by | Jan 20, 2017

Every Ending Has a New Beginning

It’s with mixed feelings that we must say goodbye to Geoff Cripe, SWMLC’s Director of Land Protection. Mixed, because we will miss him so much, but happy for him, too, because he’s about to start a new job and a new chapter in his life.

Geoff was one of the organization’s few extroverts and kept things uber-lively around the office. Outrageous stories? Check! Instant dance party? Well, he tried. Zany, funny, and insane, we could count on Geoff to introduce the grossest and most hilarious stories over lunch. Later, in the sleepy hours of the afternoon, we would sometimes hear a weird sound and momentarily wonder what it was. With relief we would realize that it wasn’t something scary, it was just Geoff’s deep, vibrato-drenched voice suddenly booming from his office in song! “I didn’t even know he was here,” people would say. But how could anyone not realize that such a lunatic was in the building? Because Geoff is also impeccably conscientious, extremely dedicated, and will sometimes work in complete, rapt silence for hours.

He is also very very good at his job.

How so? Well, since Geoff began working for SWMLC in 2008, his work directly culminated in the protection of 3,468 total acres. . . . that’s about 25% of all the land that we have protected in the past 25 years!

Within that massive total, 2,856 acres are in conservation easements and 682 acres are in preserves, including the following public preserves: Black River Preserve, Spirit Springs Sanctuary, Wolf Tree Nature Trails, Pilgrim Haven Natural Area, and the upcoming Portman Nature Preserve. And speaking of Portman, Geoff secured $2.5 million in grants for this organization, of which about half is related to Portman. Another Geoff stat: he coordinated and led several conservation planning projects, including Black River Watershed, Rocky River Watershed, Paw Paw River Watershed, and the Jones SGA Conservation Plan. In other words, Geoff has made a contribution to land conservation and protection in southwest Michigan that benefits both nature and large numbers of people, a contribution that will stand for all time.

Reading all of these numbers might lead one to think that Geoff is some kind of ruthless, arrogant, conservationist cut throat, but in fact, he’s very sweet and down-to-earth, the kind of guy who makes sure that the doors are locked before leaving a female colleague alone in the office at night. He worked with land owners, volunteers, government officials . . . all kinds of people and is well-liked by everyone. He was a great “face” for the organization, whether he was speaking before a large group or just chatting with a small one.

Yeah, we’re going to miss him and it falls on someone to try to pick up his torch. The office already seems more subdued without him. Those folks at his new job are a lucky bunch of ducks!

— Amelia