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Fall Appeal Letter
fall letter

On February 19 of this year, after a long and exacting process, Middlebury Land Trust, Inc., (MLT) was awarded national accreditation by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission. Land trust accreditation is a sought-after mark of distinction, demonstrating that a land trust meets the highest standards for land conservation and has successfully implemented the rigorous Standards and Practices of the Land Trust Alliance. The accreditation seal offers the assurance that a land trust can keep the promise of perpetuity and that it is worthy of the public trust. MLT is proud to join the current group of 443 accredited land trusts, a select group indeed of the 1363 total land trusts across the country.

As this report is being written, the deed is being recorded whereby 8.9 acres of beautiful open space are being added to MLT's preserves. Donated by Ms. Meredeth Moniot and her brother Paul Moniot in honor of their parents, Richard and Mildred Moniot, this property lies at the junction where Artillery Road joins Breakneck Hill Road in Middlebury. Special features include distant views, historic stone walls, former fields and meadows, and several notable trees including the largest cucumber magnolia in Connecticut. Acquisition of this property brings MLT's total conserved land to 1932 acres, of which 838 acres are owned in fee and 1094 acres are protected under conservation easements.

The Peck-Nichols House, located on the 134-acre Nichols Road Preserve acquired from the Town of Middlebury last year, dates from 1781. Although of charming proportions and historical interest, studies commissioned by MLT with the assistance of Restoration Connecticut (formerly CT Trust for Historic Preservation) came to the unfortunate conclusion that proper restoration of this structure could cost as much as half a million dollars. Even with partial State assistance such a budget would be far beyond the capacity of the Middlebury community, so an alternative plan was sought. To our great relief, even delight, a nationally active historic preservation contractor emerged who is disassembling the house piece by piece, transporting it across the country, and accurately rebuilding it for use as a bed-and-breakfast. This is being done at no cost to MLT and in fact the contractor is making a $3K donation toward the creation, by MLT in conjunction with the Middlebury Historical Society, of a historical interpretation on the site. The period fireplace mantel will be given to MHS, which already houses other related materials and has long been a champion of the Peck-Nichols House. Work is also being done to evaluate the possibility of creating a place for dogs on the Nichols Road preserve, potentially a modest community dog part and/or other features accessible to our canine residents. Existing trails are being restored.

One of our newest preserves, the seven-acre Crest Road Preserve was donated by a generous anonymous donor in 2017. Located just across the street from the Middlebury Public Library, the easy woodland trail loop winds through an intimate forest landscape with native plants and wildlife. Improvements to the trail and several new foot bridges resulted from the Eagle Scout projects of Luis Gonzalez and Hugh Flanagan. (Other recent Eagle Scout projects benefitting MLT have been refurbishment of the dam at Lake Elise by Terrence Dumoulin and trail work on the southern half of the Foote Path by Spencer Bigman.) The Crest Road Preserve is ideal for squeezing in a bit of nature even during the busiest days.

When growing up in the 1920s and 1930s, now almost a century ago, former MLT President (1985-2010), Leavenworth P. (Lem) Sperry, Jr., and his brother, Mark, loved the largely undeveloped forests and fields surrounding their family home in Middlebury. It is not surprising, therefore, that Lem came to see the importance of keeping land like that where he played as a boy forever open and protected. Over the years, therefore, Lem and his family have been the benefactors of five contiguous properties, making up MLT's largest assemblage of open space, known as Juniper Hill/Sperry Pond, the very land where Lem played as a boy. One of these properties, 312 Park Road, contains a c. 1850 farmhouse that MLT has now renovated as its first office. Lem, still active as a Director and lopper-wielding property maintainer, is an inspiration to all those coming along behind him. Last year, in celebration of MLT's 50th Anniversary and Lem's 95th birthday, he received the prestigious Katchen Coley Award for Excellence in Land Conservation, the highest conservation honor in Connecticut. Upon completion of the renovations at 312 Park Road, the Board dedicated this former farmhouse to be henceforth known as "Sperry House" in Lem's honor. A lovely property in its own right, Sperry House connects to Sperry Pond by means of a former carriage road and will serve as the new entrance to Juniper Hill Preserve, replacing the hazardous former entrance off of Straits Turnpike.

MLT has long offered members the opportunity for fishing at Lake Elise and Larkin Pond. In the past, an annual written application for a special permit was required, along with an extra fishing fee of $15. To enhance the benefits of MLT membership, the Board has voted to eliminate both the permit and the extra fee. Fishing privileges are therefore now a free and automatic benefit of annual MLT membership. We do have rules, stated on our website, including that all fishing is catch-and-release only (since we do not stock). Access to Lake Elise is from a small parking area on Long Meadow Road just south of Middlebury Road (CT 64). Access to Larkin Pond is from Long Meadow Road where it joins South Street heading toward Naugatuck.

Having completed the truly Herculean task of applying for and achieving accreditation, MLT is now operating on a professional level not even imagined previously. We are also able to return our focus to stewardship and management of our properties and to outreach and development of our membership. Our Preserve Management Committee has adopted a detailed prioritized work plan going forward. Our Membership Committee has likewise adopted a detailed plan for expanding our membership and our support. In conjunction with CT Trails Day, these committees will combine efforts to increase member volunteers and accelerate trail improvements. Although still almost completely a volunteer organization, we have since last year increased the hours of administrative support from 8 to 12.

Total conserved land as of 12/31/2019 was 1923 acres. Current assets (cash + investments) were $1,842,364. Cash donations were $10,005. Total operating expenses were $156,575, of which 79% was for program services.

You can support the continued efforts of the Middlebury Land Trust by making a donation right now. Just click on the "Donate" button below and your donation in any chosen amount will be processed securely through PayPal, who will transfer it to the Middlebury Land Trust. Thank you.


W. Scott Peterson, M.D.



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