Di­rec­tor’s pas­sion for the land be­gan on a South­ern farm

Stamford Advocate - - News - By Ly­nan­dro Simmons dj.simmons@hearst­medi­act.com, 203-842-2568

DARIEN — El­iz­a­beth “Beth” Har­mon was re­cently named the new ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Darien Land Trust. Her love for the en­vi­ron­ment started at a young age.

“I spent time on my grand­par­ents’ farm in South Carolina ev­ery sum­mer,” Har­mon said.

On the farm in Foun­tain Inn, S.C., she learned about the land and its im­por­tance, and, later, the ex­pe­ri­ence of los­ing the farm when it was even­tu­ally sold, which taught her an in­valu­able les­son.

“Once land is gone, it’s just gone,” she said.

Her pas­sion for the en­vi­ron­ment con­tin­ued into adult­hood. As a res­i­dent of Darien for 11 years, she has worked on en­vi­ron­men­tal ini­tia­tives around town. Work­ing with the Darien En­vi­ron­men­tal Group, she ed­u­cated stu­dents on re­cy­cling in all of the ele­men­tary schools.

“We lit­er­ally were la­bel­ing bins and go­ing around to ev­ery sin­gle class­room,” she said.

This would lead to cam­paigns such as trash-free Tues­days, and the DEG go­ing to cafe­te­rias to ed­u­cate stu­dents on re­cy­cling and food waste. Her work with the group around town wouldn’t go un­no­ticed.

“I was re­ally proud with my co-worker, be­cause we were hon­ored to re­ceive the out­stand­ing ser­vices recog­ni­tion award in 2011,” Har­mon said.

Last year, she came on board as a trustee for the Darien Land Trust, and, after the pre­vi­ous ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, Shirley Ni­chols, de­cided to step down, Har­mon was of­fered her po­si­tion.

“She (Ni­chols) re­ally brought the land trust from baby steps to lots of big­ger and big­ger steps,” Har­mon said. “I have big shoes to fill, but I’m very ex­cited.”

To help in the tran­si­tion, she has a board of trustees, both new and old, to as­sist her. The sup­port­ive group works to­gether to en­sure the trust suc­ceeds in its mis­sion, she said.

“They’re all rooted in their pas­sion and their drive to roll up their sleeves and bring their knowl­edge and their learn­ing to help,” Har­mon said.

Even out­side the board’s work there are un­sung he­roes who help, she said, in­clud­ing peo­ple who call to no­tify the land trust when trees fall on its prop­er­ties.

As the town be­comes more de­vel­oped, the land trust is com­mit­ted to pre­serve what re­mains.

“Now we have this pre­cious 220 acres to pre­serve and to pro­tect,” she said.

The amount of de­vel­oped land makes ev­ery­thing left much more pre­cious, she said. Darien is also one of the grow­ing com­mu­ni­ties in Con­necti­cut.

“I think we have such a great base of peo­ple here who are aware and who care,” Har­mon said. “It’s a beau­ti­ful town.”

The Darien Land Trust hosts neigh­bor­hood events, so peo­ple can learn what’s go­ing on out­side their homes and learn about land con­ser­va­tion.

As the town con­tin­ues to change, Har­mon said the land trust is not only work­ing to pre­serve open ar­eas, but also to re­store open spa­ces in the com­mu­nity.

“We pro­tect what we have,” Har­mon said.

“Once land is gone, it’s just gone.” Beth Har­mon, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Darien Land Trust

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