To establish an association of persons interested in conservation, environmental preservation, open space and recreational areas in Southeastern Connecticut.
To educate the public about the value of open space, conservation and environmental preservation.
To enlist public support and funding to promote, acquire, or maintain, open space for public use, alone, or in cooperation with local, state, or federal agencies, or with other nonprofit organizations, exempt from federal income tax under IRC Section 501 (c) (3) or the corresponding section of any future federal tax code.
The Membership of the organization is open to any person or organization subscribing to the objectives of GOSA and who is willing to contribute toward its success. Annual dues, established by the Board of Directors, are currently $10 per year. Membership inquiries can be directed to:
Groton Open Space Association
PO Box 9187
Groton, CT 06340-9187
Go to the Join Us section for more membership information.
Board of Directors
The Board of Directors consists of not less than five and not more than twelve persons elected by the membership at the annual meeting. The Board of Directors generally meets monthly but no fewer than ten times a year.
Board officers and members are:
Joan Smith, President
Sidney Van Zandt, Vice President
Susan Sutherland, Treasurer
Pat Olivier, Secretary
Meet our directors:
Joan Smith, President
B.A., Connecticut College for Women; B.S., Cornell University; M.S., Georgetown University
Joan grew up roaming in the fields and forest of her maternal grandfather’s farm in West Boylston, Mass., learning to experience and appreciate nature. Family outings included hiking, skiing, fishing, swimming, kayaking and camping in Cape Cod, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Canada. Her paternal grandmother, president of the Thoreau and Concord Historic Societies, led a successful effort to save Walden Pond, Joan’s first glimpse at successful grassroots environmental activism. Future mentors included three professors at Connecticut College: Dr. William Niering and Dr. Richard Goodwin, founders of the Nature Conservancy, and Dr. Sally Taylor who continues to be active with Connecticut Forest & Park Association. For GOSA, Joan has authored three successful state grant applications, totaling more than $1,000,000 for land purchase. Joan also authored many of GOSA’s letters of intervention and position statements seeking prudent and feasible alternatives to potential environmentally harmful development projects. Joan’s main focus now is to build up a board of strong directors and volunteers who will provide sound governance, land management, environmental advocacy and educational programs well into the future.
Sidney Van Zandt, Vice President
Founder of GOSA in 1965
Graduate of Choate-Rosemary Hall and Colby Sawyer College
Sidney spent her youth exploring the woodlands of the Mianus River Gorge Preserve in Bedford, N.Y., the first property purchased by the Nature Conservancy in 1954. She and her husband, Sandy, and son, Doug moved to Noank in 1961 and formed Van Zandt Sails in 1962. The threat of development of Haley Farm into duplex housing in 1963 instigated her involvement in the battle to “Save the Haley Farm” and the formation of the Groton Open Space Association in 1965; she became its first president. In 1970 Haley Farm was saved, becoming Haley Farm State Park thanks to the efforts of GOSA and the Connecticut Forest & Park Association. That same year, she and Avery Point professor David McKain formed the Environmental Education Committee which planned and sponsored the first Earth Day and recycling programs in Groton. They also published an environmental teaching guide for every elementary school teacher in the Groton school system. Since then, she has been involved with GOSA’s purchases of the 75-acre Merritt Family Forest in 2008, the 63-acre Sheep Farm in 2010, and the 91-acre Candlewood Ridge off Lambtown Road in 2013.
Over the years, Sidney has served the open space movement in numerous capacities. In 1972 she was appointed co-chairperson of the Bluff Point Advisory Council and tasked with finding the “highest and best use” of Bluff Point (saved in 1974). She has served on the boards of the Connecticut Forest and Park Association (1969), the Governor’s Council of Environmental Quality, the Connecticut Department of Environment’s Coastal Area Management Program, and the Eight-Town Mashantucket Land Trust (now called Avalonia Land Conservancy); all have benefitted from her passionate work to preserve and protect open space and the Groton watershed. In 1981 she resigned from her many positions to join her husband on an open space adventure of another kind. They built a 39′ steel sailing vessel in Virginia and sailed it 95,000 miles. After four transatlantic passages, a circumnavigation, 56 countries, and 14 years on board, they returned to Noank. Sidney resumed her activities on the GOSA board in 2003 as a director, became a member of the Drinking Water Quality Management Plan (DWQMP) in 2006 and the Shellfish Taskforce in 2007, was elected vice-president of the GOSA board in 2009, and in 2011 was reelected to the board of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association as an honorary director.
Sue Sutherland, Treasurer
BOD member since 2010, Treasurer since 2010
B.A., California State University; M.A. and M.B.A., University of Notre Dame
Sue is a second generation southern Californian and enjoyed growing up in Long Beach with wonderful weather, beaches and year-round sports including volleyball. Every summer the family escaped the smog and crowds to a campsite in a remote and spectacular area of the High Sierras which had great hiking and fishing. In addition, Sue joined the Camp Fire Girls at age five and eagerly attended summer camp each year through high school at a rustic 248-acre camp, a generous open space gift, in the San Gorgonio Mountains. The camp leaders challenged the girls each summer to learn about nature and to develop camping, backpacking, and mountain climbing skills. Both the family experiences and camp contributed to Sue’s great love of the outdoors.
