Local veterinarian, founder of Lands at Hillside Doug Ayers dies at 56

By Brigid Edmunds and Tom Venesky - [email protected] - [email protected] | September 13th, 2017 5:04 pm - updated: 10:49 pm.


For a full obituary, see Page 5A.

SHAVERTOWN — In addition to his many accomplishments in several fields, Dr. Douglas Ayers was remembered Wednesday as simply a “great guy.”

“He’d do anything for you,” Chris Belleman, executive director of the Luzerne County Flood Authority, said of Ayers, who died Tuesday at age 56 after a battle with leukemia. “I’m heartbroken.”

Belleman and Ayers, a Noxen native, worked together on the flood authority board. Ayers was also known for founding The Lands at Hillside Farms near Trucksville and opening the Plains Animal Hospital. In addition to all that, the trained veterinarian was a co-founder of the state chapter of the Republicans for Environmental Protection.

Belleman said Ayers was an “asset to the board of the flood authority, and brought a wealth of knowledge and ideas to the table.”

Ayers’ most visible legacy, however, may be The Lands at Hillside.

His goal for the site was to “educate people how every citizen might make sensible life choices where if enough of us practice these sustainable/sensible actions that our world would allow posterity to inherit a place with all the resources and opportunities we have now,” according to his obituary.

Rick Koval worked as a land protection specialist with the North Branch Land Trust, another organization Ayers helped start, not long after the group was founded in 1993. He said Ayers’ legacy will live on in the organizations and businesses he nurtured from the ground up.

“He lived his dream, but it was way too short,” Koval said. “He was a brilliant man with conservative principles and a liberal heart.”

Koval called Ayers a mentor who had a strong passion to preserve and educate when it came to the natural world. He was a man of action as well, Koval added, sacrificing his money and time to preserve land and history, plus help others.

“Doug is an icon of conservation, education and goodwill,” Koval said. “If he had more time, he would’ve saved the world.”

Ayers went on to serve as chairman of the board for the Land Trust for several years until 2010. To date, the organization has preserved more than 18,000 acres in eight counties in the region.

Paul Lumia, executive director of the Land Trust, lauded Ayers’ work in founding the organization and later doing the same thing with Hillside. Both groups have a common goal, Lumia said.

“Through his efforts to found the Land Trust, many important natural areas have been preserved for future generations. And with Hillside, he took it a step further and educated people on the importance of sustainability, which goes hand-in-hand with land conservation,” Lumia said.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to him.”

Ayers attended Coughlin High School and King’s College. He attended veterinary school at the University of Pennsylvania.

He leaves behind his fiancée, Julie Schneggenburger, of New York.

“He’s going to be missed very much,” said Belleman.


By Brigid Edmunds and Tom Venesky

[email protected]

[email protected]


For a full obituary, see Page 5A.

Reach Brigid Edmunds at 570-991-6113 or on Twitter @brigidedmunds

Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TLTomVenesky