Thursday, January 27, 2022

Person of the Week

Mike Houde: A Natural Affinity for Clinton

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After more than a decade of serving as president of the Clinton Land Conservation Trust, Mike Houde’s appreciation for Clinton’s open spaces remains strong. 

Photo by Eric O’Connell/Harbor News

After more than a decade of serving as president of the Clinton Land Conservation Trust, Mike Houde’s appreciation for Clinton’s open spaces remains strong. (Photo by Eric O’Connell/Harbor News)

Talk long enough to any Clinton resident about their favorite aspects of Clinton and just about all of them will eventually mention the natural beauty found around the town. But perhaps nobody loves those wild spaces more than Clinton Land Conservation Trust (CLCT) President Mike Houde.

“Our job is to protect and preserve the open space for future generations,” Mike says, noting that means preserving and protecting open space for animals as well as for people.

Mike is a familiar face to naturalists in Clinton since he is now in his 13th year as the president of the trust.

“I’m the person who gets the calls for the good news and the bad news,” Mike jokes.

Mike has been a member of the CLCT sine the early 2000s, after his wife volunteered him.

“My wife was on the Board of Education for a time and someone approached her about joining and she said ‘no but my husband should!’” Mike says, with a laugh.

After being a regular member for a few years, Mike became president in 2008.

In addition to running meetings, Mike’s duties as president include dealing with the public’s interactions with the land, which can be both positive and negative.

Mike explains the positive is when people call to donate parcels of land to the trust. The negative is when he gets calls about people illegally filling wetlands or abusing a trust-owned property.

“That kind of stuff never ends. But the best part is actively preserving the land and the open space,” Mike says.

In particular, Mike says he’s particularly proud of the Weiss-Loveday property that opened last fall. The property offers dozens of acres of trails off of River Road.

“Right now, it’s my favorite one of our properties, it’s very beautiful there,” says Mike.

Besides managing the open space, the trust also hosts many activities aimed at engaging the town’s youth. Any recent visitor to Peter’s Memorial Woods in Clinton has probably noticed the large pages of children’s books displayed along the trails. This is called the storybook walk and is part of a joint project between the Henry Carter Hull Library and the CLCT.

The trust also provides scholarship opportunities, hosts programs for children, and supports local camps as well.

“The idea is getting kids in town involved with nature in fun and interesting ways,” Mike says. “There’s real value added to the kids in town.”

Mike says that given the wide variety of initiatives the trust is interested in there are plenty of opportunities for anyone who wants to volunteer.

“You don’t just have to be clearing trails or whatever if that’s not what you’re interested in. You can help on our website or work with our different events,” Mike says. “If you’re someone who lives in town and loves nature and wants to get involved, then get in touch with the land trust and be a volunteer.”

Mike says his interest in the natural world began when he was young.

“I spent my whole childhood outdoors,” Mike reminisces.

Mike says from an early age he was drawn to Native American culture and how those people were so knowledgeable about the land.

“People have become so disconnected from the natural world. This is our home and every generation has to be taught to respect and protect the environment,” Mike states.

By trade Mike is contractor, a job he says he stumbled into. After graduating college, Mike says that a friend contacted him to say that they were working on renovating a cider mill and asked if Mike wanted to work on it too.

“That’s what I did and how I got started,” Mike sums up.

Years later, those contracting skills would come in handy after Mike was contacted to join the board of the Adam Stanton House, a historic home located in Clinton’s downtown that has been preserved as a museum.

“They approached me to join the board to help with the maintenance of the structure,” Mike says.

He has been a member for three years now.

Mike grew up in the Indian Neck section of Branford but has called Clinton home for more than 30 years. In his spare time, Mike can be found canoeing, hiking, and being outside. Though very proud of his Branford upbringing, Mike is also fond of the people he’s met in Clinton.

“My favorite thing about Clinton is the people and the friends I’ve made,” he says.

To nominate a Person of the Week, email Eric O’Connell at e.oconnell@shorepublishing.com.


Eric O’Connell covers news for Clinton for Zip06. Email Eric at e.oconnell@shorepublishing.com.

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