|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.|