I met Terry Parla for the first time in the early 1980s, when Terry stopped by the childern's fishing derby sponsored by the Manchester Lions Club, when I was President of the Lion's Club. The derby was being held at Salter's Pond which had been gifted to the Manchester Land Trust from Lydall Inc., and the Land Trust had granted permission to the Lions to use the pond. Thanks to the foresight of Terry Parla, Dr. Doug Smith, and Dr. Fred Spaulding, in starting the Manchester Land Conservation Trust, hundred of acres of land has been preserved as open space in Manchester.
Timothy Becker: Terry, How did you first get involved as a volunteer in Manchester?
Terry Parla: My husband Leonardo and I moved to Manchester in 1959. A friend of mine invited us to a party put on by the Manchester Young Democrats, and asked me to bring a potato salad. I wound up getting involved with the Young Democrats and worked on John Kennedy's campaign. I was later appointed as a member of Manchester Conservation Commission, and I chaired the Commission from 1970-80.
Timothy Becker: How did the Manchester Land Trust get started?
Terry Parla: In 1971, Dr. Doug Smith, Dr. Fred Spauling, and I decided to start a group to accept open land that would be kept in perpetuity. I was elected treasurer of the new organization that we called the Manchester Land Conservation Trust. We received our first gift of open land in 1971. I served as treasurer until 1975, as vice-president from 1975-77, and as the organization's president from 1977 until 2004. We gained over 300 acres during the time that I served as president. I still serve as a member of the board of directors and as membership chair.
Timothy Becker: What large donations did you get involved in during your time as president?
Terry Parla: We received the Risley Reservoir property, which encompasses 105 acres in Vernon, Bolton, and Manchester. The dam on the property had been inspected by the Army Corp. of Engineers and the property owners were ordered to repair the dam or remove it. The town water department owned the water rights, and was opposed to removal of the dam. The town of Manchester didn't own the property and was not responsible for the repair. I called Gladys Hall, one of the two daughters who had inherited the property from their father, John Risley, and asked her to donate the property to the land trust. I told her that we would handle the dam repairs. I wasn't sure at the time where we would get the funds. We received the land and applied for funding from the three towns. We came up $60,000 short and we decided to open the property to logging and raised the money that we needed. The dam was repaired, and the trees were replanted. The area is denser with tree growth now than it was before the logging was done.
Timothy Becker: How many acres does the land trust have at this time?
Terry Parla: We now hold title to 337.1 acres of open space.
Timothy Becker: Does your organization have any concern about lawsuits when people walk on the open space land?
Terry Parla: In Connecticut, land trusts are granted immunity form lawsuits through the Connecticut open space policy.
Timothy Becker: What do you think Manchester would look like if there wasn't a land trust?
Terry Parla: The town would be more densely populated. A lot of the land we have preserved as open space is buildable and could have been developed. To keep the village charm you need parks and open space. People want parks.
Timothy Becker: How did the land trust and the Conservation Commission get involved with preserving Case Mountain?
Terry Parla: In the 1970s, a kindergarten class at Buckley School raised $84 and donated it to the Conservation Commission to buy Case Mountain. We started a glass and paper collection behind Town Hall and the money we raised was added to the fund. We applied to the State and Federal governments for funding, and the Town of Manchester bought Case Mountain. The Town continued to buy parcels of land adjacent to Case Mountain. The land trust was given the parking lot in 2000 and the Dennison Trust donated the pond to the land trust in 2005, which is 7.6 acres.
Timothy Becker: I understand that you are also active with the Manchester Historical Society. How did you get involved with that organization?
Terry Parla: In 1986, I became a life member. Four years ago I asked if I could help with the tag sale and I became the tag sale chair. I also became a member of the Historical Society Board of Directors. I feel that is very important to keep the details of what Manchester was in the past. It is important to preserve as much as we can.
Timothy Becker: What other volunteer roles have you been involved in?
Terry Parla: I was a member of the Pastoral Council at St. James Church. I also worked on their tag sale and craft sale for 17 years. I served as a Eucharistic Minister at St. James and for Fr. James Rush who was the Chaplin at Manchester Hospital and I brought Eucharist to the residents of Manchester Manor. Now I am a volunteer one day a week at the Manchester Penny Saver on Broad Street. I am also a life member of the Manchester Memorial Hospital Auxiliary.
Timothy Becker: Have you ever considered taking a paid position?
Terry Parla: I don't want any job where I have to report to work. It is much easier to be a volunteer.