Where it all began

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The forerunner of today’s Old Saybrook Land Trust began in 1969, although references to the idea go back to 1967. The first written record of a meeting is in a hand written note by Dick Tietjen dated 1/15/70 and refers to “the gift of land being announced by the Saybrook Land Conservancy” for a local paper. The group appears to have been called the Saybrook Land Conservancy, Inc.

The Saybrook Land Conservancy’s first president was William Sihler of 48 Fenwood Grove Road. A 1971 record of the Executive Committee of the Saybrook Land Conservancy records the following people present: Sihler, Chapin, Tietjen, Valentine. Another undated correspondence has Mr. Valentine reporting on the new IRS regulations that govern the tax advantages of new non-profits, citing that the Land Trust would not be eligible for a 50% tax advantage for donors “until it has been in existence for four years, that is May 1972.” According to this, the Conservancy would have started in 1968.

Although there is reference to the need to publish their financial statement in a “newspaper having wide circulation in this area, as proof of our public nature”, there is no paper evidence of incorporation for the initial land trust. According to the President, William Sihler, “Gifts to trusts themselves are tax deductible to the extent provided by the law and the qualification of the land trust, and therefore afford a measure of tax relief”. “The trust, Sihler explained, can act as a private recipient and manager of open space to be held in trust to the advantage of ‘both the town and to the individual who offers his land to the conservancy.'”

The Trust appears to have continued to conduct meetings, secured “adequate [insurance] coverage for our present level of operations” from Marcolini & McKenna, and makes reference in a Nov 30th 1971 letter to land trust members to a “twelve-man Board of Directors.” In hand-written notes from former selectwoman Barbara Maynard in 2006, she refers to “12 Charter members, 18 individuals, 35 family” members of the Saybrook Land Conservancy founded in 1969.