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Volume 39 Issue 20 • Sept 17-23, 2009
now in our 39th season

270 Acres of Classroom

by Zoë Kirsch

When Linda Loring was an infant, her grandfather Charlie would come to Nantucket to shoot birds.  Charlie’s wife started accompanying him here, and the pair would stay at a hotel in ‘Sconset.  The couple brought the entire Loring clan to Nantucket soon after; they visited a house on Quince Street for two weeks.  Impressed by how healthy they felt from living by the sea, the Lorings returned to the island, this time for a month, at which point Linda’s grandfather decided he would buy a place.  From that point forward, Linda spent her summers, from June 15 to September 15, on Nantucket. 

As a child, Linda was fascinated by nature.  “I always liked to go into Parker Woods [in Reading, Massachusetts],” she reminisces with a chuckle.  “I’d see newts, skunk cabbage, and little tiny turtles.  I never came home empty handed.”  She loved the animals, she loved the birds, she loved the silence.  And Linda’s parents fully supported their daughter’s love of the environment.

After World War II, she began collecting Nantucket real estate and living here year-round.  This was around the time the concept for her Foundation was born.  “I always wanted this Foundation because I didn’t have any children,” Loring says.  “I was so fortunate in my dealings with nature; I thought I should pass it on for other people to enjoy.”

Over the years, she accumulated 270 acres of open space bordered by Eel Point Road to the north, Madaket Road to the south, the Nantucket Land Bank's Trots Hills Property to the east, and Fisher's Landing to the west; In 1999, Loring officially established the Linda Loring Nature Foundation (LLNF).

Linda’s land is full of varied and lush habitats, encompassing wetlands, uplands, pitch pine forest, coastal scrub forest, heathlands, and sandplain grasslands.  Consequently, the creatures residing on the property are varied, too.  They include spotted turtles, dragonflies, osprey (four adults and two young,) northern harriers, deer (Linda’s favorite,) and the regal fritillary butterfly, which, due to habitat destruction, has sharply declined in population since the 1960s.  Happily, through a conservation restriction by the Nantucket Land Council, the Loring property is forever spared from development.   

The Foundation remains committed to “being stewards of the property and fostering learning that promotes environmental awareness.”  Working alongside other island organizations, it is geared “primarily towards children,” as Loring explains.  She elaborates, “I hope it will help them develop their love of open space and nature.  I hope children grow to love nature and live alongside it gently.”  

In the summertime, the LLNF holds free activities like “Birds-I-View,” “Foundation Ramble,” and the recently conducted butterfly census so kids can nurture their love of nature.  During the academic year, the Foundation has worked with several schools, conducting a two-and-a-half month program at the elementary school with fourth and fifth graders, and teaching birdhouse and birdfeeder building at the Lighthouse School.  

LLNF staff includes Resident Naturalist and Land Manager E. Vernon Laux, who leads the expeditions.  An author and ornithologist, Laux has written for the Cape Cod Times and spoken on National Public Radio.  He believes strongly in environmental education for kids.  “As technology becomes more prevalent across the world,” he explains, “People are disconnecting with the natural world.  It’s amazing!  I’ve met people who think food grows in the supermarket.  We humans are fundamentally animals living off the land.  We need to get along with the natural world, not change it.  Kids need to understand that.”

Kitty Pochman, Executive Director of the Foundation, adds, “There are many reasons to preserve this open space: natural beauty, habitats, and educational value.  We all live on this land, and are part of the same world.  We all need to take care of the land and protect it for future generations.”

The LLNF plans to install a scenic trail network and build a LEED-certified nature facility.  What else will the Foundation be up to in the future?  “Well, we’re viewing this as a huge classroom,” says Laux.  “Our focus is educating kids, and we plan to do more and more of that all the time.”
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