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August 24, 2019  |  

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North Haven Land trust member Heidi Boettger preserves important habitats from her own home by growing milkweed, an important source of food for monarch butterflies, which are known to rest in the area on their long migration south. Photo by Nathan Hughart/The Courier

North Haven Land trust member Heidi Boettger preserves important habitats from her own home by growing milkweed, an important source of food for monarch butterflies, which are known to rest in the area on their long migration south. (Photo by Nathan Hughart/The Courier | Buy This Photo)

Heidi Boettger: Protecting Open Spaces

Published July 24, 2019

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As a past president of the North Haven Land Trust (NHLT), Heidi Boettger says her goal is to preserve the town’s open spaces. Though many people may not know where the NHLT preserves public land, she says it’s all about saving important habitats and contributing to the character of the town.

Heidi is also the longest standing member of the NHLT. She signed on to the group in 1988. She served her term as president two years ago, around the time she retired from 35 years as the manager of the public defenders’ office in the New Haven courthouse.

“It was time to go. I’m glad I went when I did,” Heidi says. “I liked my job, but everything was changing a lot…I don’t miss it.”

Though she’s completed her term as president, Heidi is still working with the NHLT to preserve North Haven’s character with open spaces.

“In the early days, the NHLT…was the only place to go if someone would give us open space,” Heidi says.

Now, the town has other groups committed to securing open spaces for the town, like the Open Space Advisory Committee, the Peter’s Rock Association, and the North Haven Trails association.

In the past, the land trust would accept all the property offered to it, even if that meant not creating a contiguous plot of public land, so there are some residual challenges associated with maintaining the NHLT’s properties.

“We foster the idea that open space is an asset. It’s not taxable, however it remains permanent and it creates character and it creates habitat,” Heidi says. “You want something to set aside.”

It doesn’t take much to establish a habitat for many creatures, Heidi says. Though she lives on a busy road, her neighbor’s garden and undeveloped land has recently provided a home for foxes, birds, and groundhogs.

“If you look for open space and encourage it, you’ve got a much better area where they can go,” she says.

Heidi says it’s important for people in town to stand up for open spaces.

“It just takes one person to open up their mouth,” Heidi says. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. All you can do is try.”

Public outcry helped to stop attempts to develop the Peter’s Rock area, leading to the town’s purchasing of the area with grant money and the establishment of the Peter’s Rock Association, she notes.

One of the reasons Heidi likes working with the NHLT is the way its members are able to creatively solve problems with their own unique skillsets.

“Everybody has something to offer,” she says. “Whatever [a person’s] thing is, their talents, we use them.”

Recently, the NHLT has made its Beach Lane and North Hill Road property available for other uses. A neighbor, Tom Anderson, is a beekeeper. He asked to place two hives on the site and the NHLT approved.

“We just happened to see it for the first time last week and it was really cool,” Heidi said. “It was very educational. That was a great positive.”

The trust is also looking to find a more permanent way to keep its property on Clintonville Road accessible to the public as it’s currently being maintained, with the help of local boy scouts and eagle scout projects.

For the most part, however, Heidi says the open spaces protected by the NHLT should be allowed to grow naturally on their own. Most of their sites are not maintained with grass cutting and tree grooming. Rather, they’re allowed to grow on their own to support local wildlife and ecosystems.

“We maintain under certain circumstances…like to maintain public access,” she says. “The majority, we leave alone.”

This is the primary mission of the NHLT, Heidi says, to preserve land for the town and educate the public about its importance. At its annual May meeting, the trust presents this issue to children with invited speakers who usually talk about animal life.

“The speaker would always talk about habitat, how important it was. That’s what we’re always trying to stress, to educate,” Heidi says.

One of the NHLT’s other missions is to encourage property owners to consider pursuing conservation easements. These easements lower a property’s value for taxation purposes but prevent the development of the property to foster forest growth, protect water quality and preserve animal habitats.

“It’s kind of a win-win if your idea is not to develop it,” Heidi says. “Think about us and have some kind of oasis.”

For more information on the North Haven land trust, contact Heidi Boettger at haboettget@snet.net.

To nominate a Person of the Week, email Nathan Hughart at n.hughart@Zip06.com.

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