Seeing the Valley Whole

On Tuesday night this week I visited one of my favorite spots in the Upper Valley. If you don’t live in or near Windsor, VT it’s possible that you’ve never been to Lake Runnemede and Paradise Park. The lake and the woodlands around it are located right in the heart of downtown Windsor, close enough that many residents can walk from their homes. I often see people walking, fishing, and mountain biking along the trails around the lake and through the woods. Since the Pandemic started it’s been a place I visit regularly, a small spot of peace in an otherwise chaotic and scary world. 

I was at Runnemede on Tuesday because it was UVLT’s Annual Celebration. Often times these celebrations are large, 100 people or more, in a tent with dinner, music, presentations, and camaraderie. They are often one of the highlight events of my year. This year was, of course, different. We can’t gather in large groups and share a meal. Instead we held our meeting over zoom. Staff members called in from special, conserved spots across our Valley to share the views and our stories with those at home. 

In her remarks Jeanie McIntyre said, “It’s been about 35 years since UVLT founder Dana Meadows described UVLT by saying: “We are large enough to see the Valley whole, but small enough to hear your voice.” Well, Dana was a visionary, but I expect she might not have imagined the tools that have made it where tonight we really can “see” the Valley whole and listen to one another in real time. There’s now more than 53,000 acres and immense amounts of generosity and hope and hard work, lots and lots of hands and hearts holding this landscape together and holding us all up. And for that I am very, very thankful.”

Things are new and strange and sometimes scary this year. But more than ever it has become clear how important open space and conserved land really is. Land like Lake Runnemede matters. Upper Valley residents are depending on the outdoors now more than ever. Farmland and forests, local parks and trails, lakes and high ridges – these places nourish body and soul. 

Below is the video recording of our Zoom Annual Celebration. I hope you will watch it, and enjoy it, and see what I see: the value of all of us, together, protecting the place we call home.