Weston Kiwanis Club to Present Millie Awards

Weston, CT - The Weston Kiwanis Club’s 15 Annual Millie Best Environmental Award will be presented to The Chauncey Belknap Family for its contributions to open space in the area. The presentation takes place on Saturday, April 27, 2019 at the club’s weekly 8:30 a.m. meeting at Norfield Parish Hall, 64 Norfield Road, Weston. Chauncey Belknap’s grandson, Howard Giles Carter who is an avid birder and conservationist, will accept the award on behalf of the Belknap family. A representative from the Aspetuck Land Trust, which worked with the family to create open space preserves on former family land, will also be present.

The Millie Best Environmental Award was started in 2005 in honor of Millie Best, a Weston resident who started Green Up Day in the early 1970s in Weston to encourage volunteers to come out to clean up litter along roads in Weston. Her efforts through the years engaged thousands of volunteers in the annual clean up on the last weekend in April. Eventually, Ms Best was successful in getting Green Up Day declared in the mid 1990s an annual state-wide observance on last Saturday of April. After Ms Best death the Weston Kiwanis Club honored her memory by conferring the annual Millie Best Environmental Award. See the list of those honored through the years below.

The Belknap Family originally came to Weston in 1927 when Chauncey Belknap purchased the 100+ acre Wilbur Sturges Farm on Wampum Hill Road. A partner in the law firm of Patterson, Belknap, Webb and Tyler, Chauncey was looking for a get-away for his family in the bucolic undeveloped landscape of Connecticut. 

The property has been owned by only two families since it was granted to the Sturges family through a land grant from the English monarchy. The Belknap family has always been involved in local land conservation efforts. In 1999, the family sold 37-acres adjacent to the farm to the town of Wilton in a conservation bargain sale, creating the Belknap Preserve accessible from Wampum Hill Road.

Recently, the family worked with Aspetuck Land Trust to preserve 38-acres in Weston adjacent to the land trust’s Honey Hill Preserve. This property increased the size of the Honey Hill Preserve to 119-acres and includes hiking trails for the public and wildlife like the Eastern Box Turtle which is listed as a Species of Special Concern by the state of Connecticut.  The newly preserved Belknap property is at the center of a forest preservation project being spearheaded by Aspetuck Land Trust to preserve a 705-acre forest block, the last frontier of unprotected wild open space that exists in the area.

Chauncey’s daughters Barbara Belknap, Louise Belknap Carter and the extended family still enjoy the farm and surrounding land to this day. Barbara, who was born in 1933, remembers the property fondly and recalls that her dad liked to walk in the woods and read.  “The property that we worked with the land trust to preserve was part of the original woodlot which went with the farm. It’s where the farmer would cut his wood for the long winter.  I’m glad the property is being preserved so the public can enjoy it as we have. My brother Bob especially loved this land and wanted it protected. He would be happy that the property is being preserved by Aspetuck Land Trust.”

Millie Best Environmental Awardees

2005    J. Thomas Failla, Conservation Volunteer

2006    George C. Guidera, First Selectman and Open Space Champion

2007    Margaret Wirtenberg, Environmental Volunteer

2008    Robert P. Turner, Land Use Volunteer

2009    Cory Attra, Conservation Volunteer

2010    Claudia Hahn, Garden Club Volunteer

2011    Bruce Ando, Nature Photographer

2012    Alice Barreca, Garden Club Volunteer

2013    Weston Garden Club

2014    Carol Baldwin and Ellen McCormick. Lachat Farm Champions

2015    Solarize Weston Interns: Andrew Braverman, JT DeLara, Jack Dempsey, Luke Dempsey, Peter Roberts

2016   Joshua Lach, Environmentalist

2017  Lachat Farm

2018  Bill Lomas, Weston Tree Warden 

PHOTO: Barbara Belknap (seated) with well-wishers at the dedication of the Belknap Preserve in Weston.