With the passage of time, we observe life’s ebb and flow in the changes that occur around us. Children grow; seasons change; neighbors move away and new ones arrive. Such is the current atmosphere at the Westerly Land Trust, as Harvey Perry passes the gavel to Sheilia Terranova Beattie after serving as board president since 2000.
Harvey has enthusiastically and tirelessly led the Westerly Land Trust’s efforts in land conservation and acquisition to secure 1,550 acres of open space that comprise 22 nature preserves. These special places not only provide opportunities for public recreation, but also are invaluable assets to our community that protect Westerly’s drinking water, agricultural lands, wildlife and biodiversity. Ever since he began as a founding board member in 1987, Harvey has always been one to approach challenges with vigor and determination, not to be discouraged even while immersed in complex land-transfer transactions that can take years to come to fruition. Thankfully, he will remain engaged with the Land Trust both in his role as a trustee and as chairman of the land acquisition committee to continue working with landowners and funders to preserve many more acres.
Truly, Harvey’s commitment and endurance are indicative of the character of his fellow board members both past and present. How else could a group gathered around a kitchen table musing about saving Westerly’s special places evolve into one that has successfully protected 1,550 acres just since 1998? How else could a small, local land trust have the ambition to set itself apart from all other land trusts regionally and even nationally by pairing its conservation efforts with urban renewal? How else could this same organization continue to fulfill its mission to preserve and enhance Westerly’s sense of place long into the future?
While it is important to celebrate past successes, it is quite exciting to look toward the horizon and envision what challenging projects and initiatives lie ahead. In January, with Sheilia taking over at the helm, we will begin to write new chapters in the Land Trust’s history book and they are certain to be remarkable.
A Westerly native who is a keen businesswoman, avid hiker and dedicated member of the Land Trust board of directors since 2005, Sheilia brings wonderful qualities and expertise to the presidency. Quick to offer volunteer service and slow to complain, she has proved her commitment to our land-conservation mission time and time again, with a focus on the stewardship of Land Trust preserves. Acquiring these lands is the first of many critical steps, and the ongoing care, maintenance and overall stewardship of a property poses its own challenges that Sheilia knows well from her years on the Land Trust’s stewardship committee.
What does land stewardship mean? It means clearing trails, removing fallen trees and monitoring property boundaries and entire preserves to ensure there is no encroachment or abuse of the land. It means fixing bridges over streams and rivers, working with local farmers who use Land Trust lands for agriculture and building relationships with preserve neighbors. It means leading hikes for school children or adults to share knowledge of these special places and nurture future stewards of the land. Stewardship is a commitment to care for these places and to encourage others to join in doing so because our promise is to protect them in perpetuity.
Thanks to Harvey’s strong leadership and commitment to finding, funding and securing land-acquisition deals, the Westerly Land Trust has amassed an impressive group of land holdings. With Sheilia’s upcoming guidance in stewardship and organizational management, we will build on that success by further developing the Land Trust’s policies and land-management practices to care for these wonderful places far into the future for all to enjoy.
Kelly Presley is the executive director of the Westerly Land Trust.