In the Schools: Waterford Land Trust trying to build awareness for its preservation agenda

In the meeting room behind the children’s section of the Waterford Library a group of people meet once a month to discuss the business of the Waterford Land Trust, which is in charge of preserving natural watersheds and habitats in town.

The board in charge of these properties is composed of 13 members who volunteer their time to continue the mission started in the 1970s by local community members.

Scattered around Waterford are 22 locations that comprise the trust. The group is headed by board President David Lersch and meets the third Monday of every month to plan for the future and vote on proposals from members. Topics discussed in meetings include property walks, training for members, budgets and scheduling upcoming events.

The Land Trust operates on the work of volunteers and donations from the community. Volunteers help clear debris from trails and clean up properties.

When the trust was founded, it was mainly supported by a donation of land from Dr. George S. Avery, a local conservationist. It has since amassed almost 350 acres of land. The majority of land that the trust owns is from donations, although they have bought a few properties. When they receive an offer for a donation, the land must be reviewed to assess whether holding it would offer any preservational value or whether the land is protected already.

Originally named the West Farms Land Trust after the former title of the Waterford area, the group’s name changed in 2013 on a board vote. As of May, the trust had about 60 members who make donations to help fund the mission of conservation.

Sally Taylor, one of the founding members of the West Farms Land Trust, said that the most important thing that the community can do is support the trust. She said that it is hard to build awareness and support of the trust because Waterford is geographically separated.

Most board members are people in the community who feel a duty to conservation or those who care about the environment. The common interest of the preservation of nature brings people together. Anyone can become a member by filling out the membership form on the Waterford Land Trust website, waterfordlandtrust.org, and making a donation.

Jack Lange is a journalism student at Waterford High School.

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