Sue and her husband, John, and daughter, Janet moved to Groton from Stamford, CT in 2002, primarily because of the recreational opportunities. The wonderful shoreline and state and town parks provide a beautiful environment for sailing, kayaking, biking and hiking. Until her retirement last year, Sue was vice-president of finance and treasurer of American Power Conversion Corporation in Rhode Island, a large multinational manufacturing company. Sue now serves on the Town of Groton Zoning Commission and the Park and Recreation Master Plan Committee.
Pat Olivier, Secretary
BOD member since 2013, Secretary since 2013
B.A., George Washington University
Pat was born in Beverly, MA and is married to a career Navy Submarine Officer. She has lived in Virginia, California, Washington State, and Connecticut where they have since retired. Living in Groton for the last 19 years, the mother of three worked for Groton Public Schools in various positions for 16 of those years. She became involved with GOSA in 2006 in response to the proposed development of Mystic Woods on an area of land at the top of Fort Hill, rich with wetlands, vernal pools and Fort Hill Brook, which runs directly into Mumford Cove. As an abutter she, other abutters, neighbors and friends formed a small group called Friends of Fort Hill and worked alongside GOSA to moderate the impact of that development. To help defray the costs associated with that undertaking, the group sponsored fundraising events, including a cocktail gathering at the Cutwater Gallery that the following year became the now annual GOSA Gala, which Pat continues to chair.
James B. Anderson, Director
BOD member since 2012, self-appointed Director of Bittersweet Elimination since 2011
B.S., Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Physics; M.S., University of Connecticut, Geology; Ph.D., University of Connecticut, X-Ray Crystallography.
Jim returned to western Connecticut at the age of 16, his father bought two acres of woodland in back of their house, a chainsaw was purchased, and he has been chainsawing ever since. He first encountered an invasive species—pachysandra—growing as ground cover in his parent’s yard. Trimmings were dumped in the woods and they resprouted; after 45 years, they have taken over much of the undergrowth of the two acres. Nothing native seemed to want to eat the pachysandra.
After graduate school Jim started a career in technology finance, ending up at Travelers Insurance in Hartford managing a venture capital program for 10 years. Due to the long commute and the heavy business travel, he didn’t pay much attention to the acres behind his neighbor’s house bordering Allyn Street in Mystic. After starting his own consulting business and a stint as an adjunct professor at UConn, he noticed that vines had begun to overcome the trees between his deck and Allyn Street, 150 yards away. He approached his neighbor suggesting that he try to preserve the woods by eliminating the bittersweet vines. She agreed, and a five-year winter project (why winter? winter has no ticks and golf in the summer was a higher priority) started in 2005. By 2010, the impenetrable area completely cleared, he was starting to get bored.
In May of 2011, he attended GOSA’s gala and met members of the GOSA team who declared “We have acres and acres of bittersweet!” The rest is history, much to the regret of bittersweet in Groton.
Syma Alexi Ebbin, Director
GOSA BOD member since 2008, GOSA Educational and Outreach Liaison
B.A., Williams College, Biology; M.S., University of Alaska, Fisheries Science; M.E.M., Yale University, Environmental Management (EM); M.S., Yale University, EM; M.Ph., Yale University, EM.; Ph.D., Yale University, EM; Post Doctoral, Dartmouth College, Institutional Dimensions of Global Environmental Change
Affiliation and Current Position: Research Coordinator, Connecticut Sea Grant and Assistant Professor in Residence, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Connecticut
Syma grew up in New York City, traveling each day from Staten Island to Manhattan by ferry to attend Stuyvesant High School, where she focused on math and science. Vacations were spent at her grandfather’s house, exploring the waters of Baker Cove and Pine Island Bay in Groton or backpacking along the Appalachian and Long trails with her school friends. After college, she relocated to Juneau, Alaska, to attend graduate school and study Pacific salmon management. After receiving her doctorate at Yale’s Department of Forestry and Environmental Studies, she served as the open-space coordinator for the Connecticut Fund for the Environment. As luck would have it, she now lives a few hundred feet from her grandfather’s house in Groton and works across Pine Island Bay at the University of Connecticut’s Avery Point campus. She teaches environmental and marine science and policy courses, serves as the faculty advisor for the EcoHusky Club, and coordinates Connecticut Sea Grant’s research program. In 2008, Syma was appointed by the governor to the Eastern Long Island Sound Council and in 2011 elected co-chair of the Long Island Sound Assembly. She is currently serving on Groton’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Committee and previously as vice-chair of the Climate Change and Sustainable Community Task Force, the City’s Conservation and Inland Wetlands Agency and Harbor Management Commission. Syma and her family enjoy hiking, cross-country skiing, swimming, and kayaking in Groton and even farther afield.
Anna Sullivan, Director
B.A. (Cum Laude) in Anthropology, Connecticut College
Anna Sullivan was born in Chicago, Illinois, and grew up in a family of educators, environmentalists and historians who summered regularly in the nation’s national parks, particularly Yellowstone. Raised to always leave a natural environment “more pristine than she found it” she has lived in some of the wildest and beautiful places in North America including Alaska, Canada, Maine, New Mexico, Colorado, California, Montana, Idaho, and of course, Connecticut. Her hero is John Muir, the Scottish naturalist and national parks advocate who enjoyed his storms from his perch in the treetops. She also enjoys the nature writings of Annie Dillard and Loren Eiseley.
Anna is currently a freelance photographer with The Westerly Sun/Mystic River Press. She brings to Groton Open Space Association a passion for nature photography, reading, writing, observing, and appreciation for the natural world which is perfection just as it is. Anna is privileged to be able to lend a hand to the organization as a member of the board as well as to serve on several committees.