Memories of a Cherished Landscape
By John Garvey, from the Ausbon Sargent Land Preservation Trust’s Winter 2010 Issue of Chatter
A few months ago, I was driving down Main Street in New London in the early morning hours. This is something I do regularly on my way to work in Concord. As I drive, I will often appreciate the first glimpse of Mt. Kearsarge through the fields on my left and the bucolic scene of grazing animals in the pasture on my right. On this particular morning, as I looked out at the corrugated streaks of red that were just beginning to illuminate Mt. Kearsarge, I found myself pulling over to take it all in. It was one of those intensely spiritual moments when I was overwhelmed by the majesty, and it has become a cherished picture in my mental photo album.
I am fortunate to have many other pictures in that album. And like the picture from that special morning, so many of the scenes are of Ausbon Sargent protected land. On any given day, I drive by many gratifying views which bear the familiar squirrel sign, marking an Ausbon Sargent protected property. A quick look at the map on the Ausbon Sargent website shows that you cannot drive in this area without passing multiple protected locations.
But it’s a lot more than views from a car. My wife, Cotton, and I are hikers. Together with our dog, Bessie, we regularly enjoy the trails in the area, and my mental photo album is always growing. The album includes many scenes from the endless variety of terrain and vegetation on the Spofford trails and wonderful vistas from the Webb Forest Preserve. There are pictures of Bessie galloping through the woods beside the Cook trails, and expansive views from Clark Lookout. There are many others that are appreciated again and again, with other property still to discover.
On that special morning before Mt. Kearsarge, which was otherwise like most mornings, I really got it that the quality of my life has been immeasurably enhanced by the generosity of many landowners and the hard work of the Ausbon Sargent extended family. I looked at that view and knew that it would be there – not only for my children – but for my children’s children’s children. Ausbon Sargent easements are for perpetuity, which means “endless or indefinitely long in duration or existence.” What a wonderful gift to the world and the many creatures who share its space. I suddenly remembered my father, who was an early Ausbon Sargent trustee, driving me by the same pasture years ago, and excitedly explaining to me that it had been preserved. I was happy for his excitement then, but now I truly shared it. As the sun came up over Mt. Kearsarge that morning, I really saw the light.
In addition to feeling gratitude to the landowners, I was overwhelmed by the significance of the commitment Ausbon Sargent makes every time it accepts an easement. Ausbon Sargent assumes the legal responsibility of monitoring and protecting each easement forever. While the benefit of each easement will remain with the public in future generations, the responsibility of protecting the easement will be passed down from generation to generation of the Ausbon Sargent family. This obligation is literally far-reaching; it includes routinely monitoring the land, documenting conditions, and enforcing or defending the easement in the case of violations or challenges which could result in litigation. It occurred to me that not everyone has land to donate, but we ALL have land to protect. Ausbon Sargent is already committed to protecting over 6,000 acres on over 100 properties, and the anticipated cost of that obligation and of future commitments should be fully endowed.
So now, when I donate to Ausbon Sargent, I don’t just think about the immediate costs of day-to-day operations. I think about forever. I think that with our donations today, we can all still be there in 200 years, showing our great-great-great-great grandchildren and nieces and nephews the view across the field of a new dawn over Mt. Kearsarge.
John Garvey is our first second-generation Ausbon Sargent trustee. His father, Dale Garvey, was the first secretary of the board and his father-in-law, Jim Cleveland, was an initial funder and benefactor. John is an arbitrator and mediator and teaches at Pierce Law in Concord. He would be delighted if his family one day includes the first third-generation trustee.
Photo by Nancy Lyon
Published September 13, 2010