Saturday, May 08, 2021

Person of the Week

David Gumbart Talks Conservation and Community Commitment

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As director of land management at The Nature Conservancy and president of the Killingworth Land Conservation Trust, David Gumbart is in his element when he is working outdoors. Photo courtesy of David Gumbart

As director of land management at The Nature Conservancy and president of the Killingworth Land Conservation Trust, David Gumbart is in his element when he is working outdoors. (Photo courtesy of David Gumbart )

If you see David Gumbart in his element, you might find him observing an object with fascination, maybe even using a camera or some visual tool to gather evidence.

No, David is not a medical pathologist or a private investigator. He is the director of land management at The Nature Conservancy, where he has been working for the past 30 years.

In addition, he is on his fourth year as the president of the Killingworth Land Conservation Trust (KLCT), where he also served on the board of directors for close to 20 years.

So, it’s no surprise that David is most comfortable when he’s working somewhere outside with nature.

He takes photos that highlight the wonders of nature and might even grab a pair of binoculars to study birds in flight or flowers in bloom.

“By paying attention, taking photos, and asking questions, the ability to keep learning and gain a better understanding of the world we live in is something we can all be a part of. Sitting in your back yard? Look and listen for the birds. Have something in bloom that looks cool? Use a field guide to figure out what it is. Grab the binoculars from the closet, or simply get out for a short walk,” he says.

It’s useful advice for those feeling cabin fever from the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Getting outdoors, David says, gives one an opportunity to learn and appreciate the environment.

Among the properties that KLTC oversees is the Pond Meadow Natural Area, also known as the cranberry bog.

The bog, David says, is where “local cranberry production was an agricultural practice for over 100 years. This site is home to native orchids, carnivorous plants, and multiple state rare species. As a wet meadow, it requires some mowing to ensure woody species do not overtake the area.”

He adds, “The land trust initiated a cranberry harvest to celebrate the success of protecting much of the site. Berries from Pond Meadow were subsequently scattered at a second land trust site, on Paper Mill Road, in the south end of Killingworth. A former gravel pit, the groundwater is relatively close to the soil surface, keeping the soil damp, even in relatively dry years, such as 2020.”

David explains that the KLCT also oversees more than eight miles of trails associated with the Platt Nature Center and the town-owned Parmelee Farm property. In addition, the land trust oversees a two-mile trail along the Hammonasset River from Route 80 to the Bar Gate Trail.

In total, the KLCT has more than 1,000 acres in protected open space and 181 acres in conservation easements.

While the land trust welcomes the community to use the public lands and trails, it urges hikers to dispose of waste properly, stay on the trails, leave what is on the lands, respect wildlife, take only photographs, and leave only footprints.

David explains, “We sometimes come across small-scale encroachment on our lands, so meeting with and discussing appropriate uses of our land is an important effort with all of our neighbors throughout town.”

In addition to the KLCT, David has been involved with the Killingworth Conservation Commission since the 1990s when he was a member, subsequently becoming chairman for a number of years.

He says that after participating in the Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO) program with the University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension Service, the commission learned about surface and ground water resources, how they can be impacted by local land use, and how best to protect water quality and availability.

“During this intensive series of programs, we had the interest and participation of the town’s Planning & Zoning Commission,” David says.

“As a result, the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development includes a chapter focusing on Killingworth’s natural resources…Responsible development is part of any town’s growth and ensuring this takes place with educated decision-making, relative to town wetlands, open space corridors, farmland soils, and cultural resources allows Killingworth to remain healthy and vibrant, with respect for the town’s past and an eye to the future,” he adds.

David’s love for nature spurs him to capture photos of wildlife. His interest in photography is shared by his wife, Susan. They have been married for close to 28 years and have been Killingworth residents for much of that time. Together, they have two grown children, Spencer and Clara.

“I enjoy taking photos of the natural world and all of its beauty. From large landscapes, down to the smallest detail of a little flower. It helps me learn about where I live, and what I share my world with,” he says.

David also gives much of his time to the community through the Killingworth Lions Club.

He served on the board for more than eight years, including as president from 2015 to 2016. He recently handed off the chair position for the club’s annual Easter egg hunt after 15 years, but still coordinates the club’s annual chili contest.

He also assists the current president in raising funds to support the Killingworth Elementary School’s PTO effort to install new playground equipment for younger children.

“The motto of the Lions Club is ‘We serve.’ There is no better way to make a commitment to your town’s wellbeing than to volunteer your time and effort to support local residents, schoolchildren, and partner agencies and nonprofits,” he says.

David notes that for the upcoming holidays, the Killingworth Lions will be collecting food and donations for Helping Hands, the local food pantry, between Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s Day.

He says that even small donations of a few nonperishable cans of food or a few dollars matter.

“When everyone chips in, a lot can be accomplished with only a little bit of effort,” he says.

David’s advice is praiseworthy in these trying days of pandemic. His message is clear and simple: Get outdoors and enjoy nature. Get involved in the community and be of service.

“A willingness to look, listen, and learn is valuable,” he says.

“Regardless of the time or resources you have at your disposal, sharing your time and resources will improve others’ lives, as well as your own. And laugh. A lot.”

To nominate a Person of the Week, email m.caulfield@shorepublishing.com.


Maria Caulfield is the Associate Editor for Zip06. Email Maria at m.caulfield@shorepublishing.com.

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