David Shepperly is stepping down after nine years as a member of the Board of Trustees of the non-profit Harding Land Trust, including three years as president.

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With regrets, the board accepted his resignation at its annual meeting, held at the New Vernon Fire House Thursday night. Board members Ira Berger and David Dietz are also retiring from the board. Shepperly turned the reigns over to Nik Bjorkedal, who was appointed president. In addition, new trustees Richard Clew, Susan Harris and Mark Wilson were accepted to the board. Clew also serves as the Environmental Commission chairman in town and is on the Planning Board. Trustees approved for a second term include Holly Hegener, Gerry Scully, Tim Simpson and Bob Yingling. Yingling is also the secretary and treasurer. Lynn Boyajian was named vice president of community outreach, Mady Devine was named vice president executive director and Fritz Laird was named vice president of board member development. Scully was named vice president of stewardship.

The non-profit land trust’s mission is to protect Harding’s rural character by preserving woodland, farmland and natural waterways.

Shepperly detailed the trust’s current strategic plan in his last address as president. The plan includes stewardship of existing properties, strong community outreach to teach people about the importance of open space and maintaining financial stability within the trust. He also detailed recent projects, such as the purchase of the three-acre Von Zuben parcel, which has become a joint project with the Morristown Garden Club, at the corner of James Street and Blue Mill Road . “It’s a pocket meadow and we have had a lot of fun planting it and we’ve had some great blooms. We have also produced butterflies there,” Shepperly said. Another planting is planned for May 6. “We are hoping all six species of plants we planted there will grow back,” he said.

This past year’s activities also included clearing better hiking trails on the 125-acre Primrose property on Brook Drive South. There are no major projects on the horizon for new purchases. “But, we have more than 550 acres of preserved land in Harding,” he said. Yingling delivered the treasurer’s report, and said that last year’s cocktail party was very successful, raising $40,000. That and the donations, he said, exceeded the trust’s budget over the past year. “Just in donations in 2016, we raised more money than the budget was,” he said. “It is good to see the financial support and the acknowledgement of our mission by the community.” He also said the house and garden tour, set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday, June 5, should also be a successful fundraiser for the land trust. Shepperly said the trust has done a good job at community outreach over the past year. For example, it hosted a campout for kids on the Primrose property. “They learned all about the property and really had a lot of fun. They told ghost stories around the camp fire and learned a lot,” he said.

In addition, the trust partnered with the Raptor Trust to let kids see owls and other birds, and also hosted a children’s nature photography contest with the Kemmerer Library. This past year marked the 25th anniversary of the land trust. A celebration was held featuring several past board presidents, Shepperly said. “Finally, this is my last meeting as a board member. Over the course of the past nine years, I have really come to appreciate the land trust and what it has done to work hard at preserving this little oasis we have here in New Jersey,” Shepperly said.

Pubished April 8, 2017, Observer-Tribune