by Jeanné Chesanow, Gail Collins, and Sigrun Gadwa
When in 1970 the Land Trust acquired its first piece of land, Lee was one of the first to explore the property. The formerly Helen Russell land is high on the West Ridge – adjacent to the Blue Trail on the ridgetop. At that time there was no trail up to the property, just a steep scrubby incline. No problem for Lee!
She was on the Planning and Zoning Commission when it drew up Cheshire’s first open space plan (c.1975). When the Roaring Brook land came up for sale, P& Z members took townspeople up to the top of the falls to convince them that the town should buy this wonderful piece of land. The Herald reported that Lee was the only one of the commissioners to lead hikes both times, two days in a row. When the land below the falls was going to be developed, P&Z had to consider one of the first plans for “cluster development.” The wording of the regulation was not clear in some respects, leading to a decision against the proposal. Lee was one of those who denied the application. The developer took the case to court and prevailed, but the dissenters still hung in, claiming their decision was justified. In the end, the land was developed according to the original plan, and the P&Z re-wrote the cluster zoning regulation. (Lee had strong convictions and stuck to her guns.)
Lee and her husband Seymour (Cy) raised dogs for hunting and started up a hunting club in their neighborhood on Cheshire Street. When she was a widow, years later, she often spoke of Cy who she said was waiting for her in the Cheshire Street Cemetery.
In 2001 she decided to give the Land Trust some of her acreage. To the south of her house (the Asa Bradley House) was a wildflower meadow with a spring-fed pond. In back of that, as the land ran to the Quinnipiac River, was a cornfield. She asked that no trees be planted in the meadow so that the view across the field would be preserved. She had a favorite view from the house that overlooked the pond and meadow, and out across the cornfield. The meadow was mowed in the fall after the grassland birds had nested. The beautiful pond was a great skating place. The kids in the neighborhood enjoyed that pastime for many years.
Here is what Sigrun (Suki) Gadwa, ecologist and longtime Land Trust board member, wrote about Lee:
“I have such warm memories of Lee Pelz as a warm, gracious, calm, old fashioned lady. We have lost a beautiful piece of the past, and there can never be another person like her. Remembering her on the CLT board, qualities like resolve, strength, wisdom, good sense and modesty come to mind.”