2015 marks the 20th anniversary of protection for the Highlawn Forest. A lot has changed since 1995 so I thought it would be good to take a step back and remember how we got to this point. Our work would not be possible without the help and understanding of some amazing landowners, like John R. Camp, who share our vision of connecting people to the land.
The Camps are a well-known and respected family in the Middletown area, having played a role in the development of the community dating back to the late 1800s and donating the family homestead in town for the future site of the Middlesex Memorial Hospital. In 1907, Herbert and Bessie Camp purchased “Highlawn” and enjoyed a spectacular view of the Connecticut River Valley, while farming and raising dairy cows.
In 1960, John R. Camp and his wife Ruth inherited the property and began managing the 254-acre forest as a wildlife refuge and tree farm, being named Connecticut’s Outstanding Tree Farmer in both 1975 and 1989 for his long-term commitment and active role in conservation and forestry.
John R. Camp was an enthusiastic and loyal supporter of the Connecticut Forest & Park Association (CFPA), serving as a director from 1971 to 1989 and as an honorary director from 1989 until his death in 1995. In 1981, he generously donated the land upon which the CFPA headquarters now sits and specified in his will that development rights to his land on Highlawn go to CFPA.
Despite regular calls from developers, Mr. Camp said he would never sell his land, stating “I think it’s too precious to be allowed to be developed for houses and I’m glad it’s going to continue to be a forest after I’m gone.” He knew that the property had value for recreation, education, and forestry and made sure to reserve these rights for CFPA and future generations, while carving out a privacy area for his heirs to live and enjoy.
Today, Mr. Camp’s son, George, and his wife, Camille, now reside on the property and remain supporters of CFPA and the ideals John R. Camp held so dear. George and Camille graciously allowed the trail system to be expanded and opened to the public, even naming the different trails in honor of members of the Camp family. They also helped graduate students at Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies complete a comprehensive management plan in 2011-2012. A lot has changed in the 50 years since John R. Camp first took ownership of Highlawn, but his vision will provide exciting opportunities for generations to come.
To learn more about Highlawn Forest select here.