Wintonbury Land Trust needs accurate information to fulfill its mission and to create credibility and support for sound conservation land practices. Stewards are the eyes and ears of the Land Trust. Stewards monitor the conditions of the particular land trust preserve they are responsible for; they are the neighborhood representatives. Stewards are encouraged to visit their parcel regularly. Responsibilities at present consist of a yearly report with other updates as needed.
There are a number of specific components to the Land Trust conservation stewardship program. Each plays a critical role in assuring the Land Trust fulfills its obligations to those who have placed lands in our care. These include:
Our commitment to land preservation cannot be met unless we also manage our program to keep track of the status and condition of the lands we protect. Therefore, we also:
The Wintonbury Land Trust has created a dedicated stewardship fund to cover the ongoing, long-term costs associated with monitoring and managing our portfolio of properties. As an all-volunteer organization with no paid staff, the Land Trust strives to be as efficient and effective as possible in using these funds to support our ongoing stewardship activities. Contributions to the fund are always needed. Contact the Wintonbury Land Trust for information on how to support our stewardship work.
Photos by Dennis Hubbs.
Pete Bartkoski is a steward at the Land Trust’s Hawk Hill Farm. In this case “steward” doesn’t begin to tell the story. Pete spent 60 years in Newington before he, his wife Leeann, and several dogs moved to Bloomfield in 2004. The dogs were large and lively, and Pete and Leeann needed to find space for them to run. They began to explore trails in and around their neighborhood off Duncaster Road. They frequented the Town’s LaSalette Open Space and loved to see the view of Hartford from the top. “It fills you” is how Pete described the view. When someone suggested there was a path by the Hawk Hill barn, their walks expanded, and Pete’s fascination and involvement with Hawk Hill and its old barn began.
Pete regards Hawk Hill’s historic civil war-era barn and the farm dating back to the 1740’s with great respect for their history. “You can just feel how many cows and people have passed through this property.” He thinks it is amazing the Land Trust has been able to preserve the land for us all to enjoy.
In 2015 when the Land Trust acquired the 45 acre farm and began restoring the barn, Pete volunteered to help with whatever needed to be done to preserve and maintain the property. Staining the new barn siding, painting the windows and trim, and cleaning out lots of accumulated junk and debris have all been part of his stewardship. When an old (1950) John Deere tractor was left behind by the former farmers, Pete, who trained as a mechanic, and Land Trust board member Dale Bertoldi tore it down and brought it back to life. Pete explained that he and Leeann were raised to take care of things and like things clean and in their place.
Pete says the barn speaks to him, and he makes sure the barn is properly decked out at holiday time with wreaths adorning its exterior. He has also led teams of volunteers to clean up the trails by removing downed trees, removing invasive plants and mowing when the farm was without a resident farmer. And he and Leeann walk the property almost every day, making sure it is maintained and appreciated. He takes pride in knowing he is contributing to something that will help the barn last for another 150 years. (Below: Pete & Leeann Bartkoski, with Dale Bertoldi seated on the restored tractor. Photo courtesy Vikki Reski.)
Pete’s passion for the land is evident. He began fly fishing as a 9 year old and spent time with an uncle in Goshen, with his English pointers, walking the land and hunting. He says the land is only given to us – and it is up to us not to waste it. He loves the wildlife he encounters while out walking. He has spotted pheasants this year by the Filley House, frequently sights deer, and described being chased by coyotes one day while walking the dogs on top of LaSalette. The dogs ran off, and the next thing Pete and Leeann heard was the coyotes making a wounded dog sound, trying to draw them in! They located the dogs and beat a hasty retreat!
Pete is a cheerleader for the Land Trust properties and emailed Peter Marteka, formerly of the Hartford Courant, suggesting he do an article on the LaSalette Trail and Hawk Hill Farm. Marteka’s excellent article can be found here. Pete and Leeann were pleased at the uptick in cars at the trail-head after the article.
Pete’s advice to anyone who would like to get involved with the Land Trust is to first just get out and use the trails. Using the trails helps keep the land from reclaiming them. If you see some trash, pick it up, and if you see something else that needs doing, contact the Land Trust on its Volunteer page to become a volunteer.
Pete encapsulates the best features of a volunteer steward by acting like an “owner” and for all the right reasons! We are very fortunate to have him in this role for such an important and visible property.