Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Benefactor of Vernon classroom in the woods receives honor

By Jan-Keno Jansen
Journal Inquirer
August 25, 2005

Irena Pastorello / Journal Inquirer
Maxwell Belding and his daughter Ruth Belding Nardini react as they read the dedication monument in their honor after it is unveiled at Belding Wildlife Management Area on Wednesday.

VERNON — For some, it is a classroom in the woods, for others, it's just a tremendous gift.

A land donation from Maxwell M. Belding — 282 acres — in 1981 will now see greater use because of a charitable trust set up by Belding and his daughter, Ruth Belding Nardini. The funds will allow the state to manage and preserve the land.

On Wednesday the state Department of Environmental Protection honored the benefactor with a monument that officially marks the Belding Wildlife Management Area, off Bolton Road.

The Belding trust fund provides for two employees to care for the area: Wildlife technician Jane Seymour, who is employed full-time, and seasonal employee Nelson Bricker, a student at the University of Connecticut who is majoring in animal science. At the wildlife area, Bricker works on invertebrate surveys.

During Wednesday's ceremonies, Mayor Ellen L. Marmer underlined, in reference to her job as a physician, that the area illustrates a "medication, which is good for both heart and soul."

Nardini placed emphasis on the educational value of the area, which features 82 species of birds alone. "There is no better classroom than these woods," she said.

Dale May, director of the DEP wildlife division, said, "The difference between brown and brook trout can't be taught in the classroom."

At the Belding Wildlife Management Area, wild trout thrive in the pure water of the upper Tankerhoosen River, where visitors are allowed to fish — as long as they release the wild fish after catching them. The area has diverse wildlife habitats and numerous species of birds, amphibians, and insects. In addition, an interpretive trail winds through the acreage.

Belding, a former Rockville resident who currently lives in Old Lyme, has undertaken many philanthropic activities, including the Yale Community Rowing program, Yale fellowships and awards, the 908-seat Belding Theater at the Bushnell in Hartford, Hartford Stage, and Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.

His grandfather owned the Belding Silk Thread Mill that was part of the once-thriving textile industry in Rockville.

The property was designated in 1981 as a Wildlife Management Area because of its special ecological characteristics and species in the area.

Maxwell Belding began donating portions of the property to Connecticut in 1981 and the state took full ownership in 1984.

According to DEP Commissioner Gina McCarthy, "Max Belding and his family have demonstrated a real commitment to make a lasting contribution to our state. First, they donated this beautiful and important wildlife area for all of us to appreciate and enjoy. Now, they have taken steps to guarantee that this property is properly managed and preserved so that it will be here for the benefit of future generations."