The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, July 13, 2001


Conservation awards recognize protection of open space
West Street donors Benfield, Lovejoy, Reichenbach, Rundlett and Valentines honored at Old Home Day

The Conservationist of the Year award, which has previously gone to an individual honoree, went this year to a group of five landowners who both individually and collectively have contributed to a major town objective.

For over a decade, the Carlisle Open Space and Recreation Plan has recognized the need to establish "a western open space corridor" from Westford Street, along West Street, to the Spencer Brook watershed. This year's six award recipients have contributed mightily to making what appeared to be an environmentalist's mirage into an optimist's goal. Together, A. E. (Ben) Benfield, Rev. Janet Lovejoy, George Reichenbach, Fred Rundlett and John and Elizabeth Valentine have placed over 100 acres of land along West Street under permanent conservation restriction, while one of their number has earmarked an additional 45 to 50 acres for similar treatment.

The danger of not informing award winners of the honor in store for them was illustrated when Fred Rundlett turned out to be the sole representative on hand to make the traditional Old Home Day tour in a chauffered parade car, but all six names were prominently displayed on the vehicle. Placing the contributions in broad perspective, ConsCom chair Tom Brownrigg not only thanked the donors, but explained the critical role such bequests play in preserving the town's unique character. His remarks, virtually in full, follow:

"Development pressures are continuing in Carlisle and in neighboring towns. We all know how valuable land in Carlisle has become in recent years. With land prices being so high, it is difficult for the town to purchase land for conservation or other purposes.

"We are therefore very fortunate that a group of Carlisle residents have taken a positive step towards protection of open space on the western side of town. They have done this by putting land under a conservation restriction, or "CR," or by means of a charitable contribution of land to the Carlisle Conservation Foundation.

"What is a CR? It is a way of permanently protecting the natural features of the land, such as forests, fields and ponds. Landowners and their successors continue to own the land but forfeit the right to develop it. The owner grants the CR to the town or to a non-profit organization, which insures that the terms of the agreement are honored.

"Why are CRs important? Our woodlands and fields provide vital wildlife habitat. Forest fragmentation in particular is a serious threat to many of our native birds. Warblers and many other songbirds require large tracts of unbroken forests to provide protection from predators and cowbirds, which are nest parasites. The donations we honor today will help protect Carlisle's impressive biodiversity for future generations.

"Many residents chose to live in Carlisle simply because they loved the rural atmosphere. Here are a few quotations from the people we honor today, gleaned from Carlisle Mosquito articles.

"Betty Valentine: 'We moved to Carlisle in 1955 because it was open and a farming area. We wanted to keep the country feel, and the land on corners [like their CR] is especially important, as it opens two roads'

"Rev. Janet Lovejoy: 'All my life I have felt the world of nature to be a part of me, and I wanted to have the opportunity to give others the same experiences I was lucky enough to have growing up here. Just walking out on my land and seeing the trees, the animals and the birds make me infinitely happy at what I am doing.'

"A.E. (Ben) Benfield: 'I would not want to see a bunch of houses across the street on my land.'

"The total protected acreage from these donations is over 109 acres. On behalf of the Carlisle Conservation Commission and the Town of Carlisle, thank you all for your very generous gifts in the interests of conservation."

+YEAR+ The Carlisle Mosquito