December 14, 2020
2020 has been a challenging year for all of us. The world has been hit hard by a global pandemic, economic recession, and political turmoil. The good news is that GOSA, as a land trust, has been able to meet the increased demand for convenient and safe places for public outdoor recreation. GOSA welcomed a record number of visitors, new members and volunteers this year. Thankfully, our natural areas and open spaces have remained available to the public for exercise, mental health, fresh air, and a chance to meet outdoors.
GOSA’s large properties and long trails provide almost unlimited space for social distancing, hours-long adventures, and escape from the stresses of isolation, news and social media. Rock outcrops, brooks and ravines appear especially beautiful in winter, enhanced by reduced foliage and snow and ice patterns. Dress warmly, go outdoors, and look for overwintering birds, animal tracks, nesting cavities, patterns of bark and other signs of life. You might be lucky enough to spot a pileated woodpecker, kestrel, owl pellet or the shredded bark of a bobcat-scratched tree.
Although the pandemic has restricted our indoor and large group activities, we have been able to stay in business by using technology to convene our annual and board meetings online. While we missed the camaraderie of gathering with friends at our spring gala, Trails Day and First Day hikes, stream-dipping and other educational events, we know that this pandemic, too, shall pass, and we will meet again.
In the meantime, our volunteers have been active supporters of GOSA, while effectively socially distancing. This year, they led small group tours for garden, botanic, birding, chamber of commerce and senior organizations. They hosted a safe endurance and fun run with lively DJ music and special hand-made awards. They provided the governance needed to maintain GOSA’s corporate, 501©3, and state charitable organizational status. They generated financial reports, 990 IRS reports, donor correspondence, and essential and enduring-value corporate records. They maintained social media platforms, generated printed materials. Remember, all this work has been performed without paid professional staff.
Stewardship volunteers have donated thousands of hours this year to maintaining trails, fields, forests, shrubby areas, pollinator gardens and thickets. Organized work parties have averaged 12-15 volunteers per week, plus small groups have performed boundary marking, trail blazing, and construction of bog bridges, signs, bluebird and kestrel nesting boxes.
GOSA volunteers have also collaborated with and shared expertise with local organizations: Mystic and North Stonington Garden Clubs sponsored our pollinator gardens; New England Mountain Biking Association of South Eastern Connecticut sponsored a bog bridge at the Merritt Family Forest. Tri-Town-Trail Association requested a GOSA botany and stewardship consultation for its northern trail section. The Connecticut Botanic Society held a mini-bio blitz at the Avery Farm powerline corridor. The Mudheads sailing club has displayed a festive buoy holiday tree along Elm street at Beebe Cove Vista.
GOSA does not have professional staff to help us raise the millions of dollars needed to save land. We have come close to raising the $1,000,000 needed to acquire the 104-acre Sheep Farm South property, and we plan to close in early 2021. Our annual appeal will help us cross the finish line to save this beautiful property.
Thank-you to all our members, donors and volunteers for your support. Together, we will continue to preserve special places in our beautiful little corner of Connecticut.
Groton Open Space Association, Inc
Photo Credits: Rick Kollmeyer, Bill Pratt, Joan Smith