Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Preservation Creates a Living Legacy for the City’s Future

Courtesy Teresa Hill

Sometimes the best things hide in plain sight. Take trees. Well, forests, actually. We seldom give them much thought because we are surrounded by them.  But we need to do just that. And sometimes the same applies to people. The best hide in plain sight.

For example, if you don’t know Teresa Hill, you should. She is the dynamic leader of the Fort Thomas Forest Conservancy (FTFC) and she is passionate about protecting the remaining forests in Fort Thomas.

But first an observation.

Have you ever met someone who is so genuine that you can’t help but feel their excitement? You know, they speak so eloquently and passionately about a topic that you become interested too? Yeah. She’s like that.

As a child, she played in the woods around Fort Thomas. It was a wonderful time. But then she grew up and life, marriage, and career took over.  She previously lived in Dayton, Ohio where she and her husband, Donavan Hornsby, would visit the Cox Arboretum’s beautiful gardens and hiking trails.

“It became a favorite place,” Hill says.  “I was reading the history of how the owners donated the land with the stipulation that it remain natural. I believe that was the first time that I heard the word ‘easement.’ So then I started reading more about it and it all made sense to me. So just like you can make a decision to develop land, you can also make the decision to protect it in perpetuity.

She learned that one decision can have such a long-term effect that it becomes a legacy.

The Campbell County YMCA. This is an advertisement. 
“The option is so simple but I had never considered it before,” Hill says. “That’s when I became interested in the legal aspect of protecting a parcel in perpetuity. So when we moved back to Fort Thomas everything fell into place. I didn’t know if Northern Kentucky had a land protection group. My mom snipped an article from the paper announcing the formation of the Fort Thomas Forest Conservancy. It was at the Harlan Hubbard studio. It felt like the perfect fit for me.”

And that is how she met Bill Thomas, Bert Thomas, and the other founding members of the Fort Thomas Forest Conservancy.

FTFC volunteers working at the Native Garden.

“I have known all along that without the land protection piece that we would miss the point of conservancy,” Hill says.  “Land protection is the heart of conservation and it’s the hardest part. So if you want to leave a legacy in land then protect it. You have to do it. You can’t leave it up to other people.”  And that is the beauty of it, isn’t it?  We can do something today that will be remembered and have a benefit well beyond our time.

Teresa Hill claims that “Our [FTFC] biggest accomplishment is the one that’s the most hidden,” says Hill.  “We have successfully established a land protection and stewardship structure so that if somebody in town wanted to protect their land, we have a mechanism in our city to do that.  Everything is in place to either receive property or to help landowners create an easement to fit their needs.”  

FTFC holds an easement in cooperation with the city that surrounds Rossford Park. They are finalizing an easement on private property in cooperation with the owner at the Harlan Hubbard Studio and Preserve. And they own property along Burnet Ridge and River Road. But the goal is the same — protection — even though the methods are a bit different. As she says, “If you don't protect it, you'll lose it.” And that would be a shame. Her message is simple: If you own wooded property, put a conservation easement on it to protect it. It is a great way to create a living legacy for the future of Fort Thomas.

If you don’t have wooded property, you can still get involved, she says, by becoming a dues paying member to support the various programs of the FTFC. You can teach your children about the natural world around us. Or you can educate yourself. “Become a volunteer,” Hill says. “Bring your skills and interests to help preserve what makes the city attractive. I have a goal of achieving 500 new households as members for the conservancy this year.” And it’s reasonable: $35 for an individual and $50 for a family.

“We are so good at so many things in Fort Thomas but this is a missing piece - protecting our forests," Hill says.  “We are a Tree City USA but we are in danger of losing that because we are not replacing the large native trees as they die. We are slowly losing our canopy. If we think about land preservation the same way that we think about education then there are so many opportunities for growth and protection.”  And there is no reason why we can’t be the best in that. She stresses that, “Essentially, if we are not improving then we are not moving forward. In order to have a future we must preserve and protect what we have right now.” 

So get that conversation started. If you want to protect our forests before we lose them, you can contact Hill through www.ftfc.org or at teresadhill@gmail.com to start that conversation.  Or you can join the Fort Thomas Forest Conservancy or visit their page on Facebook. Get involved. Have some fun. Create a living legacy for the future.




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