In Memoriam: Dennis G. Collins (1934 - 2014)
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Dennis Collins was a dear friend, an inspirational mentor, and a valued colleague to many of us in the land trust community. His unexpected death on March 15th, 2014 is a great loss and keenly felt well beyond our region. If it is true, as the Wizard of Oz tells the Tin Man in the classic 1939 film, that "A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others", then his was great indeed.
Dennis was born and raised in Millbrook, NY, a graduate of Millbrook School (1952) and of Cornell University (1959), having taken time off in between to serve with the 82nd Airborne Division. He was deeply involved in land protection in the Northeast for many decades , first serving in Pennsylvania as Executive Director of the Berks County Conservancy and then as Director of Land Preservation for the Wildlands Conservancy. Since returning to our region upon his retirement to Norfolk in 2003, Dennis quickly reenaged with Connecticut conservation efforts at the local, regional and statewide levels, always encouraging land trusts to think and act for the long-term.
Dennis served with distinction on the Leadership Advisory Board of HVA's Litchfield Hills Greenprint Collaborative since 2008 and we relied on his insight and willingness to do whatever was needed to promote our conservation work. As a director of Norfolk Land Trust, he was instrumental in the successful acquisition of the Pine Mountain Preserve last year in partnership with the Greenprint and with the aid of Highlands funding. He was an inspiration, always ready to share insights as well as encouragement, and fearless in his belief that we can always do more together to save the lands we love.
Dennis was named a Conservation Hero by the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association and recognized by The Housatonic Valley Association in 2012 with its Eliot Wadsworth Litchfield Hills Greenprint Award. He was an early promoter of the Highlands Coalition and Highlands Conservation Act. He was among the very few individuals who have never missed the annual Land Trust Rally since they began in 1985.
An avid outdoorsman, whether birding, leading hikes, or paddling canoes on remote lakes, Dennis was convinced that conservation needed to happen at all scales and that land protection needed to be durable. During the last few months of his life, he served on a committee of the Connecticut Land Conservation Council that has drafted the first Conservation Easement template designed for general use by land trusts across the state, a land protection resource which Dennis felt was long overdue but also - characteristically for him - pitched right in to help make possible.
The next Connecticut driver to receive Dennis' vanity plate "SAVLND" will have a great legacy to uphold.