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New Scotland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, March 4, 2010

Barber donates her mountain to MHLC

By Saranac Hale Spencer

NEW SCOTLAND — Nearly 300 acres on the Helderberg escarpment will remain undisturbed since it has been given to the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy.

Katherine Barber grew up spending her summers exploring the 287-acre property near Route 443 and she and her husband, John, recently donated it to the conservancy so that it would remain open and undeveloped.

In the early part of the last century, Barber’s grandfather, Ten Eyck T. Mosher, bought the land, as he did several other parcels, at a tax sale, she said.  To protect his investments during the Great Depression, he deeded his property to his three daughters.

“He gave a mountain to each daughter,” Barber recalled of what her grandfather would say.  “We would go and visit our mountain and we would tramp around,” she said.

Her parents took their three children up the escarpment in an old Ford Model A, over a rough drive off of Cass Hill Road.

The old stone walls that used to divide fields still wind through the property, Barber said.  That’s her favorite part about it — thinking of all the people who farmed that land.

The land conservancy chose to take the parcel because of its size, visibility, and location, said Jill Knapp, executive director of the not-for-profit organization.  It’s a beautiful piece of property and it is adjacent to an already protected area, so there is added protection for wildlife, she said.

This is the largest donation to the conservancy since its founding in 1992; the biggest before this had been 198 acres in Montgomery County, Knapp said.

The Helderberg Escarpment is a priority for preservation because it is a “unique area,” said Knapp.  Although this property is “quite a ways south of Thacher,” she said, its ecology is similar to what is found in John Boyd Thacher State Park, which the governor has slated for closure because of the state’s budget crisis.

The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy will open the property to the public, Knapp said, but she can’t yet say when.  The organization plans to open land, with a newly built 200-foot boardwalk over wetlands, to the public in Montgomery County, she said.

“That land has always been special to me,” Barber said.  “Even back when I was newly married… I thought if I can’t build a house there, I want it to be saved.”

When she and her husband settled in Seattle, building a house in New Scotland became impractical.

“This makes me so much more happy than trying to develop it in some way,” she said, adding that Shell Wind Energy had approached her about siting wind turbines on the land.  In 2008, the Texas-based company approached several landowners on the gusty Helderbergs with plans to build at least two-dozen industrial-scale turbines.

“On this site we’d prefer not to see wind turbines,” Knapp said when asked about the possibility of wind farms in the area.  “We have a lot of discussions on this,” she said of the debate over wind power.

Making money from the development of the land had an appeal, Barber said, but “I would rather see it preserved for people.”

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