Millie Best Award to the Belknap Family

Photo: Barbara Belknap (seated)

The Chauncey Belknap family will be honored with the Millie Best Environmental Award as Weston Kiwanis kicks off its annual Green Up Day event.

The presentation takes place on Saturday, April 27 at the Kiwanis weekly meeting at 8:30 am in the Norfield Church Parish Hall.

The Belknap family is being honored for its contributions to open space in the area. Chauncey Belknap’s grandson, Howard Giles Carter, will accept the award on behalf of the family. A representative from the Aspetuck Land Trust, which worked with the family to create open space preserves on former family land, will also be present.

The Millie Best Environmental Award was started in 2005 in honor of Millie Best, a Weston resident who started Green Up Day in the early 1970s to encourage volunteers to come out to clean up litter along roadsides in town. Her efforts through the years engaged thousands of volunteers to join in on the last weekend in April. Eventually, in the mid-1990s, Ms. Best was successful in getting Green Up Day declared an annual state-wide observance on the last Saturday of April. After Ms. Best’s death the Weston Kiwanis Club honored her memory by conferring the annual Millie Best Environmental Award.

The Belknap family originally came to Weston in 1927 when Chauncey Belknap purchased the 100+ acre Wilbur Sturges farm on Wampum Hill Road. A partner in the law firm of Patterson, Belknap, Webb and Tyler, Mr. Belknap was looking for a family getaway spot in the bucolic undeveloped landscape of Connecticut.

The property has been owned by only two families since it was granted to the Sturges family through a land grant from the English monarchy. The Belknap family has always been involved in local land conservation efforts. In 1999, the family sold 37 acres adjacent to the farm to the town of Wilton in a conservation bargain sale, creating the Belknap Preserve accessible from Wampum Hill Road.

Recently, the family worked with Aspetuck Land Trust to preserve 38 acres in Weston adjacent to the land trust’s Honey Hill Preserve. This property increased the size of the Honey Hill Preserve to 119 acres and includes hiking trails for the public and wildlife like the Eastern Box Turtle which is listed as a Species of Special Concern by the state of Connecticut.

The newly preserved Belknap property is at the center of a forest preservation project being spearheaded by Aspetuck Land Trust to preserve a 705-acre forest block, the last frontier of unprotected wild open space that exists in the area.

Chauncey Belknap’s daughters Barbara Belknap, Louise Belknap Carter, and the extended family still enjoy the farm and surrounding land. Barbara, who was born in 1933, remembers the property fondly and recalls that her dad liked to walk in the woods and read. “The property that we worked with the land trust to preserve was part of the original woodlot which went with the farm,” she said. “It’s where the farmer would cut wood for the long winter. I’m glad the property is being preserved so the public can enjoy it as we have. My brother Bob especially loved this land and wanted it protected. He would be happy that the property is being preserved by Aspetuck Land Trust.”

Photo: Robert Belknap

Previous recipients of the Millie Best Environmental Award include J. Thomas Failla, George C. Guidera, Margaret Wirtenberg, Robert P. Turner, Cory Attra, Claudia Hahn, Bruce Ando, Alice Barreca, Weston Garden Club, Carol Baldwin and Ellen McCormick of Lachat Town Farm, Solarize Weston interns Andrew Braverman, JT DeLara, Jack Dempsey, Luke Dempsey, and Peter Roberts, Joshua Lach, Lachat Town Farm, and Weston Tree Warden Bill Lomas.

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