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Pound Ridge Land Conservancy President Protects Town's Charm

Elyse Arnow Brill works to preserve Pound Ridge's rural features as President of the Pound Ridge Land Conservancy.
Elyse Arnow Brill works to preserve Pound Ridge's rural features as President of the Pound Ridge Land Conservancy. Photo Credit: Contributed

POUND RIDGE, N.Y. – Elyse Arnow joined the Pound Ridge Land Conservancy in 1992 to help protect Pound Ridge’s semi-rural character and the town’s open space. Twenty-two years later, including the last nine served as president, Arnow’s passion and commitment to help the town retain its unique charm has not wavered.

“Professionally, we build our skills and expertise in a traditional area of the marketplace, and we can then use these same skills in the context of a local non-profit organization supporting its mission,’’ said Arnow, a lawyer and published author, who also has an advanced degree in strategic planning and expertise in strategic global marketing. “Board members have professional experience in a number of critical areas. We’re taking that experience and applying it to the organization and its work in our community. We’re involved in exploring new models of community education in support of local natural resource and open space protection. Ultimately, our mission is to both model and teach new behaviors to reduce our human footprint on the natural environment so that we’re more aligned with nature’s demands and balance.”

The Land Conservancy manages 357 acres across 17 nature preserves. Most of the land has been donated by local families to the Conservancy, which was founded by local resident Ed Russell in 1975 to protect his own land as a birding sanctuary. The Conservancy continues to guide birding expeditions in this critical wetland habitat.

“Since we’re zoned large lots, our backyards are the local ecosystem,’’ Arnow said. “Protected open space and habitat provide the backbone for our wooded landscape as well as our historic character. People move here for the unique topography, rock outcroppings, and water. It’s a real draw and makes Pound Ridge special.”

Because of these personal connections, the Land Conservancy has support from the community through volunteers in PRLC’s educational programming. “It’s an incredible model of community activism and involvement which supports our continued growth and fiscal viability,'' Arnow said.

The Conservancy Board now includes 13 members from a broad spectrum of backgrounds. The only full-time staff of the Land Conservancy is Krista Munger, the organization’s land steward and educator.

She designs and executes nature-based educational experiences including field and trail hikes, academic internships, classes for local elementary school students, and demonstration-style, hands-on workshops about composting, chickens, bees and various habitats. These experiences are all hosted in PRLC’s community gardens and working backyard landscape.

She lives in the Armstrong House at the 43-acre Armstrong Preserve, which opened in 2012 after a seven-year restoration. The residence is an educational prototype for living lighter on the land with leading-edge green technologies serving to educate the community.

The Armstrong Preserve on Route 121 includes an education center and trails, and the center demonstrates best practices in habitat management including invasive plant removal and native restoration, meadow habitat enhancement, local food production and composting, and soils health. The preserve also includes a vernal pool and meadow.

Arnow, who has lived in Pound Ridge for 28 years, became involved with the Conservancy through Ed Russell, the founder, whom she knew through a volunteer role with the Pound Ridge Fire Department. 

Now she also enjoys her relationships with all the Land Conservancy’s board and members of working committees, all of whom have volunteered their time to preserve the natural features that make Pound Ridge unique.

“Through our work, we discover where their passion lies, what sparks their interest and how they want to grow both personally and as a member of the community." Arnow said. “It makes for a lovely long term fit with many becoming better stewards of their own land and important environmental leaders and advocates in our community”.