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North Castle Conservation Board
North Castle’s Conservation Board Chair John Fava Retires After 40 Years

December 7, 2015
From the cranberry bogs of southeast Massachusetts to the United States Air Force as X-ray technician in the most western U.S Peninsula of the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, John Fava made his way to Westchester where he served 40 years on North Castle’s Conservation Board.

After service, Fava took advantage of the GI Bill to study landscape architecture and urban planning at the University of Massachusetts. At his most recent retirement party, Fava said that he sought a landscaping job after college and was hired on the spot by the Westchester County Planning Department. After five years, he transferred and then spent the next 30 years as a landscape architect with the Westchester Parks and Recreation Department. “We did recreation and planning studies of almost every town in Westchester, including North Castle,” he said.  

Since 1970, with the formation of the North Castle Conservation Advisory Council, which later became the Conservation Board, Fava was only the second chairman; he served for 15 years after Betsy Sluder retired and moved out of town. Sluder had served on the Conservation Board for 31 years and was well known as a North Castle conservationist who donated a hundred acres of open space on Old Route 22 known as the hiking area of Betsy Sluder Nature Preserve.

Fava said, “Forty years ago, Sluder twisted my arm to read plans and help out with the Conservation Board, which I was glad to do. With all the site visits, I got to know the entire town.” Over the years he's been asked, “'There’s a trickle here, where does that go?’ I pretty much know where all the groundwater aquifers go after over 40 years of site visits.”

North Castle’s Conservation Board was the first of New York’s Conservation Boards and has received multiple awards. Under Fava’s chairmanship, the Conservation Board received the New York State Association of Conservation Commissions (NYSACC) for Outstanding Publication in October 2007; Mianus River Preservation Project in October 2008; and the Margery Sachs Award was given to Fava in 2011 for his “Lifelong Environmental Concern and Service.” Fava also served as a Board of Director of NYSACC.

For over 40 years, many North Castle residents have gotten to know Fava. His knowledge, patience, charm, honesty, insight, willingness to help, and positive outlook on life have been appreciated.

Former Conservation Board member Robert Black said, “John, you are leaving behind a legacy of many things. One is that there is a board that functions well, with traditions and institutions in place. There’s a board secretary; there are procedures with deadlines and streamlining of the residential project review process (RPRC). But more important, personally you have left behind a couple of personality traits that will be tough to follow. One tradition is the rigor with which you approach these [applications] and the depth you are willing to descend in reviewing the files. The other thing is your inborn diplomacy and tact. It’s tough when you get homeowners, some of whom are neighbors and friends, come in [with applications] and deal with them; their story may or may not bring the best of credibility, but you can’t be too hard on them because they are neighbors and you have to weigh communal value at the same time. That seems to be a quality you have a great strength in.”

Gene Matusow, who served on North Castle's Town Board and Planning Board during Fava’s time, was not in attendance, but wrote an e-mail that said, “With your retirement from public service, North Castle is losing a prize. Your years of service have set a standard for professionalism and commitment. You have raised the bar of achievement and can be proud, knowing that the work you did, the ideas you offered and the decisions you helped … improved the quality of life of those living in North Castle now and [will] protect the quality of life for those who will be there in the future.”

John met his wife Karolyn when they were undergraduates at the University of Massachusetts. In a sense, she retires too; she just as assuredly for all those years played an essential role supporting John behind the scenes. Both of their quick wits and readily available smiles will be missed. With much gratitude, we wish them well as they move north to a more relaxed lifestyle.

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