The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, July 1, 2005


Alex Parra — Conservationist of the Year 2005

It gives me great pleasure to stand before you today to present another outstanding individual as our Conservationist of the Year. As in years past, I have been privileged to introduce an individual whose service to our community has been well beneath the radar of most of us in town. Quiet and unassuming are the two most frequently applied adjectives when asked to describe him. Some might even say, 'Who knew?'

Well, many of us do know and have known for quite some time now. But he has been so quiet and unassuming that even some in the conservation community have failed to recognize the size of his shoes — and they are big shoes, figuratively, of course.

Now, I personally became aware of this gentleman when he elbowed me in the ribs when we were both on the Conservation Commission many years ago and he informed me that nodding off during a hearing was entirely inappropriate. I have not snoozed off since and he has moved on to do wonderful things for our little town.

Many of us in Carlisle are immensely proud and protective of our open space and conservation land. I can tell you that without the enormous effort and good will of our candidate and the generous forbearance of his family, quite a bit of what we love and admire on a daily basis would be house lots or worse. He has played a significant (if not THE) significant role in the acquisition of nearly all of the conservation land acquired or conserved in the past 15 years (the Malcolm Land, the Benfield Land and 80 Russell Street to name the most significant). His contributions, however, to these acquisitions are of the most subtle sort (not what one normally expects from a good lawyer). His quiet and earnest demeanor (not to mention his expertise in land use law and negotiating skill) has been what it took to bring sometimes disputatious parties to a harmonious conclusion by getting to the real issues that divide competing interests. Sometimes these divisions have been extremely deep and complicated, but he has patiently worked to discover what each party really wanted or needed to close. He is the one who crafted the language that soothed everyone's ruffled feathers, settled the dust and clinched the deal.

Curiously, this ability arises from his remarkable skill as a devil's advocate in a productive and inoffensive manner. The king of the "whispered aside" and quick with a light but effective humor, he has been able to penetrate the defensive shields of reluctant participants. He puts negotiators at ease with his breadth of knowledge and natural finesse. Our candidate would tell you with a sly wink that lawyers are like nuns — they always travel in pairs. He has been Sancho Panza to some of our earlier Don Quixotes. (Not that conserving land is tilting at windmills, mind you!) This year it is his turn to be recognized. I give you Carlisle Conservation Foundation stalwart, Alex Parra, Conservationist of the Year 2005.

2005 The Carlisle Mosquito