“What may worry us most is the prospect of becoming strangers in our own land.”

Mark Sagoff, as quoted in Kinship to Mastery by Stephen R. Kellert.

Many in Connecticut communities feel a strong connection with their state, express feelings that describe the “spirit of place” that exists in localities across the state, and a desire to see that the quality of life here, which runs so deep, is preserved and protected. A few recent examples:

Canton, CT (2006)

Canton Advocates for Responsible Expansion (C.A.R.E.) is the recipient of the 2006 American Institute of Architects, CT Chapter, Public Service Award, presented biennially to an individual or organization that best exhibits dedication to enhancing the built environment and educating the public.   Last year the Connecticut Chapter of the American Planning Association (CCAPA) awarded C.A.R.E. it’s 2005 Citizen Planner Award for "dedication to grass-roots planning, public education and activism."

Farmington Valley area (2005)

The Farmington River Watershed Association's Biodiversity Project is featured with its own chapter in Nature-Friendly Communities, Habitat Protection and Land Use Planning, Island Press, 2005.

"The Biodiversity Project is one of the most ambitious ecosystem studies in Connecticut and is intended to to provide a scientific basis for keeping ecosystems intact through a combination of targeted preservation and improved local land use planning," say authors Christopher Duerksen and Cara Snyder.

"The purpose of the project is to help towns plan development in a way that conserves existing ecosystems without stopping growth." Farmington River Watershed Association provides ongoing outreach programs about the plan to inform communities commissions and support informed decision-making in the Farmington Valley. (go to top)

Housatonic Valley area (2006)

Housatonic Valley Association and Trust for Public Land initiate “Greenprint,” a plan for open space protection in the Housatonic River watershed in Litchfield County relying on land trusts and landowners to shape a vision for conservation.

Greenprint utilizes a three-part approach to conservation involving assisting individuals and community groups to shape a long-term vision for conservation in the region, implement conservation finance strategies, and acquire properties in accordance with the vision. (go to top)

Natchaug River area (June 2006)

Seven towns, Ashford, Chaplin, Eastford, Mansfield, Union, Windham and Woodstock mark a milestone when their application to designate the Natchaug River system an official Connecticut Greenway is approved by the state. The towns' application was facilitated by the Green Valley Institute, The Nature Conservancy-CT Chapter, and the CT DEP.

To receive Greenway designation, municipalities must endorse it with a resolution, include it in its Plan of Conservation and Development and agree to undertake improvements. The designation creates a rallying point," says Holly Drinkuth, conservation commission liason for the Green Valley Institute (GVI). "Citizen involvement has been terrific.

"The hope is to create an environment where peer pressure and community pressure work to protect natural resources on a voluntary basis," says GVI's Steve Broderick, "and that the guy who keeps a pile of car batteries in his yard will be made to feel like the outlier."

Norfolk and Canaan, CT (August 2005)

Two newer grassroots initiatives, Norfolk’s Coalition for Sound Growth and the Canaan Conservation Coalition, join with community-based conservation groups in the northwest corner to support informed land use decision-making in the review of a $22 million development proposed to build a golf resort over 780 acres including farmland, forests, and wetlands.
(go to top)

Norwalk, CT (June 2006)

When the state fails to enforce a statute requiring municipalities to update Plans of Conservation and Development (POCD) every ten years, Norwalk residents take matters into their own hands.

With a new plan for Norwalk five years overdue (the previous having been approved in 1991), community-based groups argue that the city is left without direction and its neighborhoods are suffering for lack of a blueprint for land use planning.

Led by Laurel Lindstrom, president of the Eastern Norwalk Neighborhood Association, neigborhood groups initiate action to gather input from people in various neighborhoods in this large and diverse city that can be used to inform a new Plan of Conservation and Development (POCD). (go to top)

Old Saybrook, CT (Winter 2006)

Over the course of the past three years, the "1,000 Acre Forest" area of Old Saybrook and the Connecticut River estuary (dubbed by developers "The Preserve") become a rallying point for groups of local residents who advocated on behalf of the environmental value of this large block of forest and wetland habitat.

Led by the Alliance for Sound Area Planning (ASaP), and joined by the Connecticut Fund for the Environment, political strategist Patty McQueen, the State Attorney General and DEP, the groups facilitated informed decision-making about a development proposed for the site.

