From the Start: the Quinnipiac River Fund

For over 25 years, the Quinnipiac River Fund has been a trusted protector and advocate for River preservation.

For more information about The Quinnipiac River and projects supported by The Quinnipiac River Fund, visit Photo credit: Ian Christmann and Matt Higbee

"What is not good for the beehive cannot be good for the bees." That quote from philosopher Marcus Aurelius rings true today. The environment plays a critical role in determining the quality of our lives.

The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven has engaged in grantmaking that supports the environment since the 1940s, when its Hendersen Fund made a grant to support the Mill River Drive and Park in New Haven, Conn. Since then, hundreds of environmentally friendly organizations like the Garden Club of New Haven, Rainbow Recycling and the New Haven Land Trust have received grants from a variety of funds.

In 1990, The Community Foundation assumed a new civic role as the steward of funds obtained from a lawsuit brought against the Upjohn Company of North Haven concerning wastewater discharges. The suit began in the mid-1980s, when the Connecticut Fund for the Environment and Natural Resources Defense Council sued Upjohn in federal court for violating clean water laws. The federal lawsuit accused Upjohn, which operated on the bank of the Quinnipiac, of more than 1,000 violations of the Clean Water Act in dumping toxic substances, including carcinogens, into the river. The litigation carried on for five years until a settlement was reached whereupon Upjohn paid $1.2 million to establish the Quinnipiac River Fund at The Community Foundation. The goal of the Fund is to improve the environmental quality of the Quinnipiac River, the New Haven Harbor and surrounding watersheds. Grants are distributed each year from the Fund at the recommendation of an Advisory Committee made up of local professionals well-versed in environmental issues: Nancy Alderman, president of Environment and Human Health, Inc., Gordon Geballe, associate dean Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Roman N. Zajac, PhD, chair of the Biology and Environmental Science Department at the University of New Haven.

Since 1991, the first year of grants awarded from the Fund, over $2.2 million has been distributed to organizations conducting studies of the ecology, pollution, public access to the river, land use planning and land acquisition around the river, habitat restoration, advocacy and education. A list of projects supported by the Fund is available at Website visitors can also find boat launch sites and trail access points along the River.

Seeing students and citizens of all ages involved in environmental activities in their community reinforces the belief that everyone can do something to protect water resources and become land stewards. The more people use the river for recreation and ecological studies, the more people will be concerned about its future.

As humans learn to live in better harmony with the environment, so will The Foundation press on in its mission to enhance the community's quality of life, beehive included.

This article is part of a series of stories celebrating The Community Foundation's 90th Anniversary.