On Sunday, Aug. 18, the Lewisboro Land Trust will celebrate its 25th birthday at Mountain Lakes Preserve with a big bash, to which the community is invited (tickets: lewisborolandtrust.org/25th-birthday-party).
As we look back over a quarter of a century, we reflect on the evolution of our mission over 25 years:
In 1994, Susan Henry, Anne-Marie Nordgren, Bobbe Stultz and Laurel Genovese met with folks from North Salem Open Land Foundation and realized that we were addressing the same issues: loss of trails, land being developed, lack of an open space plan. We decided that a land trust was necessary and asked Susan, who was on the board of Westchester Land Trust, to ask them if we could be a chapter.
The newly formed Lewisboro Land Trust quickly took on the task of community education on the value and means of local land preservation.
Hamlet Forums were organized and provided an opportunity for residents to explore and discuss ways to promote the vitality of the hamlet centers while preserving open space all across the town. A town-wide survey was commissioned in 1996. The consensus from the survey and throughout the community favored retaining the rural character of the town. A report on the forums was presented to the Lewisboro Town Board to help with the update of the Master Plan.
At the same time, the Lewisboro Land Trust steering committee was identifying key land for preservation, chief among them the former Bell Property (now the Leon Levy Preserve) and the Houlihan property (now the Old Field Preserve). But how to accomplish such a daunting task?
After researching how a handful of other localities had accomplished successful land preservation, it was decided to use a combination of resources. The 2000 ballot referendum campaign culminated in the successful passing of a $2 million land fund in Lewisboro. These funds were combined with county, state and New York City Department of Environmental Protection funds (along with generous donations from private citizens) to help purchase the Old Field Preserve and the Leon Levy Preserve.
The Lewisboro Land Trust is proud of its history and the role it played in these accomplishments. Today, hundreds of people enjoy these trails and open spaces every year.
In 2013, we realized that our community was no longer focused on open space preservation, but on the use and educational aspects of open space. So, we became an independent 501(c)3 charity with a mission of linking people to the land.
In the last five years, we have sponsored two dozen outdoor programs each year, added an outdoor program naturalist coordinator and a children’s program coordinator to our staff, and we have launched the very successful Access Nature program, which brings the benefits of nature, through exposure and education, to 300 people from disabled and disadvantaged populations each year. This program has its own director, coordinator, and fundraising arm.
We also are launching a very exciting program on Aug. 18, which will be announced at the party.