By Susan Wolf on March 30, 2013
Mary Anne Guitar, Redding Land Trust president, will be headed to Wesleyan University this Saturday to receive the Connecticut Land Conservation Council’s Excellence in Conservation Award.
“The awards committee was very impressed by the depth and duration of Ms. Guitar’s commitment to conservation in our state. She truly serves as a model of what one committed individual can do to make a difference in the community. Thank you for taking the time to nominate her for this award!” wrote Virginia Gwynn, Greenwich Land Trust’s executive director, in an email announcing Ms. Guitar’s award.
“I’m happy to get the award from my fellow land savers. The Redding Land Trust has been preserving open space for nearly 50 years, and this award belongs (as well) to all the donors and workers who have made it a success,” said Ms. Guitar.
“I was lucky to land in Redding and get to know Sam Hill and Stuart Chase. They were my mentors and Redding’s pioneers in land preservation. They never retired from their mission and neither will I. As long as there’s land to save, I’m here to help. Nothing beats looking out on an unspoiled field or forest and knowing it will be there in perpetuity.”
In its nomination of Ms. Guitar for the award, the Redding Land Trust described her as one of Connecticut’s “earliest pioneers in the conservation of open space.”
In 1965, Ms. Guitar helped found the Redding Land Trust with other conservation-minded leaders of the day, including noted economist and historian Stuart Chase. Ms. Guitar, an author, wrote Property Power: How to Keep the Bulldozer, the Highwaymen and the Power Lines Away From Your Door.
“Mary Anne has spent a lifetime motivating friends and neighbors, indeed the whole Redding community, to become passionate preservers of open space,” the trust wrote.
During her successful campaign for first selectman in 1977, Ms. Guitar, who was the first woman to win election to that office in Fairfield County, ran on the theme “Keep Redding Clean and Green.” It is a motto often heard today.
During her six terms in office, the trust said, Ms. Guitar promoted the concept of cooperation with other conservation groups, like the Nature Conservancy, which have shared in the cost of saving and protecting open space in Redding.
Also noted in the nomination was Ms. Guitar’s encouragement for the town’s Conservation Commission to require all property developers of 10 acres or more to set aside 10% of their land for open space.
“Throughout her career, Mary Anne’s environmental activism has dovetailed with her political involvement,” the trust said in its nomination letter.
Ms. Guitar was appointed to head the state’s Siting Council, which oversees the placement of power lines within the state, and served 12 years on the town’s Board of Finance. As land trust president, Ms. Guitar and her board of trustees worked for and received accreditation by the Land Trust Alliance, a national organization that promotes voluntary land conservation.
“Mention her name to anyone in town and the first thing that will come to that person’s mind is open space,” the trust said.
“When recently asked what is the most rewarding aspect of her long involvement with the Redding Land Trust, Mary Anne, who grew up in St. Joseph, Mo., with ‘a nature preserve at my door,’ proclaims: ‘Having those who knew the rural Redding of years ago come back to town and marvel that it hasn’t changed a bit,’” the trust’s nomination letter concluded.