January Newsletter

In the summer of 1989, the scene “at the end of the pond” in Weekapaug was what many of us remember as children — trips to the beach with family, sailing at the Yacht Club, tennis matches, riding bikes with friends past fields along Noyes Neck and Langworthy Road, and ice cream at the end of a hot day. It was an important summer for the future of the pond communities that were being “discovered” by developers in a way that could threaten the serene way of life of families that had been in the area for generations. Efforts were taken to rezone undeveloped residential areas for commercial purposes and many open spaces were being considered for subdivisions for new residential development. Fortunately, there were leaders in our community with foresight that stepped forward — to prevent what otherwise would have been increased development and potential damage to our natural environment.
As with many important events in Weekapaug, it all started with the Weekapaug Fire District (WFD).  As head of the WFD Planning Committee, Fred Whittemore presented the idea of the foundation as a separate non-profit corporation to the WFD Executive Committee on August 24, 1989. While the concept had been previously discussed, Whittemore was the driving force and guiding spirit behind the inception of Weekapaug Foundation for Conservation (WFC). He believed a foundation was essential to prevent the loss of the beautiful open space that otherwise could be poached for development. He found many friends and neighbors who agreed wholeheartedly and devoted themselves to the mission of the organization as described in its founding document: “preserving and maintaining the natural environment of the Quonochontaug Barrier Beach, Quonochontaug Pond and Watershed… maintaining and enhancing the scenic, historical, wild-life open space and outdoor recreational values of the physical environment of the WFD and of adjacent areas…”
Hoyt Goodrich was recruited as one of the founding Trustees for his financial acumen in insurance and banking and his strong relationships with community members. He soon became a valuable treasurer for the organization. The importance of his steadfast focus on successful building blocks for the long-term viability of the Foundation cannot be overstated.
The organizational paperwork was filed on December 18th and signed by incorporator William “Bill” Lane, who was moderator of WFD at the time and later became a Trustee of WFC. Bill Lane and his wife, Lillias or “Lil,” became enormous assets to the organization. Bill grew up coming to Weekapaug in the summers from his home in Worthington, MA where his family raised horses. Due to his special way with people, especially farmers, and innate grasp of small-town politics, he was able to purchase land and development rights for the Foundation on a handshake.
Lil Lane was “a professional volunteer,” according to son Ted Bridgman. She was devoted to important causes, including preserving the beauty and open space of Weekapaug. A graduate of Smith College, she had served as the Chairman of a hospital in Westfield, MA, and as the first woman Governor of Madison Beach Club in Madison, CT. A natural leader she graced the Foundation as its volunteer Executive Director for many years. “She was very social and loved bringing people together, bringing new people to the Foundation. She was visionary, always looking at the future.”
Mary McCormack, who had previously been on the Weekapaug Fire District Board and Beach Commissioner, was in high demand due to her competence and exceptional organizational capabilities. She left the Fire District Board to become a Founding Trustee. A student at Kent Place, Bradford College and UNH Chapel Hill and a former top computer programmer at NCR, Mary became a full-time mother and dedicated herself to her family and community through her charitable pursuits. Mary often brought levity to the early board meetings and her social nature helped bring more people into the organization. She developed a strong interest in conservation while spending her summers on the Pond in Shelter Harbor. According to Mary, one of the greatest challenges to the nascent organization was raising the funds to get the organization started and keep up with its early acquisition activity.

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An Update on the Effect of the Quonochontaug Dredging Project:
A Discussion with Alicia Eichenger of Salt Ponds Coalition

In 2018, WFC joined many generous community members in supporting the Quonochontaug dredging project. This project was funded in part by a federal coastal resilience grant from NOAA and the Towns of Westerly and Charlestown, with matching grants from the Salt Ponds Coalition and Shelter Harbor Conservation Society. This project began on December 3 and the dredging operations started on January 8, 2019. It was completed on January 23, 2019. Over 70,000 cubic yards of dredge material were relocated to various marsh restoration sites adjacent to the pond.

In an effort to better understand the impact of the project on the water quality in Quonnie Pond, WFC interviewed Executive Director of the Salt Ponds Coalition, Alicia Eichenger. The Salt Ponds Coalition regularly collects water samples at various sites throughout Quonochontaug and has one of the largest databases of water quality readings in the country. According to the data, bacteria is low in Quonnie this year, which can in part be attributed to increased flow from dredging. The previous year results were muddled by a particularly rainy period. In addition, the marsh areas that received dredge materials have been re-populating. As a result, the marsh will have more longevity and will be a more effective storm barrier for the community.

According to Eichenger, overall the “Quonnie project went really well. Regular testing of conditions around the Pond indicates the positive impacts on the marsh and water quality. It was nice to see the state, the pond, the federal government, citizens and local groups such as WFC come together to create success.”
WFC’s Stewardship Blog

The WFC has signed a Cooperator’s Agreement with the Southern Rhode Island Conservation District (SRICD) to work with them and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) on enhancing the conservation values on Langworthy Field, Noyes Neck Farm and the Nushka Preserve. Stewardship Committee members have had several meetings over the fall and management plans are being developed. We are exploring a pollinator meadow on Langworthy Field. We are also investigating ways to manage the forested lands to better support the diverse bird populations in the area.

