Even as the cold weather of December brings a slower pace of life to Northeast Indiana, Bridget Harrison, Executive Director of Clear Lake Township Land Conservancy (CLTLC), is busy preparing for next year’s projects and programs. Bridget became the first staff hire of CLTLC in 2015, joining the team after working in environmental consulting near Chicago and land trust work in California. “CLTLC has existed for 27 years, so we’ve had success and challenges. Volunteers did a wonderful job leading the organization and contribute to our success still,” explained Bridget.
The mission of CLTLC is to preserve and protect the natural environment, which goes beyond Clear Lake itself to include the entirety of the township. This is done through 3 service areas, the first of which is a variety of environmental education programs. Their Knee-high Naturalist program has provided kids with free educational opportunities for 12 years. Last year’s activities included a farm tour, beekeeping session, and a presentation on “tracks and scat” led by staff from Pokagon. “It’s fun to see the parents light up and take away information from the programs too,” shared Bridget. The second service area is natural area preservation. CLTLC currently has 63 acres of natural land to preserve, and they are constantly working with the community to find opportunities to increase. “The permanence of the conservancy is really unique. Knowing these properties we protect and manage will be here for generations who don’t even exist yet—it’s an awesome feeling,” said Bridget. The third and final focus area at CLTLC is annual testing for water quality. They also work with various groups to provide education and encourage practices that improve water quality.
Bridget’s favorite part of the organization is working with people in the community. The board has benefited from a president who is actively working to ensure diversity of geography on the board. In addition to planning activities, committee members make connections between on the ground work and big picture ideas. Their impact is evidenced by the ability to mobilize the community for volunteer projects. Although CLTLC was previously a highly seasonal organization, they have utilized technology in order to meet more regularly throughout the year with board members who move to warmer climates in the winter months.
Due to the small staff, CLTLC strategically recruits board members who aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and get involved in the hard work of mission advancement. “It’s a humbling experience to work with so many people who really show up for these projects,” said Bridget. “As the paid staff member, I am able to ensure follow-through happens and serve as a continuation of the work of the committees.” As their capacity has grown and activities have increased, the board faces the exciting challenge of planning for additional staff growth at a sustainable rate.
One of the ways CLTLC has grown is in their outreach to the community. Bridget shared that with help from a Communications Committee, they create a more consistent newsletter, website and social media presence, so they can remain connected and energize the community, including people who migrate for the winter. Their hard work was recently recognized in November 2018 when they received the Leadership and Service Award for their education and outreach efforts from the North American Lake Management Society.
“The love that people have for this place helps people connect with this organization that is protecting the environment and water around their favorite area. It’s especially true for families where multiple generations have lived in the community,” said Bridget. Her advice for other nonprofits to further their mission is to communicate more. “I try to reach our audience in many different ways. You can never educate too much or do too much outreach. When we communicate about our projects, plans, and aspirations with transparency, people feel comfortable and engaged because they know what’s going on.” Bridget and the board of CLTLC remain motivated by their hyperfocused mission and its impact on the local community, and they hope to continue seeing those multi-generational Clear Lake Township families learning about their impact on the land and water quality.