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Nature rewards those who nurture it, and D&R Greenway Land Trust earned its due for preserving 19,000 acres in central New Jersey in the form of golden sunlight for its 20th Greenway Gala on Sunday, September 20. The annual event pays tribute to those who have made a difference in land preservation.
This year’s Donald B. Jones Conservation Award honored D&R Greenway founder and long time trustee Rosemary Miles Blair (1931-2015). In welcoming remarks, D&R Greenway Vice President Phyllis Marchand suggested that Blair, whom former U.S. Congressman Rush Holt called “a force,” had influenced the weather that illuminated the meadow she played a key role in preserving.

(Carl Geisler) Linda Mead, David Blair and family with award

Blair’s husband, David, and a contingency of children, spouses and grandchildren came from across the country, joining more than 150 D&R Greenway supporters for the celebration.”As her husband for 61 years, I can tell you about persistence,” remarked David Blair. “She was dynamite in a small package. Rosemary can rest in peace because of the work she did for D&R Greenway.” Daughter Maria Blair, of Hinesburg, Vermont, recalled how her mother was always moving forward with positive energy, and so proud of her work with D&R Greenway in preserving land. Daughter Rachel McGregor of Deadham, who lives in Massachusetts, said people remember her mother as “the woman in white sneakers who showed up at countless meetings for conservation. She had a sense of what was right and had no fear in talking to anyone about preserving land.”

“It was so tremendously important to Mom,” said daughter Karen Horn of Moretown, Vermont. “Preservation defined who she was.”

Son David Blair, of Washington, D.C., said “I’ll always remember my mother’s activism in environmental issues and open space. She’s built a terrific legacy. She loved things that were old, which included farms and architecture. If someone wanted to change something old and established, she was a big questioner: why change it? Restored things are beautiful.”

“Rosemary got us started but it takes a vigilant and committed board, staff and supporters who believe in the common cause and are committed to get it done,” said D&R Greenway President and CEO Linda Mead, concluding an inspiring speech about vision, value and community with a quote from Pope Francis’s Encyclical on Climate Change & Inequality: “… it is helpful to set aside some places which can be preserved and protected from constant changes brought by human intervention.”

“One does not need to be religious to appreciate this – it speaks to exactly what we do,” said Mead.

Pushing her 6-month-old in a stroller, D&R Greenway Trustee and Drinker Biddle real estate attorney Cindy De Lisi Smith said she watched her great- grandmother’s farm, one of the last in Scotch Plains, as it was paved over, and is committed to D&R Greenway to protect that from happening to farms in our midst. Having worked on closings for several D&R Greenway preserved properties, Smith says she likes working with families to figure out how they can benefit from preserving land. Smith lives in the Sourland Mountains where her children can play in the woods.

Jerry Fennelly, president and founder of NAI Fennelly Commercial Real Estate Services, remarked on how the beautiful setting shows off the work D&R Greenway does, creating beauty in central New Jersey. A regular user of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail, where he runs and walks, Fennelly says that from the perspective of a real estate developer, green space creates greater value for surrounding towns. “It creates value for the residents – that’s why people come here from all over the world. More than a third of our residents are born outside the country, and 87 languages are spoken in Mercer County. They are drawn to the open space.”

Over the years the Donald B. Jones Conservation Award has been given to a governor, a community, a family, a congressman, local citizens, a Princeton land trust and a 10-year-old who raised more than $3,000 for St. Michaels Farm Preserve, among others. When Rush Holt left Congress to become American Association for the Advancement of Science CEO and had to clean out his desk, the Jones Award was among the treasures he kept. “I display it on the wall in my home because it’s something I’m proud of.”

***

D&R GREENWAY LAND TRUST IS IN ITS 26TH YEAR of preserving and protecting
natural lands, farmlands and open spaces throughout central and southern
New Jersey.   Through continuous preservation and stewardship — caring
for land and easements to ensure they remain protected and ecologically
healthy in perpetuity — D&R Greenway nurtures a healthier and more diverse
environment for people and wild species in seven counties.
Accredited by the national Land Trust Accreditation Commission, D&R
Greenway’s mission is to preserve and care for land and inspire a
conservation ethic, now and for the future. Since its founding in 1989, D&R
Greenway has permanently preserved more than 18,750 acres, an area 20 times
the size of New York City’s Central Park, including 28 miles of trails open
to the public.

PHOTO CAPTIONS:

Feature Photo: D&R Greenway President & CEO Linda Mead (holding plate) presents Donald B. Jones Award to David Blair (with stick) on behalf of his late wife, Rosemary Blair, the land trust’s founding mother. Blair family members look on. photo
Carl Geisler

Interior Photo: David Blair accepts Donald B. Jones Award from D&R Greenway President & CEO Linda Mead, on behalf of his late wife, Rosemary Blair, the land trust’s founding mother. Former U.S. Congressman and D&R Greenway supporter Rush Holt and D&R Greenway Vice-President Phyllis Marchand look on. photo Richard Grant

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Mary Galioto
Mary Galioto is the founder, publisher and editor of MercerMe, and a lawyer. Originally from Brooklyn, Mary has progressively moved deeper and deeper into New Jersey, settling in the heart of the state: Mercer County. Formerly the author of an embarrassingly informal blog, Mary is a lifelong writer and asker of questions and was even mentioned, albeit briefly, in the New York Times and Washington Post. In her free time, Mary fills her life with excessive self-reflection, photographing mushrooms, and misguided adventures in random hobbies. Mary also works as the PR Coordinator at the Hopewell Valley Arts Council, serves on the volunteer Board of Trustees of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail (LHT), serves on the Hopewell Borough Board of Health, is a member of the Hopewell Valley Municipal Alliance, and holds the elected position as the Hopewell Borough Democratic Committee Municipal Chairwoman.

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