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Memories of 30 years of ORLT

An excerpt, by Madeline Van Dyck


My entire childhood, at least the times between duty stations, was spent dreaming out the windows as we crossed oceans and countries discovering scenery and societies beyond my imagination. And all the while were those majestic prairies and rivers and forests and mountains in between. As the grandeur of this earth repeatedly flashed past me it would be the grounding for my permanent love of the land. My deep love of the land found expression in one of my favorite poets, Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese sage, whose writings have always touched me deeply: “We live only to discover beauty. All else is a form of waiting”.


Shortly after becoming the chair of the Athens Chapter of the Georgia Conservancy, a group of like-minded Athenians took off one day for Chattanooga, Tennessee to attend the Trust for Public Land’s annual meeting. We were five strong: a Professor of Forestry, a UGA Vice President, a landscape architect, a Professor of Leisure Services, and myself, with nothing special in mind except that this organization was the closest thing to The Nature Conservancy’s mission within easy reach of us. Janisse Ray would be our keynote.

It was becoming evident that not only were land trusts thriving nationwide but they were proliferating. As is the goal of conferences of this nature, the speakers and plenaries hit their intended mark with us. There were compelling opportunities through government programs and congressional legislation that incentivized both land trusts and land owners alike to be players too. By empowering interested citizens to protect their own natural and cultural gems in perpetuity, everyone won. Heading home after a full day, we were on fire with inspiration, the sentiment was “If not us, who?” And from my vantage it was in the cab of that car that I remember seeing the first twinkling in our collective eyes that created the original board that ultimately led to the birth of ORLT.


Founding board member Madeline Van Dyck.

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