Over the summer, WFC hosted an expert on birds, Kate Sayles from the RI Bird Project, for a Zoom educational event. She explained that the populations of birds in a particular forest dictate the types of management strategies that will be effective to aid those forests. In this vein, we invite our local “birders” to contact us with any information that they have about the various birds they observe in our forested lands, particularly in the Nushka Preserve and Noyes Neck Farm areas. Please feel free to email Rose Cavanagh at rcavanagh@weekapaugfoundation.org with your observations.
Meet the New Trustees

WFC welcomes five talented and dedicated Trustees this year.

Robert Bouvier

Rob holds a bachelor’s degree in Marketing from Central Connecticut State University. A lifelong resident of West Hartford, Connecticut, he has 32 years of insurance industry leadership and served for four years as Mayor of his community. In addition to his government service, Rob also served on a number of boards and commissions including the Bridge Family Center and Weekapaug Chapel.

In 2000, Rob was instrumental in organizing the first annual Mayor’s Charity Ball, which, since then, has raised over one million dollars benefiting various community based non-profits. Rob was appointed by the past Governor of Connecticut, M. Jodi Rell, to serve on the UConn 2000 Advisory Commission that was responsible for reviewing all the construction-related issues at the University of CT. Rob has served as the Chairman of the Board for Saint Timothy’s Middle School, as a member of the Board of the Hartford Golf Club and was the founding member of the West Hartford/Bloomfield Health District. He is currently on the Board of Directors for the CT IFS and Connecticut Wealth Management, LLC and is a member of The Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers. Rob and his wife Dorothy established a residence in Rhode Island in 2015 where they enjoy spending time with their family and friends in beautiful Weekapaug and surrounding areas. He looks forward to serving on the Board of WFC.

Constance Gardner

Connie Gardner graduated from Wheaton College (Norton, MA) in 1983 with a BA in English Literature. After college she worked for 17 years in marketing and media sales. She finished her career with Forbes Magazine in New York, holding various marketing and sales management positions, including Sales Manager for the Forbes Conference Group and National Sales Manager for the Forbes Target Audience Program. In 2000, Connie and her husband left New York and returned to their hometown of Dayton, Ohio, where they raised their children.  In Dayton, she volunteered with the Dayton Visual Arts Center and a volunteer and on the Board of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize (previous winners include Studs Terkel, Elie Wiesel and John Irving). Connie and her family now divide their time between Rhode Island and Florida. Having always been drawn to natural environments and open spaces, she is delighted to help further the mission of the WFC.

Susie Gatto

Susie Gatto graduated from Cornell University with a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and Economics in 1980 and an MBA in Finance in 1981. After graduating, she worked in Corporate Finance for twelve years rising to become a Managing Director at Dean Witter Reynolds. She has lived in Greenwich, CT for 26 years where she has volunteered with her church and children’s schools while running a small business and serving on the boards of several nonprofit organizations, including the Greenwich Garden Club. Susie also served as a member of Cornell University’s Council for many years. In 2018, she studied at Harvard University through the Advanced Leadership Initiative, a one-year program designed to help prepare leaders for encore careers.

Susie and her husband Joe have been summer residents of Weekapaug for eight years. They have four children and can often be seen walking in the area with their Kerry Blue Terrier. Susie feels grateful to be surrounded by the natural beauty of the region. She is excited to join the Board of The Weekapaug Foundation for Conservation.

Michele Pallai

After visiting Quononchontaug Central Beach one summer over 25 years ago, Michele Pallai recognized the uniqueness of the area. She and her husband, Vincent Reppucci, have since been summer residents of Quonnie.

Michele, a Barnard College graduate, is a practicing genetic counselor and Charter Member of the American Board of Genetic Counseling. Before joining the New England Fertility Institute, Michele provided services at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, as Director of the Genetic Counseling Service at Northern Westchester Hospital and at The Celiac Center of Columbia University involved in clinical research and counseling. She presently sits on the Board of Ethics in the Town of Ridgefield, CT. She also oversees and manages her family’s commercial real estate in New York City.

Michele has volunteered on numerous committees in QCB, served on its Board of Governors, and was active with the Weekapaug Yacht Club, eventually serving as Commodore. She and her family have made lifelong friends through sailing, volunteering and enjoying the innate beauty of the Pond and surrounding communities. Michele believes it is essential all do their part in caring for our environment and is honored to join the board of WFC.

Ted Whittemore

Edward (Ted) Whittemore has been a summer resident of Weekapaug his entire life. Ted retired in June 2020 as a partner of Murtha Cullina LLP, where he focused his practice on business law, securities and mergers and acquisitions. He has also counseled CT nonprofits on governance, finance and contract matters for years. Ted completed a fellowship in nonprofit work at UCONN’s School of Public Policy in the Fall of 2020 and is actively considering the next chapter of his professional career. In Connecticut, Ted serves on the Board of the Mark Twain House, Junior Achievement and Capitol Squash, and in Westerly, the Weekapaug Chapel Society.