by Beth Sullivan
Fifty years ago, Mashantucket Land Trust was formed ( learn more here), and to celebrate we threw ourselves a party at the Mystic Aquarium. Everyone was invited; so many wonderful people came.
“Hosted” by Chuck Toal, our Director of Programs and Development, his welcome set the tone for the evening. This event was, in part, a thank-you to honor those who gave shape to the organization over the last decades. A rolling montage of photos played on a screen, of faces from the past, some long gone. That drew many people who stood and watched and marveled at how young we all looked “ back then” . It brought back many memories of early work parties and hikes and pot luck dinners.
As videos rolled, visitors enjoyed drinks and appetizers and got to visit with old friends and make some new ones. Several of us staffed a members’ table, with brochures, newsletters and other information about the organization. Folks stopped to chat, introduce themselves, pick up name tags, and see what was new. I am not sure there were any people new to Avalonia at this event, but a lot of folks with renewed enthusiasm. On display at the members’ table was the beautiful commemorative platter created for the occasion by local artist Susan Scala highlighting the connection of habitats, wildlife, and people.
As people wandered and mingled they could enjoy enlarged members’ photos of several aspects of Avalonia preserves. A large screen computer played videos created by other members, one of which was a drone aerial tour of the Pequotsepos Brook Preserve adjoining the Stone Ridge Community. That was a hit for many. All of this was set against the backdrop of coral reefs and beautiful fishes. It was hard to take it all in.
|At a member's table, people could stop, chat, and view our commemorative platter.
|Beautiful photos taken on, or over, Avalonia preserves were on display for all to enjoy.
|Old friends reunited.
|Chuck Toal offered a welcome and introduction to all.
Fifty years of conservancy
The event was also a recognition of where the organization is now, fifty years later. Many of our current Board of Directors were present to greet friends and members. Dennis Main, Avalonia President, explained the details of our mission and our challenge: to uphold the Land Trust Alliance’s Standards and Practices for excellence. It was no small task to gain accreditation, and it will be an equally big challenge to stick to the program and operate by these new guidelines for the next 5 years we have to get fully in line and prove we are worthy.
Representative Diana Urban is not a stranger to Avalonia, as she lives in and enjoys the open spaces of North Stonington. She presented Dennis with a citation, a State recognition of Avalonia Land Conservancy’s work over the years. Chuck also read a letter of special recognition from Stonington First Selectman, Rob Simmons, whose family has long been supporters of Avalonia as well.
The key speaker was Ct Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Commissioner Rob Klee. He outlined some of the challenges the State, and even the Nation, has in trying to defend the environment from so many threats, including defunding of programs and climate change. It was especially pertinent considering our location in the Mystic Aquarium, in the coastal town of Stonington, where we are noticing the effects of sea level rise right in town. His speech gave hope for the future, that with guidance and new energy from the next generation, our work will continue to be successful.
In conclusion the event was a look to the future. As an organization we need to embrace and encourage that younger generation, many of whom were present at the event. Our mission is for perpetuity. We can look over our shoulders and be grateful for those that had the vision to get the environmental movement going, but we need to keep our collective eyes firmly on the future, to plan and protect for generations of people and wildlife to come.
This was a great way to celebrate both!
|Commissioner Rob Klee toasted to the next fifty years of conservation efforts.
|Diana Urban presents the State Citation to Dennis Main.
|The Aquarium exhibits were a perfect backdrop to the evening.
|The guests were enthusiastic about the glowing praise from the key speakers.
Photographs by Bruce Fellman.