Monday, August 17, 2015

Spencer Healey's Willife Introduction to the Moonlit Walk

Wintonbury Hills Golf Course:
A Certified Audubon Cooperative Golf Sanctuary
Good evening and welcome to Wintonbury Hills Golf Course. In this letter you will learn a little of what you might see and how we maintain and protect the habitat of our wildlife around the course. We are proud of both our maintained and native areas and make it a priority with our work, that our wild friends have a safe habitat for them and their families. If you would like to learn more, please feel free to contact Spencer Healey, Assistant Superintendent, with any questions.
To begin, the golf course industry is always under scrutiny for its use of pesticide and fertilizer and the impact that has on wildlife and water contamination. Here, we do things a little different. We operate our pesticide and spray program with extreme care and the use of low rates in shorter intervals. This allows the turf to get the necessary nutrients without penetrating deep into the soils or anywhere close to the water table. In addition, we use insecticides that are not harmful to pollinators and are applied on an as needed basis opposed to blanket ‘wish and hope sprays’. This is certainly a hot topic of discussion, however, I felt it important to convey that we believe that less is more when it comes to putting down product and healthy turf can be maintained with cultural practice and minimal pesticide or fertilizer use.
On to the fun stuff, wildlife! We closely monitor 18 nesting boxes for Bluebird and Tree Swallow. I will discuss the maintenance practices and monitoring efforts last, as well as provide to date numbers on new chicks and the amount that have fledged. As you begin your walk, however, here is some of the other wildlife to look out for. A rather large black bear is seen throughout the season, so be alert. There is also a bobcat that resides in front of the 2nd tee box, so I urge you to be alert! In all three bodies of water on the course, we have snapping turtles, painted turtles, carp, blue gill, small mouth bass and huge populations of various frog species. In the native areas by 17 green and 18 tee box, we have hundreds or praying mantis that hatch and mature. In past years we have had to close the cart path and detour play to avoid running over the massive numbers that have hatched! Skunks and raccoons roam freely throughout the night, and as the morning sun begins to rise deer and their fawns can be seen leaving the open course and into the wood lines. Turkey vultures and red tail hawks monitor the skies as our great blue herons (usually one on 17 and one on 14) are seen wading the banks of the water looking for food. One morning I was lucky enough to see a mother wood duck with 8 ducklings waddle across the 10th fairway in search of water. In the fescue killdeer nest and the parents and young chicks sprint all over the course. In early May we erected a nest by the irrigation pond and hope to attract an osprey as we have seen them passing by for a quick hunt as they move toward the Connecticut River.
It was not my intent to have this be such a long description of the wildlife on the course, so I will wrap it up with our nesting boxes. As earlier mentioned, we have 18 boxes throughout the course. We cut down the growth around those boxes to provide the homes a secure location that predators will not want to approach. On a weekly basis they are opened and counts are made of eggs or chicks. In addition to this weekly count, we remove any house sparrow nesting’s and destroy the nests as well as any eggs that have been laid. Unfortunately we have lost a bluebird and an entire tree swallow nest and family to this non-native bird. Despite what house sparrow population is around, with weekly check-ins (or as I like to call it, landlord visits) we are able to prevent more house sparrows from housing and killing bluebirds and tree swallows. To date, we have had 2 groups fledge almost every box. We are currently in the third nesting period for both bluebird and tree swallow. 32 tree swallows have been born and left the nest and 15 bluebirds are on their own as little adults. Currently, there are another 11 tree swallow chicks in the nesting boxes and also 11 bluebird chicks waiting to discover the world.
Thank you for stopping by and seeing our course and the efforts that we put in to ensuring that our wildlife feels just as happy and at home as we do here.

Spencer Healey

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Case Study of Land Trust Providing Farmland Access

Wintonbury Land Trust: Supporting and Improving
Land Access to Local Farmers
By Rachel Murray
Land trusts are at the forefront of reshaping the agricultural landscape in Connecticut. They can be a leader supporting and promoting new and beginning farmers by providing access to farmland.

