Cherry Lawn. Dunlap Woods. Goodwives Meadow. Olson Woods — those are just some of the preserved open space areas in Darien, thanks to the Darien Land Trust.

The Darien Land Trust held its fifth annual Farm to Table cocktail party and dinner on Saturday evening, Aug. 24.

The event, which sold out with 250 people in attendance, was held at Waterbury Field in Darien — which is also a preserved open space.

While music played from the Busker Band — which included local Darien drummer Kevin Bannerton — guests socialized under sunny skies in perfect weather.

They sampled hors d’oeuvres, which included mini lobster rolls and bacon-deviled eggs, and had main courses of Moroccan marinated chicken and lemon-sumoc vinaigrette beluga lentils. Candles were lit as dusk settled in.

First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said, “It’s a fabulous evening. The weather couldn’t be better to celebrate with the Darien Land Trust and all of the care that they give to making sure that we’re preserving open space in the town of Darien. They’re a wonderful partner to the town of Darien.”

Stevenson continued, “We’ve done several projects together and we hope that we can continue in the future working in partnership with the land trust to make sure that we always have open recreational space available to the community.”

State Rep. Terrie Wood, who represents Darien and Rowayton, said it’s “a beautiful night” for the land trust’s Farm to Table dinner.

“I’m really thrilled to be here,” added Wood, who is a former Darien Land Trust president. “It’s a great traditional and terrific turnout for everybody involved.”

Also in attendance at the dinner was Darien resident Ned Goodnow, who earned a purple heart for his actions in WWII.

Preserving nature

Amy Sarbinowski, chairman of the land trust’s outreach committee, said the Farm to Table dinner was “conceived as an event to celebrate a year of success in preserving land in Darien.”

The Darien Land Trust “removes invasive plants and replaces them with native ones, to help restore the biodiversity of the area,” Sarbinowski said. “If you have the native plants, then the native insects come back, and the native birds, and the small mammals — then the habitats start increasing in that area.”

It takes a lot of work to care for the land that the Darien Land Trust manages and preserves, according to Sarbinowski.

“It’s constant vigilance,” she said.

The Darien Land Trust is always looking for ways to educate the community on preserving nature.

“We look for anything with nature as the hero,” Sarbinowski said.

One upcoming program with that theme in mind will be a screening of the film at the Darien Library called “The Biggest Little Farm.” It’s about a couple who move out of their New York City apartment and buy a farm in a rural area.

In April, during the migration season, the land trust gave a bird walk.

“These tropical birds are all over the woods because its their migration period. Our woods are a refuge for them to rest as they continue their long journey,” Sarbinowski said. “It’s so beautiful to just be in the woods and experience not only the beauty but also the bird migration.”

Also, every spring, the land trust has Trails Discovery Day. They hope to grow their membership and get families to come and walk on the trails.

“We have an endowment, so we have money set aside if a property comes for sale,” Sarbinowski said.

That happened recently when Darien resident Ann Mandel was moving to Stamford and donated her 2.7 acre property on Hollow Tree Ridge Road to the land trust. Mandel was the town’s first female first selectman.

“The family said they wanted the house demolished and removed and the land returned to nature,” Sarbinowski said. “We were able to facilitate that for them. We destroyed their house and we removed all man-made structures, and we planted native plants.”

Darien Land Trust co-president Erika Morris said, “the land trust has allowed us to integrate with the community and to preserve properties that are mutually beneficial for the community, and also to showcase the natural beauty that’s in Darien.”

“It’s called stewardship,” said John O’Brien, co-president of the Darien Land Trust. “Whether it’s mowing or correcting the meadows in the fields, taking invasive [species] out, or introducing natives — That’s the bulk of our budget.”

Amy Blaymore Patterson, executive director of the Connecticut Land Conservation Council, said Connecticut is the home of a “very robust land trust conservation community.”

“We really rely so heavily on the work of our private nonprofits to save land,” she added.

Chris Filmer: Darien Land Trust’s “founding father”

Chris Filmer is known as the founding father of The Darien Land Trust, according to Sarbinowski.

He moved to Darien from South Africa in 1977 and has been active with the land trust for more than 20 years. He previously worked in international marketing for Pepsi-Cola, and retired in 2000.

He was responsible for restoring Selleck’s Woods.

“When I came here, I was elected to the RTM. It came up on their agenda that they wanted to put senior housing in a place called Selleck’s Woods, which is right next to the land trust’s Dunlap Woods,” Filmer said.

When he first went to check out the area, he “came across these gorgeous woods,” he said. However, “they were very badly treated. There were shotgun shells and [remnants from] people who drank and smoked. Nobody was taking care of it.”

So, Filmer devoted himself to restoring it.

“We got about a core of eight people together and with $143 in our budget, we started by working with the town and with the land trust,” he said.

Selleck’s Woods is 50 acres — “Twenty-eight of that belonged to the town and 22 of that belonged to the land trust,” said Filmer, who was president of the land trust from 2012 to 2014 and is now a board member.

Since he was first involved with the Darien Land Trust, it has acquired at least 100 acres of land which otherwise would be houses, he said.

“This last year, we had acquired eight acres,” Filmer said. “I hope we will get to 300 acres eventually.”

About the Darien Land Trust

The Darien Land Trust, founded in 1960, permanently preserves and restores open space. They provide the community with environmentally rich habitats, scenic vistas, opportunities for educational experiences, and the quiet enjoyment of nature.

The Darien Land Trust has more than 80 properties. Sixty are owned and another 20 are conservation easements. They total nearly 220 acres and most of them are set aside for viewing and wildlife.

For more information on the Darien Land Trust, visit darienlandtrust.org/.