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The Regional Water Authority (RWA) announced today that The Watershed Fund has been renamed The Claire C. Bennitt Watershed Fund in honor of the fund’s founder, who passed away last year following a brief illness. Under Claire’s guidance, the nonprofit Watershed Fund has helped preserve hundreds of acres of land and provided over $500,000 in scholarships to college students studying environmental sciences.
“We all owe Claire Bennitt a great deal of gratitude for the work she did at the RWA and beyond to protect open space and share her love of the environment with others,” said Larry Bingaman, President and CEO of the Regional Water Authority. “From its founding, the RWA has worked tirelessly to follow Claire Bennitt’s vision for the organization by ensuring that we meet the region’s water and land management needs now and long into the future, and by encouraging outdoor recreation and environmental education. By memorializing Claire’s work on The Watershed Fund with this renaming, our hope is that it will inspire others to follow her example and create the next generation of environmental stewards who will continue her work and legacy.”
“In many ways this name change simply formalizes the fact that it has always been Claire Bennitt’s Watershed Fund,” said Brian Stone, President of the Claire C. Bennitt Watershed Fund. “It was Claire’s commitment to our region and her dedication to watershed preservation and environmental education that formed this nonprofit charity, and it is her example that we continue to follow each day.”
Claire C. Bennitt was a North Branford community leader and conservation activist who fought a proposal by the New Haven Water Company to sell over 40 percent of its landholdings to finance improvements required by the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974. As an aide to then State Representative Dorothy McCluskey (D-North Branford), Claire organized residents and advocacy groups to champion legislation that regionalized the water utility, forming the RWA in 1977. Claire also played a key role in establishing the RWA’s Recreation Program, which was named in her honor when she retired from her position as the RWA’s board chair at the end of 2009. Claire was also instrumental in establishing the RWA’s water science education program.
Claire helped establish The Watershed Fund in 1999, and it remains a driving force behind the RWA’s mission to provide customers with high-quality water while promoting the preservation of watershed lands and aquifers. The education programs and scholarships supported by The Fund provide future leaders with the tools they need to preserve and protect open space and drinking water supply resources.