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As president of Guilford Land Conservation Trust, David C. Grigsby is leading the charge to raise $250,000 to purchase the Missing Piece, the final inholding of 30 acres of land that will complete the 1,000 acres of protected trust and state lands that make up Westwoods. (Photo courtesy of David C. Grigsby )
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Fifty years after Guilford Land Conservation Trust (GLCT) first began conserving the woodlands that have created Westwoods, the non-profit, all-volunteer organization is closing in on purchasing the final “Missing Piece”—and they need your help.
“This is the last 30 acres,” says David C. Grigsby, GLCT president and leader of the charge to save the Missing Piece. “It’s an inholding that’s surrounded by trust and/or state lands in this 1,000 acre forest which is Westwoods.”
GLCT first shared news with residents about its $250,000 option to purchase the parcel earlier this year, followed by a mail appeal for contributions.
“I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘I can’t believe there were 30 acres of unprotected land in middle of Westwoods.’ I’ve had some people say, ‘I saw that mailing—I’m not sure what I did with it!’” David says. “They can go to our website to make a donation. Everything they need is there.”
One of the most notable pieces of information shared by the mailing and at www.guilfordlandtrust.org is that new donors who contribute toward the Missing Piece purchase will have their donation double matched, up to $200.
“We have a very generous donor willing to match two for one, up to $200, for first-time donors to the land trust,” notes David, adding the GLCT is also grateful for the many members and others who have stepped up now, and in the past, to support the mission of GLCT by making a donation.
GLCT is also pursuing state and other grants to help gather funds.
“We’ve made significant progress toward the acquisition price through members and other donors, including those who are donating in memory of other people,” David adds.
Whether raising funds to purchase the Missing Piece or accepting donations from those who simply want to support GLCT’s mission to acquire and conserve natural places in Guilford for future generations, every donation counts, says David.
“When people are contributing to the Missing Piece, they’re not only contributing to the Missing Piece,” he says. “They are contributing to enable and empower the land trust to acquire the next piece. We don’t know what it is yet, but it’s important that the land trust has enough resources available to it so that when and if the opportunity arises, we can say, ‘Yes, we want to proceed,’ and we can move forward without saying, ‘We need to have a bake sale.’ So this is not only to fund the acquisition of the Missing Piece, but to ensure that the land trust is in a position to proceed if another opportunity arises.”
David thanks the board members of GLCT who help keep an ear to the ground and work to make contact with property owners and/or those in their estates regarding potential acquisitions.
“We’re aware of properties we’d like to have. Some are safely in hands of families; some pass down to the next generation who may have a contact in Guilford, and some may not. There are a lot who are holding on to the land due to sentimental attachment and consider themselves stewards of the property. When the time comes that the family says it’s time to part with this property, we want to make sure that the land trust is there.”
Such was the case with the Missing Piece, David shares.
“That’s the nature of what the land trust does. We knew about this property. We had long been in contact with family members and it was [among] a list of [potential] properties we go over at the end of every board meeting.”
At the end of one board meeting not too many months ago, “...Bill Bloss raised his hand—he’d heard from the attorney for the owner,” of the Missing Piece, says David.
David credits Bloss and GCLT Land Acquisition Chair Red Erda with sitting down with the owner on behalf of GLCT.
“They came to an agreement and we were able to move forward,” says David.
In fact, David, a New Haven-based commercial real estate attorney, first got involved with GLCT after reaching out on behalf of a client. A family member of the client, who had passed, away sought to sell some undeveloped acreage in North Guilford and contacted David.
“I said, ‘Let me find out if the land trust is interested,’” David says. “It turned out [the property] was not contiguous to other land trust properties, but even though the trust was not interested in the land, I was interested in the land trust.”
Originally from the Midwest, David says he “moved around a lot” before arriving on the east coast, where colleagues pointed him to Guilford.
“When I first moved to Guilford, I rented a room in an old house. I fell in love with old houses and eventually, I bought an old house in town,” says David, a former board member of the Guilford Keeping Society and current member of the Guilford Preservation Alliance.
David’s also a former appointee of Guilford’s Planning & Zoning Commission, on which he served for about 10 years in the mid-2000s.
“Having moved every two years growing up, the idea of settling down in a small town was something I wanted to do, and one of the ways you make sure you’re part of that community is volunteering your time,” he says.
He joined GLCT about five years ago, and jokes, “the next thing I knew, I missed an important board meeting, and I’ve been president for the past two years!”
David says some “tech savvy” folks have recently signed on to the board and he’s got just the job for them.
“One of the things I would like to do is expand our online presence, just to facilitate people knowing about the land trust,” says David, adding GLCT is very active and integrated website offers two different types of trail maps, an interactive version that provides geo-location right on the map (“you are here”), or a scanned version of print maps, but people need to know these things are available to them.
“I take the train into New Haven most days, and one of the people I sat with had recently moved here [and said she] took a walk and almost got lost in Westwoods! It’s amazing to me that there are people for whom it’s just not on their radar screens. So we’re looking into expanding the social media presence so people can become aware of it.”
He thanks Guilford Newcomers Club for a recent donation earmarked to help GLCT expand its social media presence.
David is also sincerely grateful to those who work beside him on the Board of Directors and especially honored to be working with immediate past president Sarah Williams, who is now secretary.
“Sarah is the energizing force,” says David. “What I love about the land trust particularly is that all of the board members are very focused on our mission to protect and preserve open spaces, conserve these properties and manage them. When you own some 3,000 acres, you have to maintain those properties. That includes our volunteer stewards, who either live near a property or will walk the main trails and let us know if there’s an encroachment or if trees are down.”
He notes among the newest stewards are the members of the next generation.
“We have Boy Scout Troop 471, which has adopted one of our trails in Westwoods, and we’re reaching out to see if we can get other groups or girls scouts interested in getting involved in a similar project,” says David.
Getting youth involved as stewards—or simply as hikers or outdoor enthusiasts (David’s advice to parents: “Tell your kids to put down your screens, put on your boots and go take a hike”)—is a big part of GLCT’s ever-forward thinking efforts.
“That’s what this is all about – holding onto land not only for current enjoyment, but to ensure that it’s available for future generations,” says David.
To make a donation to help GLCT purchase the Missing Piece, visit guilfordlandtrust.org or connect with GLCT on Facebook. A generous donor has offered a double match up to $200 for new donors to GLCT; if you are a new donor, please make sure to click the new donor box in order to trigger the match.
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