Wintonbury Land Trust and Hawk Hill Preserve
Protection of natural resources, conservation of farmland, and community building through the natural landscape are part of the strongly held mission of The Wintonbury Land Trust (WLT) in Bloomfield, Connecticut. On a recent walk through the newly acquired Hawk Hill Preserve, Land Trust President Dale Bertoldi and Treasurer Vikki Reski spoke about the historical and agricultural presence Hawk Hill has in the community. According to the Connecticut Land Conservation Council (CLCC) there are over 137 land trusts throughout Connecticut. These include local, regional, and statewide organizations. Land trusts provide a real and thriving opportunity for new and beginning farmers to commence a local agriculture business.

The 45 acre Hawk Hill Preserve is nestled between two adjoining farms, including the farmland that's part of the LaSalette Park owned by the Town of Bloomfield. Bloomfield is a community rich in agricultural and cultural history so the desire to acquire this property with its prime agricultural soils, scenic vistas, and potential to support multiple farmers selling local products has been very strong with the Wintonbury Land Trust. The Hawk Hill preserve is one of the oldest continuously operating farm properties in Bloomfield. The Kelly Family purchased the farm land in the 1860's, and operated it as a Dairy Farm until it was sold to a developer in the early 1980's. The original farmhouse, located on an adjoining parcel of land, dates back to 1746 and was originally a Tavern. Additionally, there are fields across the street that were once part of this farm, but are now owned privately could add to the 21acres of tillable land at Hawk Hill in the future.

Wintonbury Land Trust partnered with the Town of Bloomfield, CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to purchase the property from its current owners and additionally purchase the easement on the land so that Hawk Hill is guaranteed to stay as working farmland and open space. In this arrangement, the Town holds the easement rights and Wintonbury Land Trust owns the property outright. Through the work of a strong local campaign to raise money to purchase the land along with the help of several foundations, Wintonbury Land Trust purchased the Hawk Hill property on April 23, 2015. To help protect the multiple conservation values, and according to the easement, any farmer using the land must provide and follow a detailed Conservation Plan. Additionally, a designated walking trail is available and maintained for hikers to pass through Hawk Hill connecting several local trails.

For the 2015 season, Wintonbury Land Trust leased the 45-acre Hawk Hill Preserve to a local farmer raising Scottish Highland cattle. In this arrangement, the farmer provides and installs her own temporary fencing for the cattle while also mowing hay for her cattle for the upcoming winter. The farmer also agreed to mow the fields not suitable for hay to maintain the aesthetic appeal of the farm and continued management of perennial weeds and invasives. For the 2016 season, it is planned that Wintonbury Land Trust will formally accept "Request For Proposals" (RFPs) for farmers interested in a long-term lease on the Hawk Hill property. Keeping the farmable portions in agriculture will reduce WLT and the Town's stewardship costs, help maintain the conservation values, and add fresh local agricultural products into the community.  Stay connected with the Wintonbury Land Trust through their website for more details.

Connecticut Land Access Programs
As more Connecticut land trusts realize the value in making land available to farmers, the importance to list and find properties is increasingly significant. The Connecticut Department of Agriculture's CT FarmLink is a statewide resource for farm owners and farm seekers to advertise land available and additionally to search farm properties that are available. Along with farm properties listed on CT FarmLink, New England Farm Finder (NEFF) is another resource that includes all properties and farm seekers throughout New England. Utilizing these two matchmaking websites are excellent opportunities for land trusts to efficiently and effectively find a farmer for their land. A statewide reality is that there are significantly more farm seekers then there are farm properties available making the case that land trusts have the potential to significantly alter and improve the agricultural landscape in Connecticut.

Land For Good (LFG) is a New England based non-profit with Field Agents in each state working to improve farmland access and keep more farmers working the land.  LFG has an extensive "Toolbox" available on their website with resources helpful for farm seekers and farm owners, including sample leases and different models to use as a guide depending on the needs of the land trust and farmer.  Consultation to actually help craft the match between the two parties is also available.  In addition, the Connecticut Land Conservation Council, provides users information about land trusts throughout the state and has model agricultural easement language and leases to use as guidance. Lastly, UConn Extension has a helpful website with various agricultural programs and services they provide, from a list of essential resources for beginning farmers called "The Bucket List", to contacts for Extension educators and specialists, and the Farmland ConneCTions Guide and model leases.  All of these resources are ready, available, and free of charge for land trusts, land owners, and land seekers alike to utilize.

