Interview with Kevin Smith

CIC Opening Bike Ride w Joe Martens

Community ride with then-DEC Commissioner Joe Martens celebrating the Catskill Interpretive Center Grand Opening – Summer of 2015

No, this is not an interview with the creator of Silent Bob… Instead, this Kevin Smith is the chairman behind the Woodstock Land Conservancy, the non-profit organization committed to the protection and preservation of open lands, forests, wetlands and historic sites in and around the most famous town in our county… Woodstock, NY. Even with his full plate, Kevin made time to chat with us about all things he’s conserving in Woodstock!

How did you get involved initially with the Woodstock Land Conservancy (WLC)?
One of my besties, Elizabeth Lesser, used to be on WLC’s board. She knew I was interested in protecting our environment, and around 2000 she told me about WLC. She said it was a community land conservation organization doing great work and invited me to a Board meeting as a guest. Noted Woodstock artist Jean Ludins had recently gifted WLC with a beautiful small meadow on Chestnut Hill, and the Board decided to hold the meeting there to celebrate the occasion. I showed up a bit late and everyone was sitting cross-legged in the hay field. I remember thinking, “It can’t get much more local or Woodstock than this . . . ”

What are your main duties as the WLC Board Chair?
In a small hard-working land trust like WLC (or KLT) it’s very much “all hands on deck” for all our Directors. No job is too big or too small for anyone – we all do whatever needs doing to help fulfill mission, complete projects, and support the organization. That said, as Board Chair I also work closely with my fellow Directors and especially Maxanne Resnick and Patty Goodwin (WLC Executive Director and Board President respectively) – to  provide direction and leadership. My other main formal responsibility is to be a spokesperson for WLC in the community and with partner organizations, agencies and stakeholders on conservation issues and strategic initiatives, things like the Comeau Conservation Easement granted by the Town of Woodstock to the Conservancy in 2009, WLC’s response to the Niagara Bottling Proposal in 2014, and our advocacy in support of the Ulster County Rail Trail Projects (Ashokan Rail Trail and Kingston Midtown Linear Park), the Kingston Greenline and County-Wide Rail Trail Network.

Muir Woods, Marin County CA

Muir Woods, Marin County CA

What would you like to accomplish during your tenure as the Board Chair?
I’d like to see the Ashokan Rail Trail, Kingston Linear Park, and other key Kingston Greenline and UC rail trail network connectors all move to construction. On the WLC front, I’m really excited about the public opening of our newest and largest public preserve in 2017, the 123-acre Israel Wittman Nature Sanctuary. It’s located at the “corner” of the Towns of Woodstock, Saugerties, and Ulster. I’d like to see the Town of Woodstock’s recently initiated comprehensive planning process create a blueprint that builds on the many assets Woodstock has, while addressing some real issues that have emerged in recent years as more and more people have rediscovered the Mid-Hudson Valley and the Catskills.

What is the difference between a Land Trust and a Land Conservancy?
OMG – trick questions! I use them interchangeably, And I think many organizations do these days.

How is it going with your national accreditation application with the Land Trust Alliance?
Thanks for asking! We’re not quite there but we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s now in the Accreditation Commission’s hands to review. When (WLC Executive Director) Maxanne announced at our last Board meeting that she’d just received confirmation from the Accreditation Commission that the voluminous application materials we submitted in late September are complete, I literally ran around our Board meeting and high-fived all our board and staff.

Accreditation is the culmination of nearly a decade of incremental work and planning – to adopt, integrate and begin to uphold best standards and practices (S&Ps) as defined by the Land Trust Alliance into all areas of WLC’s activities and work. Accreditation isn’t the sexiest part of our work but it’s a critically important ‘milestone’ for us as a professional land trust – especially for the part of our mission that involves accepting and holding conservation lands in the public trust and in compliance with all IRS regulations. So while we haven’t reached the finish line, I’m incredibly proud of the work our staff and board members have done over many years to get us to this point.

Continue reading Interview with Kevin Smith

Hey LTA! You Made Our Day!

We’re pretty lucky to have a great group of supporters who pitch in towards our work in lots of ways. A quick shout-out, though, to one special partner – the Land Trust Alliance! LTA is a national association of land trusts and other conservation organizations, and here in New York they work with the Department of Environmental Conservation to administer a special grant program called the New York State Conservation Partnership Program.

Over the past five years, the Kingston Land Trust is proud to have won support through this program several times. Back in 2011, we received our first grant to support the Kingston Rail Trail project, the earliest precursor to the Kingston Greenline. Subsequently, the LTA’s support has helped us in many ways, such as:

  • Completing surveys of the City-owned Ulster & Delaware railroad corridor, to prepare for conversion to a rail trail;
  • Engaging the entire Kingston community in a visioning process that established the conceptual plan for the Kingston Greenline;
  • Enabling us to hire a consultant to complete the KLT’s first-ever strategic plan, and to develop a management plan that will guide our work to assist the City with maintenance and operations of the Kingston Greenline.

This year, LTA’s support will allow the KLT to hire a consultant to help with our ongoing communications and engagement efforts, which are a critical part of how we work to achieve our mission to activate Kingston’s public places. Over the next year, we’ll upgrade our web sites (www.kingstonlandtrust.org and www.kingstongreenline.org), redevelop the KLT brand, and spread the word about our work across a range of media.

Why is communicating and engaging so important? The LTA gets it – in order for us to be successful, we need people to understand the mission we’re pursuing. We need to advocate and educate our community about the benefits of active open spaces in a small city like Kingston – they contribute to a healthier, happier and wealthier community!

While we’re thrilled to have LTA’s support, we still need you, too! To do our daily work on the Kingston Greenline, in urban agriculture, or in protecting important open spaces in and around Kingston, we need volunteers and donors. And all of our grants require matching funds, for which we rely on individual contributors. So pitch in today, if you can!

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