Introducing Heidi Gilmore, Chairwoman of the SCLT
I am an attorney licensed in Delaware and Maryland and have been working actively as an attorney for 24 years. I was born and raised on a dairy farm in Cecil County, Maryland and was the youngest of six children. My family and extended family were farmers for many generations. The love of the outdoors and the love of land came to me naturally working on the farm. I moved to Sussex County in 2000. My practice area was handling real estate matters of all sorts. I learned Sussex County by driving to locations all over Delaware to meet clients and to learn first hand, on-site about their projects. I learned the area by driving many back roads. This opened a whole new appreciation for the area as I learned about the waterways, vast farmlands, historic properties, various land uses and the interplay of businesses and their shared use of lands for successful projects.
Sussex County is unique in so many ways. First, I love Delaware because it appreciates tradition, more than any other area I have experienced. Whether that is “Return Day” for establishing an elections tradition of burying the hatchet, “Delaware Day” for the historical significance of our state being first to ratify the Constitution, the Oyster Eat which has existed for now 85 years, even if only men are the traditional attendees, just to name a few. Second, I love Sussex County because it is simply “B E A U T I F U L !”. If you get outdoors in our area, the best way to appreciate our County is by water. Just riding the waterways, whether that is in Milton, Long Neck, Lewes, Rehoboth, Fenwick or Seaford, you can see majestic views that take your breath away. Our parks and beaches are revered. We have deep history in our area that can be seen with a short ride to your closest town. The Historical Societies in our area do a fantastic job of keeping that deep history alive. Third, I love the people here. We have people of all varieties here. If you were born and raised here or came here, you are still a Sussex Countian. People care about each other. People want to help others. People want to volunteer to help organizations succeed to make a difference here. It is not unique to Sussex Countians, but volunteering is alive and visible.
I think everyone reaches a point in their life when they want to give back to the community. You have a little time and interest in something and you put your action into participation in a way that you make a difference. No matter how little or how big, you start. I was raised by my parents to be a helper. If that was on the farm when I was young, I was helping my siblings run the farm with my parents. If the time was when I was working on my education, I was working and learning with no time to spare. When I began my professional career, I was working by day and teaching at DelTech or other organizations at night. Then there came a time when I wanted to make a difference in our local environment. An opportunity arose that allowed me to apply my service to the Sussex County Land Trust. Land Trusts are not widely known in our local area so after learning how the operation can serve the community in many ways, I put my time into action by making a difference in seeing opportunities to put land into conservation for the future. If you travel outside of Delaware, you can see the imprint of Land Trusts all over other states. I see such potential to preserve property in Sussex County to benefit future generations. Everyone benefits from the efforts the Land Trust can make whether that is preservation of open space natural areas, creating conservation easements on lands, expanding wetland areas, or creating tracts of lands to be used for active/passive recreation.
We are feeling the pressure as Sussex Countians to not lose the opportunity to preserve areas presently used as farmlands or open space to development. There has to be a balance between growth and conservation. The cries of our citizens to the cutting down of dense woodlands, conversion of farmland to development or simply the loss of keeping land as open space is heard routinely as more development occurs. I believe our goal at the Land Trust is to be a resource and a reminder to development that land can be preserved and also conserved. The Land Trust welcomes partnerships of all sorts to be able to achieve mutual goals of all Sussex Countians, to keep our County Beautiful. I think we can grow and also conserve in thoughtful ways rather than seeing or perceiving only growth is occurring. I want to see the Land Trust be a bridge and a resource tool to help increase the conservation of lands.
Our history is a reminder of who we were. It is a link to what our founders experienced as they stepped across our land with the native peoples of our region. That history is interesting but is also special. We have to take care of those special things in order to enable then to endure into the future. Our passion for preserving the historical parts of our lands is just as important as preserving the critical pieces of land for conservation efforts. Whether it is our minds that are enriched by the history or our souls enriched by experiencing the openness of natural space, I want to help keep those special, historical parts of our area alive and enduring into the future. It is magical to step back in time even but for a few moments in our mind.
No. 1 way for me to have fun is by a day of boating on our waterway. Whether that is a pontoon boat on the bay or a kayak ride on my home waterway of Herring Creek, I am in a pure state of bliss when doing these activities. My husband and our family take our annual trip by boat from the Rehoboth Bay to Assawoman Bay travelling to Assateague every summer. It is a 3 hour ride that never fails in producing spectacular views and mind altering joy.