The role of land trusts is becoming one of establishing a model for acquiring the land through creative partnerships, protecting the land, and establishing a farmer on the land.  They can help lead the renaissance for agriculture in Connecticut. 

Rachel Murray, M.S. is the Connecticut Field Agent for Land For Good. She can be reached at or 603-357-1600

About the AGvocate Program
The AGvocate Program promotes farm-friendly community policies and regulations in Eastern Connecticut, and is the liaison between agricultural producers and local communities. The Program is managed by the Connecticut Resource Conservation and Development Area, Inc. (RC&D) in cooperation with a Steering Committee comprised of members from The Last Green Valley (TLGV), participating communities, agricultural businesses, and many federal, state, and nonprofit agencies and organizations.
Connecticut AGvocate Program
c/o Connecticut RC&D Area, Inc.
24 Hyde Avenue
Vernon, CT  06066
John Guszkowski, AGvocate Program Manager

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Wintonbury Land Trust - 2015 Annual Meeting Notes (June 10 at Seabury Retirement Community)

Wintonbury Land Trust Annual Meeting
June 10, 2014 – 6:30 P.M.
Seabury Retirement Community, Heritage Hall
Seabury Drive, Bloomfield

1.      Committee Reports
a.      Financial Committee - Vikki Reski provided 2014/2013 Bank Summaries (see attached).    Ending bank balances as of May 31, 2012 were:  $1,267.51 checking, $39,436.98 savings, $39,314.48 restricted.    
b.      Acquisitions Update – Dale Bertoldi reported that WLT closed on the 45-acre Hawk Hill Farm on April 23, 2015.  A 1-year lease has been executed with a farmer who will pasture Scottish Highland Cattle on the fields.  For longer term use of the property, a community committee is being formed to review all farmer applicants and to design a rolling 5-year lease that would begin in 2016 after the expiry of the 1-year lease.  Trails open to the public will be maintained on the property.  More immediately, WLT needs to raise money to rehabilitate the barn.  We will need approximately $60,000 in total; our near-term goal is to raise half of that amount by October, 2015. This will enable us to stabilize the barn for winter use by the farmer.  Chip Caton is chairing the “Save the Barn” Campaign; contact Chip at if you’d like to help in any way.
c.      Stewardship Update – Vikki Reski provided an update on Lisa Lane Farm.  A number of groups including the Land Trust have partnered to set up 15 new Community Garden Plots at Lisa Lane, all of which have been rented for the season.  Kevin Gough followed Vikki’s report with a progress report on Thrall Farm.  Our Farm Partner, Newgate Farms, is on track (by the terms of the equity lease) to own the property within the next several years.  Kevin confirmed that WLT will retain a conservation easement on the property ensuring that it remains agricultural in perpetuity. 
d.      Upcoming Events – Our next event will be “It All Happened on the Farmington River” on July 1st.  We are cosponsoring this presentation by Dr. Eileen Fielding with Prosser Library.   Future events will be announced in our e-newsletter.
e.      Capacity Building – Dale reported that At&T had withdrawn its Van Otterloo Cell Tower land-rental proposal due to the inability to negotiate terms with the MDC. AT&T required a right-of-way from the MDC to access the rear portion of the Van Otterloo parcel.  The Board requested a motion from membership to investigate the option of selling one or two properties that are building lots.  These properties were donated to the Land Trust with no restrictions.  Proceeds would be used to build the Land Trust’s reserves.  That motion was made, seconded, and passed unanimously. 
2.      Bylaw Amendment
a.      Review and Discussion of Proposed Amendment - Paula Jones provided a brief explanation of and rationale for the proposed amendment (see page 3).
b.      Member vote on motion to approve changes - A motion to approve the proposed amendment passed unanimously.   
3.      Election of Directors
a.      Vikki Reski and Doris Johnson are stepping down from the Board.  Since Doris works for the CT DEEP, and the Land Trust has applied for several grants funded through the DEEP, Doris thought it would be prudent to step down to avoid potential conflict-of-interest issues.  Vikki is stepping down after many years of dedicated service on the Board, first as Secretary and more recently as Acting Treasurer.   Vikki hopes to be able to spend more time on Land Trust stewardship.  She also recently accepted a position on AuerFarm’s Board, and hopes to foster collaboration between the two non-profits.
b.      A motion was made to elect the slate of nominees as presented.  The motion passed unanimously.   
4.      New Business – There was no new business. 
5.      Adjournment of Member Annual Meeting – Member meeting adjourned at 7:25 p.m. 
6.      After a social gathering with desserts and beverages provided by Seabury, WLT Director Jim Trail kicked off the programming portion of the evening.  Jim talked about the synergies he found between his volunteer activities as a Seabury resident and as a Land Trust Director.  Our guest speaker, Julie Victoria, then provided an interesting presentation on the revision of Connecticut’s Wildlife Action Plan.  Information is also available at .
Proposed Amendment to Wintonbury Land Trust, Inc. Bylaws 
The Wintonbury Land Trust Board adopted its current “Code of Ethics and Conflict of Interest Policy” on April 21, 2013.   We should include a reference to this policy for handling conflicts of interest in our Bylaws to be consistent with Land Trust Alliance Standards & Practices. 
The language in the proposed new Article VII (below) is identical to that in Hartland Land Trust’s Bylaws, and was provided to them by an attorney.  Diane Mack reviewed this language for Wintonbury Land Trust, and indicated that she found it satisfactory.  We reviewed the CT General Statute and IRS references cited in the proposed Article VII, and we believe our current COI policy is compliant with the referenced state and federal statutes.  
Proposed Changes to the Bylaws (last amended June 18, 2014): 
1.  Insert a new Article VII to read as follows: 

