Otsego Land Trust leader set to retire


Patricia Szarpa will retire as the executive director of the Otsego Land Trust in February 2021, according to a media release from the group’s Board of Directors.

Szarpa had been executive director since 2016. She previously worked for The Daily Star and Cooperstown Crier as an advertising representative and had been the executive director of the Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce.

In the media release, OLT credited Szarpa with increasing fundraising and land-use agreements, fostering partnerships with other community groups and helping the group navigate the coronavirus era and the challenges it brought to fundraising and operations.

“I know that the OLT is positioned to handle continued challenges the pandemic may bring to the economy and to our region,” Szarpa said in the media release. “I look forward to seeing OLT’s land conservation successes in the years ahead.”

Szarpa and her husband, Darryl Szarpa, own and run the bed and breakfast Owl’s Landing in the town of Otsego and she said she will focus some of her time to adapting the business to accommodate the coronavirus pandemic. The couple did not open Owl’s Landing for the 2020 season.

“The Board of Directors is ever grateful to Pat for her constant good cheer, her indefatigable work ethic and her deep commitment to OLT’s mission,” Board Chair Marjorie Kellogg said in the media release. “We wish her the very best in all her future ventures.”

An interim executive director will be appointed at that time to assure a smooth transition while the board conducts a search for new leadership, the release said.

Prior to her departure, Szarpa will finalize OLT’s quinquennial application for accreditation by the Land Trust Alliance, a national conservation organization representing more than 1,700 land trusts across the United States, the release said.

In addition, before she leaves, the organization will launch a new website as part of a social media focus that Szarpa spearheaded.

The release also highlighted several other major projects begun or completed during Szarpa’s tenure: the preservation of a major block of land in the Butternut Valley and improvements to public access and use of Brookwood Point, including a partnership with the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum that brought Induction Weekend party rentals to Brookwood Point, which is Cooperstown-adjacent and has acres of lake access and views of the village and Kingfisher Tower.

The release also noted the success of OLT land, such as Fetterley Forest and Brookwood Point, being used by the public as “safe and popular outdoor spaces for socializing and exercise during the past summer and fall.”

Szarpa also has worked with local hotels to get them qualified for Green Lodging certifications, the release said.

Greg Klein, staff writer, can be reached at gklein@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7218.

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