East Granby Land Trust celebrates 40 years

By Jennifer Coe - ReminderNews
East Granby - posted Thu., Nov. 14, 2013
The East Granby Land Trust’s 2014 calendar features many images of local open space, including ‘Greenway,’ by Matt Mononey. Courtesy photo. - Contributed Photo

East Granby Land Trust celebrated its 40th anniversary with a presentation by Robert Thorson, a UConn geology professor and an expert in New England stone walls. Thorson is local to this area and has done extensive research in Connecticut resulting in his book, “Stone by Stone,” published in 2002.

The East Granby Land Trust began in 1974 with the first gift of land. This land, a whopping 54 acres donated by Harry and Joseph Peterson, was the beginning to four decades of work to preserve and maintain pristine land. The tax-exempt status of the land trust was approved in 1975.

A land trust’s sole purpose is to preserve open space from development.

“The term ‘open space’ in this context means undeveloped land, which may be forested, or open space in the other sense,” said current EGLT President John Erbland. “Which land gets preserved is usually not a matter of choice, but chance,” he said.

“In most cases, a land trust does not have the funds to buy desirable land outright, but may pay a smaller amount for what's called a ‘conservation easement,’” said Erbland. This means that the original property owner still owns the land, but that he or she agrees not to develop it. No matter who the land is sold to, the stipulation for non-development is maintained. The EGLT currently has 264 acres on its books, all received through direct donations of land.

Once a piece of land is owned by the land trust, it must be responsible for the property. Stewardship of the land includes everything “from simply monitoring the property to ensure against encroachments, which includes everything from simply monitoring the property to ensure against encroachments - trash dumping, illegal tree cutting, small buildings crossing a property line, etc. - to actively changing the properties for the better,” said Erbland.

The trust also has the job of constantly removing invasive plant species. “We have also transformed some properties by planting more appropriate plants, and modifying habitat for wildlife,” Erbland said.

As part of its regular calendar of activities, the EGLT offers hikes and educational presentations. Thorson came to speak to a group of about 40 members about his work with stone walls.

“My purpose here is to convince you that in your lovely stone walls, there is more nature in them than culture,” Thorson said.  As he showed picture after picture of stone walls, an image began to form of their function as well as their beauty.  As the population in the historical United States exploded, the increase in stone wall construction did too. Their use was strictly as an agricultural boundary, but in time they have become one of the most well-recognized and beautiful symbols of New England rural life.

For stone walls to appear, said Thorson, an area has to have the “right rocks, the right glacial type and be in the right culture stage.” East Granby has them all, he said.

If you are interested in donating to the East Granby Land Trust’s mission or becoming a member, visit the website www.eglt.org.

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