During our 2023 Annual Meeting on Wednesday, October 18, in Framingham, SVT celebrated both volunteers and public officials for their contributions to conservation.
Ashwath Jose Sridhar of Hopkinton received the Youth Steward Award for leading the effort to build a boardwalk at SVT’s Whitehall Woods property in his hometown. Ash constructed the bridge for his Eagle Scout Project, and Laura praised him for his hard work and dedication.
The bridge had to accommodate both bicyclists and horseback riders, so Mr. Sridhar convened meetings with the Bay State Trail Riders and the New England Mountain Bike Association to gain suggestions for the design. He received permitting permission from the Hopkinton Conservation Commission, raised the necessary funds, recruited volunteers, and scheduled work days for the bridge construction. “It was impressive to see Ash’s preparation and leadership,” said Laura, “and it was truly a pleasure to work with him.”
We presented the Steward of the Land Award to Jim Makuc of Boylston for his volunteer efforts at several SVT properties. As she presented the award, Laura praised Jim for his “enthusiasm and endless energy.”
A Volunteer Preserve Steward at Forty Caves in Berlin since 2021, Jim regularly walks the trails to monitor their conditions and clear them of obstructions. He has helped to install three new bridges at the property to improve stream conditions and make it easier for visitors to hike the land. He also monitors several CRs for SVT, and he helps out at SVT trail work days throughout the service area and “whenever we need someone in a pinch,” said Laura.
Dany Pelletier of Maynard was named the Morgan Volunteer of the Year for encouraging people throughout the region to support SVT’s conservation efforts.
Several years ago, Dany volunteered to represent SVT at Farmers Markets and other community events. He engages attendees in conversations about the importance of conservation, shares photographs of wildlife from the region, and explains SVT’s important role in land conservation.
Laura commented that Dany “quickly became one of our most valued community ambassadors…He took the job seriously, because he really wanted to connect people with SVT and encourage them to support our work.”
In addition, Dany serves as a volunteer photographer for SVT, and he helped convene a group of volunteer photographers who regularly contribute photos of SVT properties for use on the SVT website.
The Morgan Volunteer of the Year Award was established in 1991 in recognition of the commitment of Allen and Alice Morgan to SVT. Allen was an SVT co-founder and was hired as SVT’s first Executive Director in 1981. The Morgan Volunteer Award recognizes dedicated SVT members who, like the Morgans, have given freely and unselfishly of their time, talents, and resources to SVT.
Charlie and David Morgan, the sons of Allen and Alice, joined Laura in presenting the award to Dany.
Meredith Houghton, SVT Senior Land Protection Specialist, presented the Distinguished Public Service Award to Christine A. Berry, Land Protection Specialist at the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.
Since joining DCR in 1999, Christine has helped to protect more than 10,000 acres of land on 150 properties. Among her successes were the addition of 220 acres to the Upton State Forest in the SVT service area.
Representing DCR in partnership with SVT and the City of Marlborough, Christine helped to add 33 acres of land to Callahan State Park in 2021. During her career, she has also made significant contributions to the protected open space within the North Shore region of the state.
In presenting the award to Christine, Meredith commented, “I have come to admire her patience, wit, and extensive breadth of knowledge. Her intuitive and practical perspective has helped us navigate key challenges and the intricacies of the state and federal conservation processes, which can be critical to the success of a project.”
Robb Johnson, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition (MLTC), received the Lewis Conservation Award for his tireless dedication to the conservation of land and water in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Since joining MLTC in 2019, Robb has successfully expanded the programs that support the 140 land trusts in the Commonwealth in their efforts to conserve and steward critical land and water resources. One of his noted accomplishments is co-leading a coalition of statewide partners in the final push to pass the Public Lands Protection Act, which was finally enacted as Massachusetts law last winter, more than 20 years after it was first introduced by State Senator Pam Resor.
“I have admired and appreciated how Robb has contributed to elevating the capacity of conservation and land trust work in Massachusetts,” said Laura. “He has achieved great impact in a relatively short period of time. And he is always a pleasure to work with.“
Named in recognition of SVT co-founder George Lewis, this award honors those who demonstrate a broad commitment to conservation in the SVT region and who encourage others to take action to protect the environment.
Pam Sway, George's daughter, assisted Laura in presenting the award to Robb.
Susan Mitchell-Hardt of Acton received the Lifetime Achievement Award for her long-time leadership of local conservation projects.
Susan became involved in community conservation efforts in the 1990s, when she participated in the campaigns that preserved Camp Acton and the Morrison Farm in Acton. In 1998, she teamed up with Karen O’Neill to revive the Acton Conservation Trust (ACT) and has served as its president for the past 25 years. Under her leadership, ACT has played a role in the protection of 11 local properties with more in the pipeline.
Susan also chaired a committee that successfully encouraged Acton residents to adopt the Community Preservation Act. She has volunteered for a number of town committees, including Open Space, Community Preservation, and East Acton Village. Most recently she helped lead the effort to create an Agricultural Commission and to get a Right to Farm bylaw enacted.
“As you can tell from this accounting of all of Susan’s conservation accomplishments,” Laura said, “her energy is boundless! Susan is truly deserving of this Lifetime Achievement Award.”