For nearly 30 years, MaryAnn DiPinto held her dream job with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), enforcing the state’s Wetlands Protection Act. For the past five years, she’s run her own consulting business, giving her flexibility to pursue other interests, such as spending time with family, growing and preserving food, making wine from wild grapes, and “playing outdoors.”
A Vassar College graduate who majored in ecology/conservation, MaryAnn’s job with the state involved reviewing proposals for construction in or near wetlands, gathering information to evaluate their compliance with the Wetlands Protection Act, holding site meetings with interested parties, and conditioning or denying the proposed work.
When she was offered an opportunity for early retirement at age 60, she formed Three Oaks Environmental, which continues her work with wetlands. “With my DEP expertise, folks were eager to hire me to help them through the design and permitting processes,” she said. “The best part of my work is in the field where I can play ‘CSI’ of the environment – identifying plants, analyzing soils, noting important wildlife habitat.”
Although she doesn’t advertise, her past connections and word-of-mouth keeps her busier than she anticipated. “I have to learn to say no when I really can’t take on another project and keep my sanity,” she noted. She wants to set aside time to go kayaking in summer and skiing in winter. When she attended a conference in Atlanta last summer, she took time to camp along the way from Massachusetts to Georgia, sleeping in a tent and cooking in a Dutch oven over the fire.
Besides her environmental work, MaryAnn plays guitar at the Saturday evening service at her church, has served on her town’s planning board, and was assistant scoutmaster for her son Matt’s Boy Scout troop, where she taught wilderness survival skills, primitive camping, nature observation and environmental science. Her Women in the Wild weekend workshops include nature observation, hiking, outdoor cooking, drumming, yoga, stargazing, and a campfire with storytelling, singalong and toasted marshmallows.
MaryAnn lives with her partner Gene, his daughter and her partner on 11 acres of land in a small Massachusetts town. Recently, she bought a tractor to convert more of the property to agriculture; she has learned to grow, harvest and preserve vegetables for year-round consumption. She picks wild “Concord” grapes to make wine. She has also completed hunter education and become a mentor in the Massachusetts Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) Program. She prefers the venison and wild turkey in her freezer to store-bought meat, and keeps chickens for eggs and entertainment.
MaryAnn is happy to continue doing what she has always loved – protecting and enjoying the natural world. “I love my work outdoors, trying to blend in as much as possible to catch glimpses of wildlife that pass by without feeling threatened by my presence,” she said.
On property adjacent to 50 acres of conservation land in Royalston, MA, she’s building a small cabin with the help of her stepson. “It’s a favorite place for me to just get away and be still,” she remarked. A peaceful place where she can enjoy the wilderness she’s had a hand in preserving.