Section I.  Procedures.  The Trust shall adopt procedures to assure that any potential “Director’s Conflicting Interest Transaction” as that term is defined in Section 33-1127 of the Connecticut General Statutes, or any potential “Excess Benefit Transaction” involving a “Disqualified Person,” (including a Director or Officer of the Trust) as those terms are defined in Section 4958 of the Internal Revenue Service, shall only be undertaken after the requisite disclosure, determinations and voting by Directors of the Trust as provided in Sections 33-1129 and 33-1130 of the Connecticut General Statutes and under any relevant regulations of the Internal Revenue Service. 
Section II.  Policies.  The Board shall adopt a conflict of interest policy, and review it at least annually.  The policy shall prohibit violation of the above state and federal statutes and regulations. 
2.  Renumber existing Articles VII through XIII (i.e., renumber as Articles VIII through XIV).

Wintonbury Land Trust Meeting Notes - 5/13/2015

WINTONBURY LAND TRUST – May 13, 2015, Seabury Retirement Community, Bloomfield  

Present:  Sten Caspersson, Jim Trail, Dale Bertoldi, Kevin Gough, Paula Jones, Vikki Reski, Vic Herson                                                                                               

1.  Minutes for the April 8, 2015 Board Meeting were approved.   

2.  There were no additions to the agenda. 

3.  The 2015 draft Budget was approved (see below) with one change; $5,000 of additional funding for Thrall stewardship was removed and will be deferred to the 2016 Budget.   

4.  The Board approved a proposed Bylaw Amendment regarding the Land Trust’s Conflict of Interest policies and procedures.  The Board will recommend to the membership that this amendment be approved by the membership at the Annual Meeting on June 10th.

5.  Committee Reports

a)      Grants

1.      Hawk Hill Property – The closing was April 23rd.  We discussed launching a “Save the Barn” campaign; Dale estimates we’ll need at least $40,000 to $45,000.  Sten, Dale, Vic, and Chip will form a Committee to begin work on this initiative.  Dale also reported that our 1772 Foundation Grant application for stabilization funds for this barn was rejected.

b)      Financial

1.      Updated insurance will include Hawk Hill, with the additional cost paid from general operating funds.  Vikki applied for a 2014 (990 form) tax filing extension to August 15th.

