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SOUTHWICK — A new nonprofit organization will raise money from private donors to purchase land in town, protecting it from development.

Maryssa Cook-Obregon, president of the Southwick Land Trust, says her group has nine members so far and is soliciting for new ones. Its model is the Granby Land Trust, which Cook-Obregon said has fostered a townwide culture of preservation in the neighboring Connecticut town. It’s also preserved nearly 90 properties or easements, covering more than 3,000 acres, since being founded in 1972. More than 50 years of fundraising have also built up a balance of more than $3 million.

Cook-Obregon said one of the reasons for establishing the nonprofit, nongovernmental organization is because often when municipalities or governments get involved in funding purchases of land for open space, there are often strings attached.

“If you accept government funding, you’re bound to the government,” she said. “We’ll be totally privately funded, and we’ll decide how to preserve the land.”

The Southwick Land Trust’s model, according to Cook-Obregon, is to research, identify and prioritize potential preservation properties in Southwick by consulting with regional and national conservation agencies as well as local stakeholders such as town residents and neighboring communities.

Its goal is to directly connect with landowners who are interested in preserving their land as part of their legacy with its mission of “protecting Southwick’s rural heritage and its diverse ecology by acquiring and permanently conserving natural corridors, wildlife habitats, scenic, historic and agricultural land while also promoting awareness of open space and making access easier and enjoyable for all.”

To raise money, Cook-Obregon said the organization will focus on getting grants, and donations from individuals and businesses, including donations of land as well as stock, bond or investment gifts. The land trust can be named in a bequest or as beneficiary of an IRA or life insurance policy. It will offer memorial and remembrance recognition for large donations.

It will also hold events and sell merchandise, she said. Up first is the inaugural “Southwick Spiff Up,” on May 18, in partnership with the Southwick Rotary Club and the town’s Department of Public Works.

The event will kick off at the Daily Grind at 568 College Hwy., Southwick, with free doughnuts. Volunteers should arrive between 9 and 10 a.m. to pick up cleanup supplies. Each volunteer or team will be assigned a section of town to pick up trash.

The Southwick Land Trust is also inviting members of the community to help it create a “unique and captivating” logo that embodies the goal of the organization. Submissions must be an original graphic, no photographs, suitable and scalable for use on the website, promotional materials, correspondence, T-shirts and ball caps. The design should incorporate three colors for simplicity, and designers can use farmland, mountains, lakes, forests, local wildlife and streams that represent the town’s diverse landscape. It also should include the letters “SLT” — not the full name — and be designed to work vertically or horizontally.

All entries will be considered. The submission deadline for the logo contest is end of the day Friday, May 24. The design should be emailed to info@southwicklandtrust.org.

For more information, visit www.southwicklandtrust.org.

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