The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, July 30, 1999


Brownrigg comes to ConsCom with a lifelong interest in nature

The Carlisle Conservation Commission has welcomed the first of three anticipated replacements for board members who stepped down at the end of their official terms on June 30. The three retirees were Claire Wilcox, who had served for six years, Christine Bopardikar for three and Steven Hinton for a total of seven and a half years during two stints.

The first to apply for one of the seats and receive a nod of approval from the commission and board of selectmen is 27-year resident Tom Brownrigg. A physical chemist and applications manager with American Holographic in Littleton, his résumé leads rather naturally to the question, "What impelled a specialist in optical spectrum analysis and fiber optics to volunteer to assess environmental impacts, manage diverse conservation properties and tramp forest and wetland in pursuit of those duties?

"One of Carlisle's greatest assets is its conservation land and open space, and since we have enjoyed it so much, I want to give something back."

A few steps into the well-hidden home on Acton Street that Brownrigg shares with his artist wife d'Ann suggests an answer. Clearly visible behind a panel of glass in the sunny dining and family room hang a number of generously—supplied bird feeders, where human observers are treated to the happy comings and goings of finches, cardinals and, if this visitor was not mistaken, a catbird. On paneling atop the opposite wall is a handsome arrangement of scores of plates of similar design depicting birds, fish and animalsa collection inherited from Tom's parents.

Local birders

Asked directly about his reasons for applying to serve on the commission, Brownrigg cited an interest in nature that dates back to his childhood, when he and a naturalist companion roamed the forests around Brookfield, Illinois and pored over field guides to the plants, animals and insects they found there. About 15 years ago, d'Ann enrolled in a bird identification class at the Massachusetts Audubon Society taught by her neighbor Betty Valentine, and Tom quickly caught the fever. Since then, the couple has been active in the Brookline Bird Club and taken advantage of Carlisle's rich conservation resources. They have recorded accurate bird sightings in Carlisle (and other locations) since 1986 and continue to monitor the nest boxes at Towle Field and Foss Farm.

"One of Carlisle's greatest assets is its conservation land and open space, and since we have enjoyed it so much, I want to give something back," Brownrigg explains. He hopes to help identify land that the town should consider acquiring or that harbors endangered wildlife. "I've learned that certain species require as much contiguous land as possible and therefore I would like to see us buy properties that are adjacent to other protected areas or that connect these tracts, as the O'Rourke parcel did so well," he added.

Brownrigg indicates he is currently studying hard to familiarize himself with the laws that govern ConsCom decisions. "I've been taught not to talk unless you really know what you're talking about," he says as he displays the massive handbook provided by the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions to all new board members.

Watercolors and wood carvings

Obviously proud of his wife's artistic achievements, Brownrigg reports that she is currently exhibiting at the Cambridge Art Association, the North Shore Art Association, the Concord Art Association and the New England Watercolor group in Cotuit. Speaking for herself, d'Ann indicates that she works mainly in watercolor and often, but not exclusively, in still life. The Brownrigg home is graced by another of her specialties, her popular floor cloths, which incidentally are far too handsome to walk on.

Tom also is an artist in his own right and in the past has shown wood carvings of ducks and water birds in Old Home Day exhibits. This is a craft he plans to expand on in retirement. Both Brownriggs are accomplished furniture-makers; she has designed butcher-block items, while he has tried his skill at Shaker tables and a wine cask. The latter could well hold the products of another of his sometime hobbies, brewing beer and wine.

Still two vacancies

Brownrigg's seating on the commission still leaves two places on the seven-member board still open. Applications should be directed to conservation administrator Katrina Proctor at the Carlisle Town Hall. As Brownrigg observed during his interview, "Not only is this a way to serve the community, but it's an interesting opportunity to learn how town government works."

1999 The Carlisle Mosquito