2.      April 30, 2015 balances:  $13,308.70 in checking; $39,429.11 in savings; $39,047.63 in restricted funds. 

3.      There was general discussion about the Treasurer duties as described in the Bylaws.  There was general agreement that the Treasurer should not be responsible for maintaining the membership database.  Currently, membership forms/dues are sent to the Treasurer, but we do not yet have a Membership Committee Chair for the Treasurer to hand the information off to.  We do not have a solution at present, but will collectively work to keep the database updated until we have a Membership Chair.  Kevin and Paula offered to help as best they can in the interim.

4.      Board members and Committee Chairs are responsible for managing their expenses for projects to the amounts budgeted in the approved 2015 Budget, attached below.

c)      Events

1.      Annual Meeting on June 10th – Paula will submit articles to the Hartford Courant’s MyTowns and to the Bloomfield Messenger publicizing the meeting.  Seabury has generously agreed to provide the refreshments (and space) at no charge.

2.      Presentation at Seabury on May 9th –Paula, Chip, and Jim Trail’s presentation on the Land Trust was well received.  Our host was Seabury’s In Support of Democracy (ISOD) group, whose members asked many thoughtful questions about our properties and activities. 

3.      Celebrate Bloomfield (5/30 to 6/7) – The Land Trust is set for our Trails Day hikes in conjunction with Celebrate Bloomfield week.  Sten offered to staff the Land Trust table at the Sacred Heart Church concert on June 5th.

d)     Capacity Building

1.      Board positions – We will follow up with Sharon Mann regarding her interest in serving a trial 1-year term.     

2.      Membership Drive – We will run an article in our May newsletter reminding people to renew their memberships if they have not done so this year.  We will also have copies of our new membership brochure available at our upcoming public events.  

 e)      Stewardship

1.      Stout Family Fields:  Pending confirmation with John Stout and Pat Sullivan, a field maintenance work day will be held on May 30th.

2.      Lisa Lane:  The Community Garden opened on Mother’s Day.  All plots have been rented.

3.      The annual NRCS inspections of Lisa Lane and Stout Family Fields are due in June.

 5.  New Business

a)    Next meeting date:  Annual Meeting, June 10, 2015, (2nd Wednesday of the month), 6:30 – 8:30 p.m., Seabury Retirement Community.

b)   Selection Committee, Hawk Hill Farm lease – A selection committee including community members and farm experts will be formed to review the lease applicants for the 2016 season.  Dale reported that we may have an opportunity to sign a short-term lease for the 2015 season. 

c)    Community Question and Answer – Sten suggested the Board consider undertaking a “post-it” exercise session – what is the Land Trust currently as an organization, and what is the organization that we want.

Meeting adjourned at 8:00 p.m.
Recorded by Paula Jones

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Wintonbury Land Trust Meeting Notes - March 11, 2015

WINTONBURY LAND TRUST – March 11, 2015, Seabury Retirement Community, Bloomfield  

Present:  Kevin Gough, Paula Jones, Dale Bertoldi, Sten Caspersson, Chip Caton, Vic Herson, Vikki Reski, Pete Cruikshank

1.  Minutes for the February 11, 2015 Board Meeting were approved. 
Snowshoeing at Wintonbury Hills Golf Course

2.  There were two additions to the agenda – Hawk Hill advertisement on Connecticut farmlink; Membership work in 2015. 

3.  There was no additional discussion on the 2015 budget. 

4.  Committee Reports

a)      Grants

1.      Hawk Hill – We will advertise on farmlink after the property closing.

2.      Evans Property – The Open Space grant application was hand-delivered to DEEP on February 26.

3.      Community Investment Act funding – Paula submitted a letter of testimony on behalf of the Land Trust objecting to the proposed sweep of CIA funds into the State’s General Fund.  Chip suggested providing a sample letter to legislators in our March newsletter.  Paula will e-mail the letter she submitted to Chip and the rest of the Board so that it can be used to craft the newsletter sample and other personal letters to legislators.  

b)      Financial

1.      Vikki is stepping down as Acting Treasurer after second quarter; she will be focusing more on stewardship of Land Trust properties.  She is joining the Board of Auer Farm and hopes to cultivate cooperative efforts between the organizations.  Many thanks to Vikki for her past, present, and future heroic efforts on behalf of the Land Trust!