Key milestones included a decision by DEP in February denying the developer’s request for access to the 1000-acre Forest area over a state-owned section of the Valley Railroad (without such access road the property is largely landlocked). In March, members of Old Saybrook's inland wetlands commission voted 4-3 to reject the plan of development for the area. Later that month, a bill authorizing the state to bond $8 million toward the purchase of the land won the unanimous approval of the Environment Committee. (go to top)

Simsbury, CT (2006)

  • Environmentally-safe Medication Disposal

A free collection and safe disposal of unwanted medications is held by a coalition of CVS/Pharmacy Corporation, The Farmington River Watershed Association, Metropolitan District, Salmon Brook Watershed Association, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through a grant to the Northeast Recycling Council, Inc. and Clean Harbors Environmental Services.

The event is in response to evidence that improper disposal of unwanted medications can result in serious harm to humans, animals, and the environment.

  • Land Conservation

In May, 2005, a group called "Keep the Woods" forms in response to a plan by the Ethel Walker School to develop a portion of 450 acres of wooded school property.

One year later, Keep the Woods, the school and Trust for Public Land reach an agreement to protect the land instead. Keep the Woods is currently busy rallying public support of the plan in advance of key town meetings in October and Election Day.

  • Land Use Planning

Also in Simsbury, a group called SHARE (Simsbury Homeowners Advocating Responsible Expansion) circulates a petition in support of proposed zoning regulation changes prohibiting "big box" developments and aim to protect both Simsbury's community character and long-term interests, to inform revision of the town’s POCD, and broaden its scope. (go to top)

Southbury (2006)

Pomperaug River Watershed Coalition Chairman Dr. Marc Taylor receives a Cooperative Conservation Award from the Secretary of the Interior of the United States for the organization's work with the U. S. Geological Survey in the Pomperaug River Watershed.

The study identifies and prioritizes land parcels and natural habitats essential to protecting water quality and resources in the Pomperaug Basin. It becomes a model that communities, state and federal governments and agencies can use for implementation of similiar protection plans in other geographies.

Stafford, CT (March 2006)

A year after it was formed, "Stafford First" welcomes a decision by Stafford's Planning & Zoning Commission to set a cap on square footage for new retail applications which is largely reflective of regulations that the group proposed.

The decision comes after a six-month moratorium on development that the town imposed while it conducted public workshops along with Stafford First and outside consultants. (go to top)

 Tolland, CT (November 2006)                                                                                       

In response to unrelenting residential growth, the third referendum in six years is scheduled to decide a proposed $2 million bond for the purchase of open space as prioritized by that town’s Land Acquisition Committee.

Since the first such referendum in 2000 (two prior votes raised $4 million), at least three community groups (Conserving Tolland, Ad Hoc Committee on Residential Growth, Tolland Conservation CORPS) form to conduct natural resource surveys, funding for land preservation and local development regulatory change in this town of 13,000 people. (go to top)

Westport, CT (June 2006)

With a new POCD on the drawing boards the Partrick Wetland Preservation Fund organizes a Pan Westport Neighborhood Groups Gathering of seven-plus community groups in an attempt “to find synergies between them and coordinate actions…forge alliances in the pursuit of a better Westport."

Topics include town character & residential development, environmental protection, affordable housing, traffic, commercial encroachment, taxes, and more.

"Too often neighborhood groups feel isolated or overwhelmed by a situation," said Director Matthew Mandell. "By introducing each of our groups to one another, realizing that many of our issues are similar… will enable more to be accomplished in the future." (go to top)

West Hartford (October, 2006)

The Interreligious Eco-Justice Network hosts its annual Sacred Trust Forum, bringing together leaders of religious communities from around the state to discuss new interpretations about how environmentalism fits within religious tradition and spirituality.

Keynote speaker Professor Roger Gottlieb of Worchester Polytechnic Institute describes how an evironmental movement within religious communities has distinct contributions to make based on religious tradition's "rootedness" in people's lives, it's appropriateness to deep consideration of serious and frightening issues, and as a means for advocating the positive values of alternative ways of life.

Now You See Them, The New York Times, March 26, 2006.

Understanding how local surroundings enrich peoples' lives. "Imagine this place without the stone walls. We'd look like 'AnyTown, USA,'" says Harwinton First Selectman Francis Chiaramonte. (go to top)

Harwinton Hails Its Stone Walls, Litchfield County Times

Next: Community-based Environmental Management