Tom Blake, a founder of the South Portland Land Trust, received the organization’s first-ever leadership award during the trust’s annual meeting held Dec. 18 at Southern Maine Community College. Contributed

SOUTH PORTLAND — A dedicated conservationist with a long history of service to the city, Tom Blake won the South Portland Land Trust’s first-ever environmental leadership award during a special ceremony Wednesday.

The award is actually named for Blake, who helped found the land trust and served as the group’s first president. Blake told The Forecaster on Thursday that receiving the award was a surprise, but “it’s very nice. I’m quite humbled and honored.”

Richard Rottkov, current president of the land trust, said the Tom Blake Leadership Award is intended to recognize “outstanding leadership, mentoring, and creativity in support of the SPLT mission.”

“The award celebrates individuals whose leadership has enriched the entire community and whose contributions embody the values Tom Blake, a founder of the South Portland Land Trust, has demonstrated in his own life and work on behalf of the SPLT,” Rottkov said in a press release.

On Thursday, Rottkov said it was fitting for Blake to be the first recipient of the award named for him.

“Choosing Tom as the first recipient was the SPLT’s way of acknowledging and thanking (him) for his lifelong dedication to the organization.” He also said Blake is “clearly been the lifeblood of the SPLT” since it was created in 1987.

Since that time, according to the organization’s website, the land trust has grown to a membership of about 300 and it now owns six preserved properties, along with holding 12 easements allowing public access to open space. In all, the trust has helped conserve nearly 300 acres of land across the city.

Blake said the land trust is in transition and sees its mission changing from a focus on conservation to helping the city deal with the effects of climate change. With six active watersheds, Blake is anticipating that South Portland will be “severely impacted.”

His hope is that going forward the group can attract more young people, but also said there are enough opportunities for anyone of any age to make a difference.

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