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Lynn Knight: It all started with childhood walks in the woods

Looking back on her childhood growing up in New York state, Lynn Knight remembers weekend walks in the woods with her father and brother. Or sometimes trips to one of the many nearby harbor beaches in all four seasons. “Every weekend my father took us somewhere we could play outdoors in nature,” Lynn recalled.

Her father, Henry, grew up in South Tyrol, a mountainous region in northern Italy, where he grew to love walking in the alpine meadows with his family. So Lynn’s winter vacations were spent skiing in the mountains and summers were filled with camping excursions all over New England.

“My father is responsible for my love and appreciation of the outdoors,” she said. “Those activities were probably not my mother’s first choice, but she was clearly outnumbered and so she went along.”

That legacy of love for the natural world ultimately helped steer Lynn to Harpswell and helps inform her current role as president of Harpswell Heritage Land Trust’s Board of Trustees. It also guided her to important stops along the way.

Lynn graduated from Cornell University in 1980 with a degree in Resource Economics (“natural sciences coupled with economics”), that helped her land a position in an environmental consulting firm that supported the work of the Environmental Protection Agency. There, she worked to develop policies and regulations designed to identify pollution sources and the technologies available to mitigate them. Among the many important studies she conducted was one on the impact that solid waste disposal practices have on climate change.

While traveling frequently to Washington, D.C., for her work, Lynn and her husband, Garrett, were living in Carlisle, Mass., while raising their two children, Cassi and Matt. She became involved with the local conservation commission, another local organization to help monitor river water quality and was a founding member of a regional group helping to control invasive plant species in a large watershed.

With all that on her plate, something kept drawing Lynn north.

“My brother, Henry, moved to Harpswell in the 1980s with his wife, Jessica,” she explained. “The beauty of Harpswell’s tidal reaches, countless islands and long peninsulas, each with its own distinct personality, really captured my attention whenever we came to visit. We explored more of the Maine coast, but were drawn more and more to Harpswell.”

She moved here in 2012, to a home on Basin Point. Not long after, Lynn was approached by Charlie Johnson, former president of the HHLT trustees, who urged her to check out the organization. She started by running a training session on identifying invasive plants and was invited to join the board in 2014. She has served as chair of the Programs Committee and on the Development Committee and became board president in 2018.

“Lynn’s experience and expertise in environmental matters are really important for us and for the community we serve,” said Reed Coles, HHLT’s executive director. “But it is her thoughtfulness and capable leadership that is most important to the activities of the trust.”

Lynn is in a key role at a busy time for HHLT. The land trust is in the early stages of developing a strategic plan for the next five years. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s important to reflect on where we are today and where we want to be in five years. We’ll be seeking the public’s input on those goals,” she said.

“People who live in Harpswell value and rely on a healthy environment and access to the woods and waters. They also treasure the cultural heritage preserved in the beautiful landscapes we see every day. That makes it easier for us to get the support we need for the work we do,” she added.

As busy as she is, Lynn still takes time to carry on her family’s tradition of enjoying the outdoors. “My children don’t live nearby, but when they do come, we go on long walks in HHLT’s preserves and get out on the water in our kayaks or motorboat,” she said.

Some things never change, others do.

Lynn acknowledges that climate change and its local impact are a major cause for concern. “We will be impacted by the results of climate change, with blowdowns from more powerful storms and rising sea levels,” she said. “Public education is key if society is to make meaningful changes. We can help people learn about what they can do in their everyday lives to make a difference.”

“We have to keep in mind that all elements of the natural world are interconnected, so stressing one part of the system affects the whole. Nature is a lot more intelligent than we give it credit for. We have a lot to learn.”