Wilton Land Trust elects new officers, adds executive director

The Wilton Land Conservation Trust's board of trustees recently elected new officers, including a first-ever executive director, to continue leading the effort of protecting Wilton's natural resources.

The trustees elected lifelong Wilton resident Peter Gaboriault to replace Bruce Beebe, who devoted more than a decade to preserving Wilton's open spaces as president. The board also elected Craig Johnson as vice president, Stephen White as secretary, and re-elected Tom Burgess as treasurer.

In the past, the land trust has partnered with the town to protect large parcels of land, said Gaboriault, but “given the town's current budget constraints, we expect its participation in conservation efforts to be limited in the short term.” This, he said, makes the land trust's role “all the more important.”

The Wilton Conservation Land Trust is a private, nonprofit organization with conservation easements on more than 750 acres on more than 100 separate parcels in Wilton — many of which are available to town residents for passive recreational use.

“We will need to raise money if we are to be the primary conservator of land in Wilton, and we will increase our efforts to steward the land we already own,” said Gaboriault.

“A lot of work is ahead, but we have a great group of officers, trustees and, of course, we now have Donna Merrill as a full-time executive officer.”

The land trust created the new executive director position after "realizing the challenges and dedication it takes to preserve and steward Wilton's natural heritage," said Merrill, who is now responsible for helping trustees meet the land trust's goals and objectives.

“We are about to begin a strategic planning process to prioritize our actions,” she said. “These will serve to reinforce our mission of caring for the town's natural resources for the benefit of its citizens.”

Merrill said the land trust's goals include:

  • Growing its membership through community outreach;

  • Stewarding the more than 800 acres of already protected land;

  • Raising funds for future land acquisitions;

  • Strengthening the land trust as an organization.

Merrill joined the board of trustees in 2013 and previously served as secretary. She is also a member of the Wilton Conservation Commission, Fairfield County Regional Conservation Partnership's steering committee, and Hudson to Housatonic Initiative (H2H).

Merrill said Wilton is “so fortunate” to have permanently protected open space and remaining undeveloped land.

“These places connect us in many ways,” she said. “To each other, to our town, to the wildlife that depends on them for habitat, and, ultimately, to the future generations who will experience the beauty of our forests, streams and meadows because we preserved them.”

Merrill said each member of Wilton Land Trust's board of trustees donates “time and talent because of a deep reverence for nature.”

Burgess said for him, it's about “working to keep our water clean and safe, and protecting the natural beauty that's such an important part of Wilton.”

“We all benefit from the land that's been protected,” he said. “Some people take nature walks, some fish, and some, like me, bird-watch, but we all rely on the woods and the open space around us.”

All Wilton citizens are invited to join the Wilton Land Conservation Trust and help preserve and protect Wilton's natural resources, said Merrill.

“Because we depend on our forests and streams to serve us, we depend on the contributions of our community for their protection,” she said.

“All donations to the Wilton Land Conservation Trust are tax-deductible and will help to save our local open space from development forever.”

To learn more about the Wilton Land Conservation Trust, visit wiltonlandtrust.org.