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GWLT 20th Anniversary Article in Student Voice

Greater Worcester Land Trust Celebrates 20 Years of Success

by Patrick K. Sargent, Staff Writer

The Student Voice: Official Paper of Worcester State College, December 3, 2007

In 1987, the Greater Worcester Land Trust formed in response to the growing rate of development in the area. Their hope was to protect some of the beautiful land in and around Worcester. It is now 2007 and they’ve done just what they set out to do. The Land Trust is celebrating their 20th anniversary and Allen Fletcher, the organization’s president, couldn’t be more pleased with their success.

“A bunch of us founded it 20 years ago. I’m very proud of it. I’ve had a couple of our older members say to me that they’re more proud of this organization than any other organization they’ve been part of,” said Fletcher.

The Land Trust is a non-profit organization that consists of a Board, a director and several staff members. Fletcher refers to the board as a small, tight group. “It’s fairly unique in that it’s a working board. Where most boards are out of touch, we’re totally in touch. We meet every two weeks and get down to business,” Fletcher said.

The Land Trust recently appointed a new director and for the first time have paid staff. “It took a long time to do, but in terms of internal satisfaction, it’s been a group that’s been really fun to work with,” says Fletcher.

Although the Land Trust’s mission is to protect any land worth protecting, Fletcher insists that they are not entirely against development. “We don’t think developers are all evil. We don’t think all land needs to be saved, but the pace of development was accelerating at such a rate that it was clear that you just needed to save some of it, and that’s what we’ve done.”

In regards to the role that Worcester State College students can play in the protection of our land and contributing to the Land Trust, the organization has plenty of volunteer opportunities, including their Volunteer Conservation Ranger Corps. According to their web site, “The Volunteer Conservation Ranger Program is made up of volunteers from central Massachusetts with a desire to monitor, protect, and manage the open spaces protected through the efforts of the Greater Worcester Land Trust.”

According to Fletcher, “there’s a variety of ways young people can get involved, such as taking care of properties, watching over properties, gate construction projects, and helping in the office. We do often have interns from various colleges.”

There are many areas of study and experience that students could contribute to the Trust. However, for Fletcher and the organization, someone that loves nature is the ideal candidate to join in their efforts.

“It can really be anybody. Really any walk of life, any area of interest. On the Board, we say that Work, Wisdom, and Wealth are the three things you can contribute and they’re all valuable to us. We always need money. If someone can contribute money, that’s fine. A young Worcester State College student, we don’t expect money from them, but if they can give us their energy, that’s absolutely wonderful. It’s a good thing to become involved in and we’re in it for the long haul.”

Finding “new blood” is important to the Land Trust and they’ve gotten a few young people, as evidenced by some of their volunteers and staff. At this point, however, Fletcher says they aren’t too worried about it yet. “We’re not that old,” he added. “Eventually, if people are into it, we’re going to need people that can serve on the board. The more people that become involved in it, we know a few will stick.”

For 20 years, the Land Trust has been protecting land across Worcester County and they look forward to plenty more years of success in the future. Fletcher says, “We have a sense that we’ve done something good over a long period of time. And, in fact, we have. I do believe in a generation from now there will be people growing up in Worcester who will enjoy the land that we saved.”

Posted in Press|

Worcester Magazine Editorial, Spring 1997

The Greening of the Gray

Editorial: Worcester Magazine

Worcester Magazine, Spring 1997 by Allen Fletcher

Ten years ago, in the heat of the development boom and the concomitant alarm over the rapid loss of open space in the city, the Conservation Commission issued a report entitled “What’s Left” – a comprehensive inventory of the city’s major remaining open space parcels. The city’s open space, it was found, had dropped from 50 percent of its 25,000 acres in 1966 to 10 percent in 1986; and during that period, the amount of protected land in the city had actually declined.

Ten years later, as we come up for air, it is somewhat astonishing to realize that much has been accomplished in the realm of open space protection. Of the report’s list of 10 priority parcels – totaling some 975 acres – a third has come under active protection and 54 percent remains in limbo, while 13 percent has been lost. Of the list of 25 priority tracts greater than 25 acres – totaling almost 2,000 acres – 27 percent has come under active protection, while 13 percent has been lost. Tracts with familiar names like Perkins Farm, Middle River Park, Broad Meadow Brook, God’s Acre, Cider Mill Pond, and the Cascades have all been salvaged from the development mill through a combination of private and public efforts.

These are fine accomplishments indeed, by the reckoning of anyone who values quality of life in the Heart of the Commonwealth. An enormous amount of work remains to be done, but it is worth celebrating the fact that an issue was framed, a course of action was charted and progress was made. If the efforts of the development community had borne as much fruit over the same course of time, our downtown would be the envy of cities throughout the northeast.

If there has been one important evolution of consciousness in this arena since the stridency of the sixties, it is the increasing acknowledgment of the interdependency between economic development and environmental quality. Just as companies once refused to locate to a city such as Fitchburg, that had made such an unholy mess of its local river, so can a record of sound environmental accomplishment become an inducement to economic investment today. The simplistic antagonism between the forces of conservation and development belies a potential dynamism between the two. A good city needs them both, and the genuine success of each enhances the other.

Several local environmentalists recently made the discovery that the city’s vaunted marketing plan made absolutely no mention of our environmental amenities. The city of Raleigh, North Carolina, as a counter example, bills itself as the “City on the Park” in its efforts to attract new residents and investment. We would do well to do the same.

Local marketing officials are appropriately embarrassed by their oversight; but it serves to illustrate a regressive attitude that still lurks in the heart of the business community – the attitude that environmentalists are marginal obstructionists at best, to be granted lip service but ultimately to be ignored. Such an attitude has an insidious tendency to be self-fulfilling, to everyone’s frustration and nobody’s benefit. The potential payoff from active collaboration between the two camps is far, far greater.

Worcester’s image in the outside world is a gray and grim and gritty one. It needs a greening – and all the new buildings and parking lots in the world will do nothing to help.

We have at our doorsteps a wonderful, unheralded and resurgent environmental legacy – of urban parks, larger open space parcels, abundant trees and swimmable waters. It is high time that the economic development community perceived this as an asset and treated it as such. This means understanding how to boast about it, but it also means understanding the ongoing effort required to maintain it; and it means lending active support and commitment to the considerable task ahead.

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East-West Trail traverses Worcester’s greenery, history

A wonderful Telegram & Gazette piece on Worcester’s East-West Trail and its development status. Partners Park Spirit, Worcester DPW&P, & GWLT have worked on this effort for years. Kudos to Park Spirit for their promotion of this resource!

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