Person of the Week – Alan Felgate: Clinton Sailing Club’s Founder Ready for Summer – By Lesia Winiarskyj – Published May 4, 2016
Alan Felgate’s first time sailing was on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee at Camp Belknap, whose 288 forested acres have hosted more than a century’s worth of games, stories, and late-night bonfires and whose unofficial motto is “See the joy.” (The official motto is significantly longer and more serious.)
“I went to camp for a couple of years when I was a kid,” Alan recalls. “The first year, I did all the standard activities: soccer, photography, basket weaving, etc. The next year I didn’t do any of that. Instead, I taught myself how to sail.”
An 8th-grader at the time, Alan spent every day of camp that summer on the water, on the single mile of the camp’s lakefront property.
“I loved sailing and always remembered it,” he says.
It would be many years before he sailed again, but when he did, it became a passion.
Born in England, Alan comes from what he describes as “a big, blended family.
The Felgates moved to New Hampshire when Alan was four.
“As a kid, I loved to get outside, biking, swimming, building tree houses, or just goofing around. There’s a Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection program called No Child Left Inside, whose mission is to connect children with nature. I think this is really important, and not just for kids, but for adults, too.”
Alan graduated with a B.A. in English literature and visual arts from Columbia College, an arts and science college within Columbia University whose notable alums include Barack Obama, Alexander Hamilton, Lou Gehrig, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Herman Wouk, George Stephanopoulos, Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Casey Affleck, Anna Paquin, Amanda Peet, and Alicia Keys. After graduating, he left New York and worked in technology sales for 17 years with Macromedia, Adobe, and Apple, based out of San Francisco and London, before working remotely from Clinton, where he’s lived for the last eight years. He’s now in real estate with the Madison brokerage of William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty.
“I’ve visited 31 different countries and most U.S. states,” he says, “but I love living right here on the Connecticut shoreline. We have a strong community, amazing cultural resources, and a beautiful natural environment. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
“What I like about living here is that you can get involved and make a difference,” he adds. “My wife, Christine, and I have been together for 16 years. When we moved to Clinton, we didn’t know anyone in town. We didn’t even know anyone in Connecticut! But early on, Christine got involved with the Clinton Downtown Revitalization Committee, and we’ve never looked back. By volunteering, we’ve met so many great people who really care about Clinton and are making a positive impact in our community today. I highly recommend to everyone that they volunteer and get involved.”
Alan serves on three volunteer boards and commissions in town with goals that are close to his heart—the Clinton Historic District Committee (HDC), Bike and Pedestrian Alliance of Clinton (BPAC), and the Clinton Land Conservation Trust (CLCT).
“The common thread running through these organizations,” he says, “is that they are all nonpartisan and devoted to making Clinton a better place to live, work, and play.”
HDC is focused on preserving Clinton’s historic homes and buildings.
“In 2016 we will be creating a new listing on the National Register of Historic Places [NRHP] called the High Street Historic District. I’m very proud to have led the effort within HDC to bring attention to my own neighborhood, which is the historic gateway to our town. NRHP is an honorific—it doesn’t come with any property restrictions—but it allows owners to benefit from tax credits. I think it’s important to protect our history. Once it’s gone, we lose a part of ourselves and never get it back.”
BPAC’s mission is to build a safe bike and pedestrian infrastructure in town.
“This means sidewalks, bike lanes, and extending the Shoreline Greenway [Trail] through Clinton. It also means improved signage and education to get folks to slow down and share the road. Walking and biking makes people healthier and happier. It gets cars off the road and cleans up the air. It’s a quality-of-life issue.”
The CLCT, committed to protecting open space for future generations, owns more than 800 acres in Clinton, with many properties open to the public. These include Peters Memorial Woods, Jesse Buell Forest, Kenilworth Forest, and Chittenden Hill Preserve. In 2015, Alan says, the trust purchased the Weiss, Loveday, and Maltese properties, totaling 40.36 acres.
“This land protects two wells that produce a million gallons of fresh drinking water per day to families and businesses in Clinton and Madison. The trust also is continuing to work on clearing The Elliot Preserve to maintain it as a meadow. This is a beautiful open field and salt marsh directly behind Clinton’s town hall.”
As for sailing, the former Belknapper found his way back to the water in 2008, when he dropped anchor in Clinton.
“My buddy Sam Cooper and I were meeting up a couple times a week to sail out of Clinton Town Beach. We were having a blast learning on a small catamaran, but we almost always had the whole harbor to ourselves, and I thought, Clinton kids should be out here!”
Because of their calm, protected waters, he says, Clinton Harbor and the bay formed by Cedar Island, Hammock Point, and Meigs Point are ideal for sailing, especially using dinghies—shallow-draft boats that can sail in places not navigable by larger craft.
In summer 2014, Alan hatched the idea of making Clinton a sailing destination—with affordable lessons for kids—and the following year, the Clinton Sailing Club (CSC) was formed.
“CSC really started rolling in 2015. That spring, I got together a volunteer board, and we developed our program and planned our infrastructure in partnership with Clinton Parks & Recreation. Bo Potter, director of Clinton Parks and Rec, has been a huge supporter and guide throughout this process. We couldn’t have gotten this far without him. In January 2016 we were ready to ask the town for funding. First Selectman Bruce Farmer was very positive about CSC, but he knew budgets were tight and suggested we form a nonprofit instead. That was great advice. In the past three months, we have raised nearly $25,000 of our $50,000 goal and have 92 kids enrolled out of 128 total spaces! I’m thrilled at the level of support from the Clinton and surrounding shoreline sailing communities and very grateful to all of our donors and parents who have enrolled their kids.”
Looking to the future, says Alan, “I’m very interested in the nonprofit sector. So starting up Clinton Sailing Club has been a great learning experience for me.”
When he’s not showing homes or trimming the sails, Alan’s own children—two sons aged 6 and 2—are his main focus.
“Having kids was by far the best decision we ever made. Every day, they make me laugh more and more. I love them to pieces.”