Each fall, Granby Land Trust members gather, often on a special GLT property, to reconnect with each other and with the natural world, to celebrate the accomplishments of the past year, and to learn about exciting new projects on the horizon.
Due to COVID-19, this year’s meeting had to be held virtually, but the GLT offered Members-Only guided hikes of the new Dismal Brook Wildlife Preserve on the day of the meeting. About 65 members joined us on the trails over the course of three hikes on a beautiful fall day. In the evening, we reconvened via Zoom, and, as one member said after the meeting, “I was hoping the Annual Meeting held virtually would still be the special celebration it always is and still be a chance for all of us to bask in the glow of another wonderful year— and it was!”
Knowing a Zoom meeting would present unique challenges, GLT president Rick Orluk worked hard to create a meeting that was both entertaining and informative. Highlights included two slideshows: one, a virtual tour of the GLT’s new Dismal Brook Wildlife Preserve, and the other, a slideshow of GLT properties and people, set to a moving song written by Fred Wilhelm Jr. and Lisa Brokop, and performed by Lisa Brokop. A native of Granby and a friend of Orluk’s, Wilhelm is now a songwriter living in Nashville, Tenn. Brokop is a country music singer/songwriter and actress who has recorded seven studio albums and charted more than 20 singles on the country music charts in her native Canada. The song was inspired by an experience Wilhelm had, as a young man, walking through the fields and forest behind his family farm on North Granby Road. The GLT is exceedingly grateful to Wilhelm and Brokop for granting the GLT permission to use their music for this purpose. Both slideshows can be seen on the GLT’s website and YouTube channel.
Other highlights of the meeting included the news that the GLT has acquired three remarkable new properties this year. Longtime GLT Board Member Jamie Gamble donated the 210-acre Dismal Brook Wildlife Preserve at 253 Loomis Street (see article above), as well as a 30-acre agricultural parcel at 107 Loomis Street—incredible additions to one of the GLT’s priority conservation areas: the Loomis Street Corridor in North Granby. The Estate of Theodore Maltbie and the Maltbie Family donated a 12-acre parcel in another GLT priority conservation area, the Old Messenger Road Corridor in West Granby.
Another meeting highlight was the presentation of the Ann Pelka Unsung Hero Award that recognizes an individual who has worked tirelessly behind the scenes on behalf of the Land Trust. This award was given to GLT Vice President Dave Emery, whose efforts surpass expectations every year, but especially this year, as he spent countless volunteer hours managing and making property improvements — including new bridges, the construction of birding platforms, dam improvements, cabin improvements, a new parking lot, and more—at the Dismal Brook Wildlife Preserve. In awarding the honor, Orluk said, “This year’s recipient is truly dedicated to Granby and its natural places. He’s multi-talented, a wonderful mentor, teacher and coach, loved and respected by all, committed to our community, an incredibly hard worker willing to go the extra mile…”
Finally, the GLT presented its Mary Edwards Friend of the Land Trust Award, the GLT’s highest honor. This year’s award was presented to Jamie Gamble, the longtime GLT board member who donated two incredible properties to the Granby Land Trust in 2020: a 30-acre agricultural parcel at 107 Loomis Street and the 210-acre Dismal Brook Wildlife Preserve at 253 Loomis Street. In presenting the award, GLT Board Member Put Brown said, “Jamie wanted this to be a wildlife preserve, named after a watercourse on the land. It isn’t to bear his name at all, because it is the land, and not Jamie himself, that is to be honored. But such humility honors him even more, as all true humility honors those rare individuals who have it.”
Two board members relocated this year: Jim Wickham to South Carolina and Jamie Gamble to Vermont. Tim Heinze and Karen Dowd were unanimously elected to fill those vacancies; and board members Lowell Kahn, Eric Lukingbeal, Shirley Murtha, Jen Plourde, and Mark Wetzel were re-elected to three-year terms.
“The work the Granby Land Trust does is more important than ever,” said Orluk. “Our properties have never been busier and the need for public spaces where people can connect with nature has never been greater. Spending time on our properties is a balm for the soul.”