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Out & About: Hanover Conservancy honors founding member

  • Bob Norman, right, collects apple cores and other compostable material as Athos Rassias, left, and Paul Manganiello talk with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center employees during a Community Sustainability Workshop at the community center in Hanover, N.H., on Feb. 7, 2009. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • "Norman Overlook" is a seating area at the Mink Brook Nature Preserve in Hanover that will be dedicated in honor of longtime Hanover Conservancy member and leader Bob Norman. (Hanover Conservancy photograph)



Valley News Calendar Editor
Monday, September 09, 2019

HANOVER — Bob Norman, a founding member of the Hanover Conservancy, will be honored on Sunday when a rustic stone seating area at Mink Brook Nature Preserve will be dedicated in his name.

“He’s been a cherished adviser ever since he stepped off the board and became an emeritus member in 2009 and still attends our lands committee meetings because he still has valuable perspective on Hanover and how to accomplish a conservation project in the best way possible,” said Adair Mulligan, the conversancy’s executive director.

“Norman Overlook” will be dedicated in a ceremony that is set to take place from 3-4:30 p.m. at Mink Brook, located on Brook Road in Hanover. Norman, who is in his mid-90s, is expected to attend. Speakers include former Dartmouth president Jim Wright and Upper Valley Land Trust’s Jeanie McIntyre — who both worked with Norman to protect Mink Brook 20 years ago — and Hanover Selectboard member Joanna Whitcomb, Mulligan said.

Norman, a former Dartmouth College math professor, established the conservancy as the Hanover Conservation Council in 1961 with four other friends — Carolyn Tenney, George Wrightson, Ted Hunter and Jean Hennessey — who were also concerned about land preservation in the Upper Valley. This was well before the start of the 1970s environmental movement.

“He was completely ahead of the curve. That’s a math term and that applies here. Bob has always been ahead of the curve,” Mulligan said. “He understood it was not only about protecting the land, but it was about helping people understand how important it was to do that and what value natural land had in their lives, whether they knew it or not.”

Norman’s knowledge and ability to put things in perspective greatly help the Hanover Conservancy board, board president Kristine McDevitt said.

“He reminds us regularly not be frustrated when projects stall,” she said. “He’s never left our organization. He’s such a gift to all of us. He’s so smart, so quick.”

At the time of its founding, the conservancy had more of a regional role.

“They thought big and their very first project was to get the Wilder Wildlife Mangement area in Lyme protected by the (New Hampshire) Fish and Game Department,” Mulligan said, adding that they also worked to protect a wildflower sanctuary in Plainfield.

Then, the all-volunteer group began to focus mainly on Hanover.

“It was really visionary,” Mulligan said. “These people could (have) sat back and said ‘let someone else worry about keeping 100 condominiums off the top of Balch Hill,’ but they went for it.”

In 1970, the group bought Balch Hill, which Mulligan said is the only completely cleared summit in town that is open to the public. It continues to be one of the Hanover Conservancy’s most-visited properties.

Norman’s dedication continues to inspire those who volunteer for the organization.

“He’s not a conservationist by training,” McDevitt said. “He’s a community member who cares a lot about the look and feel of his community.”

Norman played a huge role in protecting Mink Brook from becoming a 32-subdivision lot 20 years ago, Mulligan said. He turned to the Upper Valley Land Trust for assistance, which helped the conservancy secure the 112-acre preserve property.

Another reason Mink Brook was chosen for the Norman Overlook is because Norman has a great love of birds, which are in abundance at the nature preserve.

“Not only do you have the forest birds and birds you find in shrubby habitats, but also the waterfowl, especially during migration season,” Mulligan said. “This is a spot where you can observe all those different types of birds.”

Mulligan hopes that Norman’s dedication will encourage others to take up conservation causes.

“I think this generation of watchful land stewards needs to have people coming up behind it to take over. Bob is a member of the greatest generation and he earns that,” Mulligan said. “We need younger people to step in and shoulder the kind of community service work that he is generously giving”

Editor’s note: For more information, visit hanoverconservancy.org. Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com.