Looking Back: 20 Years of IHT’s Dedication To Land Conservation

IHT celebrated its 20th anniversary with a Celebration at this year’s Annual Meeting held at Heritage House, its future permanent home.

After acknowledging the contributions of many including founder Rowan Wakefield, President Ken Crowell highlighted many accomplishments of IHT including its community programs – Adopt-A-Preserve Program, collaboration with Island Community Center in providing summer programs to kids at Camp Kooky, its many free Walks and Talks programs for the public, and Quarryography dance festival with the Opera House Arts – as well as significant land and stewardship projects, especially in the last five years.

Here are comments from some of the early supporters of the Trust:

Brenda Gilchrist (from her remarks in tribute to Rowan Wakefield) – ” I remember attending meetings around Rowan’s kitchen table in the early years.  We were a small band, incited, fueled by Rowan’s enthusiasm and total dedication to the IHT.  Barbara, his wife, sat quietly in the background, ably assisting.  Gentle, friendly, a smile always on his face, Rowan worked indefatigably around the clock, inspiring us to share his commitment.  He had a talent for networking in the field, for organization building, and for finding people to roll up their sleeves on behalf of the IHT.  Tireless in his pursuit of grant money, he also wrote and edited much of the Newsletter.”

Cherie Mason – “On an evening in 1986 in the apartment above the Pilgrim’s Inn barn, Lloyd Capen, Dud Hendrick and I were ending a meeting of the Deer Isle Conservation Commission when we reopened our discussion of establishing a land trust on Deer Isle.  We were encouraged by Blue Hill’s successful effort.  We began making a list of people we knew who might be interested (that battered list is attached).  We then went to Blue Hill to pick the brains of Jean Nickerson and others.  From there the ball just rolled and rolled.” (She attached lists of former board members which I will leave in the office on Monday.)

Dan Hadley –  His memories of the early days include working on a strategic plan.  He “recommends that IHT adopt an aggressive campaign to inform new property owners about the work of the trust and also about local customs concerning waterfront access.  A significant number of new owners bring with them their “from away” views re: private property.  The result is that many clammers find themselves shut out of access to the shore.  I would be glad to work on an educational effort directed to this issue.”

Peg Myers – “The early days of the Trust seemed “ad hoc”, putting things together from scratch.  It was exciting, as we felt we were building something important for the future of the Island.  It was a scramble at times – finding a place for an office (we had several office sites:  Main Street in Stonington where the back room of the Dry Dock is; at the back of the Opera House below the stage; and on the porch of the old Atlantic Avenue Hardware.  Getting our first easement was a landmark event.  Another milestone was the purchase of the Settlement Quarry, the first property to be owned by the IHT.  The early focus was on attaining easements, as there was not the money to purchase land.  Each easement was a triumph of cultivating the interest of landowners in the future preservation of their land.”

Stan Myers – “Conservation easements are an important conservation tool but they do not impress skeptical Deer Islanders about the community benefits of protecting private land from future development”    …..’ Preserving Settlement Quarry, an important remnant of Stonington’s industrial past and opening it to everyone for exploration, hiking and enjoyment helped shift community attitudes towards greater appreciation of the Trust’s work.”

Dan Hotaling – “When we moved to Deer Isle year-round in 1993/94 and served on the board, I was convinced of the excellence of the mission, the people and the accomplishments (land acquisition, easements and long-range education and education for everyone).”

Diane Walker – “I remember Stephanie Levy as the first staff person.  Ian served on the Land Committee beginning in 1991.  He prepared the first list of steps for preparing a Conservation Easement.  At that time there was little or no really helpful information for new land trusts, so “helter skelter”, not well-organized or systematic procedures rules – drove Ian to take it on because he cared that IHT have a systematic process and stick to procedures….The Conservation Easement Handbook, published in ’87, a key document with necessary background and legal information, was helpful in identifying the steps and criteria but few people had it, or read it or used it at that time.”

Molly Felton – “Ned and I already serve as stewards for two islands and plan to continue on doing so.  We feel that our IHT is a most important asset to the communities of Deer Isle and value its connection with the larger communities of environmentally conscious groups.”

Dee Dee Moore – “The Island Heritage Trust has been a significant variable in the quality of life on the Island, and is gaining much greater acceptance and involvement by natives.  I truly appreciate the incredible commitment of so many volunteers.  Important accomplishments have been involving the schools and children in knowing and valuing their island; involving natives on the board; preserving the Causeway Beach and properties that would deny development of high rises, etc.”