, and confidence,” said Stultz.

  •  LLT presented more than a dozen children’s programs in conjunction with the town and Ward Pound Ridge Reservation, including Plant Hunters, Vernal Pool Exploration, and Bluebird House Building.

“These programs are always full,” said Stultz.

  • More than two dozen guided hikes and nature walks were offered to the public. All were free, thanks to a grant from the Land Trust Alliance (an umbrella organization for all 1,400 recognized land trusts in the country) to cover the cost of environmental educators and naturalists.

“We estimate that more than 250 people take part in our hikes and walks throughout the year,” said Stultz.

  • LLT helped organize and participated in Lewisboro’s First Day celebration, with an easy hike in Ward Pound Ridge Reservation. Between 75 and 80 community members of all ages participated in the First Day hike.

“It was so much fun to see a huge crowd of neighbors walking along a trail together on the first morning of the new year — for the second year in a row,” said Stultz.

  • Funding was granted for a new “Walking Wild Lewisboro” trail guide, which will update all maps for preserves in Lewisboro; all maps will be hosted online. The guide is due to be completed in the spring.

“We are pretty excited about the funding for the new trail guide,” said Stultz, “because in addition to new print and online maps, we are also experimenting with an interactive trail app for smartphones that we are hoping to make available.”

  • A lecture on “biophelia” — our need for connection with nature — with Yale professor Dr. Stephen Kellert was held at the Katonah Library on Feb. 22.

“For 12 years LLT has been hosting an annual environmental lecture, underwritten by the Jerome Levy Foundation,” said Stultz. This year’s, she said, will feature Ellen Zachos, author of Backyard Foraging: 65 Familiar Plants You Didn’t Know You Could Eat.

  • LLT is working with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection to open a trail along the reservoir in Old Goldens Bridge.

“LLT’s goal is to respond to the wants and wishes of the community,” Stultz explained. “We are hearing that our community members want to know more about nature and they want to be outside more, as well as wanting the same for their kids. All of LLT’s programs are focused on those key points. So we strive to provide quality environmental education and outdoor experiences for all members of our community. We raise funds from foundations and individuals so that almost all our programs are free.”

Stultz said LLT’s goals for 2016 include developing more partnerships on the local, regional, county, and foundation level.

 

Lewisboro Land Trust (LLT) executive committee member Bobbe Stultz (left), Deputy County Executive Kevin J. Plunkett, LLT member Pam Pooley,  LLT executive committee member Helen Peeples, Lewisboro Town Supervisor Peter Parsons, and Chief of Staff to the County Executive George Oros were present when the LLT was given the Westchester County Soil and Water Conservation Achievement Award. — Courtesy of Peter Parsons

 

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