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Lover and Defender of Connecticut Woods, Carolyn Kneen Evans

Published 01/15/2014 12:00 AM
Updated 01/14/2014 01:08 PM

By Karena Garrity
Guiford Courier

When someone spends the better part of her 82 years making a concrete difference in the lives of others the way Carolie Evans did, it's no wonder her passing was so strongly felt throughout her community. The devout and tireless conservationist passed on Jan. 4 from complications following a brain aneurysm.

Well known throughout the Guilford community for her graceful manner, diligent work ethic, astute attention to detail, and zeal to protect and preserve land in Connecticut, Evans was widely respected for her patience, her professionalism, her ability to see the long-range picture, and her sincere intentions to do whatever she could to preserve and protect the land so it could be appreciated and used by everyone.

"My mother really loved it when she saw people using the land, hiking it, enjoying it, respecting it," said Evans's daughter Sally Harold, who works for the Connecticut Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. "She instilled in us from a very young age a deep appreciation of nature and the connection between places."

Evans was the past president and longtime board member of Guilford Land Conservation Trust, former director of land protection at the Connecticut Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, and served as the chair of the Guilford Land Acquisition Commission. She set up Guilford's community gardens on Nut Plains Road and organized the formation and incorporation of Guilford Recycling in 1974-12 years before recycling became mandated by the state-donating funds earned from the sale of the community's donated glass and aluminum to the Guilford Land Conservation Trust (GLCT) for open space acquisition. She was named to the National Land Trust Council and was honored by the GLCT in 2010 for her efforts to protect open space in Guilford; the trust committed $70,000 from its general fund to launch an endowment fund in her name.

"Carolie was instrumental in nearly every major open space purchase in Guilford. Her positive, patient, and meticulous approach was an inspiration to anyone fortunate enough to work with her. We will miss her terribly, but we are honored to continue her work," said GLCT President Sarah Williams.

One of Carolie's most crowning achievements was the successful negotiation and acquisition of the 600-acre East River Preserve, which she worked on for more than four years.

"The East River Preserve was the largest undeveloped piece of land in Guilford, and she negotiated the purchase of that parcel through federal grant funding and town bonding, which passed with an 85 percent approval. The Preserve was such an important acquisition for the town because it is a mixture of fields, river waterfront, woodlands, hills, rocks, and trees-an entire ecosystem that we were fortunate to be able to preserve," said Guilford Selectman Gary MacElhiney, who worked closely with Evans on that project.

He added, "Carolie had a tremendous effect on everyone. It really was her life's work to become aware of any opportunity to preserve open space, then work toward making it happen. She was a great mentor to all of us on the land trust. She was always gracious and kind, always positive and persistent and a pleasure to work with, making sure that everyone was always on task in a kind, gentle, positively persistent way. She was a terrific woman who will be greatly missed."

David Kozak of the Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection Office of Long Island Sound Programs admired her ability to achieve consensus.

"I was always so impressed with the way Carolie overcame challenges and was able to defuse controversial issues. She always respected people's opinions and she was deliberately passionate about her work, always keeping the long view in mind. I wish we had more people like her," Kozak said. "I learned a lot from her in the way she accomplished things [by] being patient, being deliberate, knowing the facts, and paying attention to detail. She was a joy to work with."

"She had a great way of connecting others and bringing them on board with her to get what needed to get done, completed," Harold said of her mother. "And she was fantastic at recognizing the potential for action and then taking action in a very warm and welcoming way. It was her gentle, quiet manner that helped her get a lot of things done."

Outside of preserving nature, Carolie also made every effort to enjoy it as well. An avid hiker, skier, and gardener, she learned to sail on Lake Erie and ended up being one of four women representing the Sachem's Head Yacht Club in the Adams Cup Eliminations.

"I thought everyone grew up with a mom like mine. When I realized they didn't, I appreciated her even more," said Harold.

Evans's legacy in Guilford will be miles of hiking trails, acres of preserved open space, and a template for others who wish to continue that work. A celebration of her life will be held at the First Congregational Church in Guilford on Saturday, Jan. 25 at 11 a.m. Contributions in her memory may be made to the Guilford Land Conservation Trust, P.O. Box 200, Guilford, CT 06427; or The Nature Conservancy, 55 Church St., New Haven, CT 06510.

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