2.      Vikki reported she will be updating the System for Award Management (SAM) registration for Federal grants and for the CT. Secretary of State this month.

3.      February 28, 2015 balances:  $5,434.34 in checking; $39,421.50 in savings; $264,657.86 in restricted funds.  There were two payments for work on the Evans Property acquisition:  $2,500 for the Yellow Book appraisal, and a partial payment of $2,124 for the A2 survey.  The total survey cost will be $3,500. Sten Caspersson and Mary Ann Henzler are working on the 2014 end-of-year statement.

4.      Vikki will be paying the bill to register our website domain for another two years.  The Board authorized her to request a debit card for the WLT account since online payments for such expenditures are preferred.

c)      Events

1.      The Hawk Hill celebration is currently planned for May 9th at 3 or 4 p.m.  The Hagers will be providing the use of their barn for the festivities.  There will be a ceremony at the Hawk Hill Barn; Vic Herson will be the Master of Ceremonies.

2.      We will also be presenting at Seabury the morning of May 9th.  Our host is Seabury’s In Support of Democracy (ISOD) group.  Thanks to Jim Trail for helping set this up. 

3.      Annual Meeting on June 10th – Paula will contact Jim Trail after he returns from his trip to start planning the details of our Annual Meeting to be held at Seabury.  In the meantime, Paula will check on Julie Victoria’s (from DEEP) availability to speak about the State’s revised plan for wildlife conservation.  Ms. Victoria will be doing a presentation on this topic at the Canton Land Trust’s Annual Meeting in March.

4.      The Land Trust and Prosser Library will co-sponsor “It all Happened on the Farmington River:  A Story of Historic Sites, Fish, Factories, Floods & Flows” on July 1st.  This is a fun and informative presentation by Eileen Fielding, Executive Director of Farmington River Watershed Association.  The Land Trust will provide light refreshments. 

5.      Hikes and work days – Given the snow cover and resulting expected melt and mud, the scheduled work days for Lisa Lane and Van Otterloo will be modified.  The Van Otterloo workday will now be on March 28th.  Lisa Lane work days will be scheduled for April.

6.      Celebrate Bloomfield – Dale reported that the Bloomfield Journal will be publishing a special edition on this week-long event.  Participants have been asked to provide an article about their organization.  A quarter page article costs $200; a half page article costs $400.  Chip will research the two options and recommend a size/expenditure to the Board.

7.      Late summer fundraising event – There was general consensus we should hold a tag sale.  Dale suggested we have the sale at the Hawk Hill barn, since we will own the property at that point.

d)     Membership/Community/Website

1.      Lisa Lane Farm – Vikki requested approval to spend up to $2,000 from the stewardship fund to purchase straw wattles.  The wattles will be used as (start-up) bed edges in the community garden.  Renters of garden plots will be responsible for maintaining plot edges after the straw composts.   The request was approved.

2.      Membership – Paula and Chip will contact Christopher Shepard.  Christopher had offered last October to meet with Board members to help us get started setting some specific membership objectives.

3.      The Land Trust Alliance article on Wintonbury Land Trust has been submitted.  We will ask for permission to reprint the article after it’s published.

e)      Capacity Building

1.      New logo – The Board selected the second of three options for the new logo.     

2.      Summer Interns – Hartford Foundation for Public Giving will not provide funding for interns.  Chip offered to pursue other private donor options.

f)       Stewardship

1.      Thrall Farm equity report – Kevin reported the equity credited to Newgate Farms for 2014 work on the property.  The value credited was $11,306.  The Sedors have done a great job on the property. 

5.  New Business

a)    Next meeting date:  April 8, 2015, (2nd Wednesday of the month), 6 – 7:30 p.m., Seabury Retirement Community.

b)   Community Question & Answer – As a follow-up to last month’s question from Sten regarding access to Land Trust funds, Paula confirmed that the President and Treasurer (Dale and Vikki-Acting Treasurer, respectively) are authorized to sign checks on behalf of the Land Trust.  Dale, Vikki, and Chip currently have check writing and depositing authority.  We agreed that we will discontinue Chip’s authority after second quarter when a new Treasurer has been appointed.  

Meeting adjourned at 7:40 p.m.

Recorded by Paula Jones