Joanna Ballantine of Amherst to guide Trustees of Reservations work
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AMHERST — Joanna S. Ballantine enjoys hiking western Massachusetts trails and camping with her two children. Now, she will work for the oldest statewide land conservation organization in the United States to protect and promote the spaces she loves.
An Amherst resident and native, Ballantine was recently hired as the new regional director for The Trustees of Reservations. “For me, it is really an incredible opportunity as someone who loves all of the places The Trustees have protected,” Ballantine said in a telephone interview.
The nonprofit organization was founded in 1891 and owns and manages 109 reservations on more than 26,000 acres across the state. It works to preserve properties of scenic, historical and ecological value for public use and enjoyment.
“She is an amazing professional with a sincere interest in what The Trustees does, having been a supporter of our work before joining our staff,” said Barbara Erikson, president and CEO of the group.
In her position, Ballantine will oversee staff and properties in the Pioneer Valley, the Berkshires and central Massachusetts. Ballantine said she has been a member of the organization for many years and long admired its accomplishments in the state.
“I believe that Massachusetts, and New England in general, have really extraordinary natural and cultural places. We have a moment in time when it is crucial for us to protect them, make sure they are well stewarded and engage our communities in enjoying these special places,” she said.
Erikson said she expects Ballantine will raise the profile of the Trustees in central and western Massachusetts. “We have 44 properties in central and western Massachusetts that are a great community benefit ... we need more people to be aware of those,” she said.
Ballantine said she feels the urgency of climate change and land acquisition and development. She believes that in our high-tech time, having more opportunities to go outside is important. “I have a personal passion to be very active, to be very engaged in the outdoors. I believe in the healthy benefits of being outdoors and leading an active lifestyle,” she said.
Ballantine has shared her explorations of Trustees properties with her family. She went snowshoeing with her mother at Notchview in Windsor this winter and looks forward to camping with her children, Hannah, 14, and Caleb, 10, and her husband, Clay, this summer. Ballantine hopes to get families, and especially youth, more involved with the group. The next generation must get involved with conservation efforts in its backyard. “I want to engage and energize the next generation. I want to encourage them to camp out, explore and really get outside of the classroom into nature’s classrooms,” she said.
One of the ways she hopes to do this is by increasing the group’s community partnerships. She said she hopes to work with land trusts, the farming community, youth organizations and the historic preservation and cultural communities.
“I really hope to build on the success of those who come before me, protect additional landscape, care for what is already in our midst (and) grow the number of people who share in our work,” she said.
Erikson said that one of the reasons she was drawn to Ballantine as a candidate was her ability to develop partnerships with nonprofits and public entities.
In addition to being an active conservationist and outdoors enthusiast, Ballantine brings executive experience in nonprofit management, outreach programming and philanthropy. She previously served as executive director of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation. She and her family have worked in the creation of Eden Village Camp in Putnam, N.Y., a Jewish organic farm and wilderness camp. She has studied at Hampshire College and University of Maryland Baltimore.
Among the Trustees projects that excite her are a campaign to restore Naumkeag, an historic home and garden in Stockbridge, and work at Land of Providence, a TTOR property in Holyoke, in partnership with Nuestras Raices.
Now that spring is here, and summer is coming, Ballantine said that she hopes people explore TTOR properties and visit their historic homes. These hopes for others mirror her own summer plans.
“I look forward to hiking our trails, exploring our farms and spending time in our beautiful homes and gardens in the region and beyond.”