Stars align for family to grant Dr. Becker's wish: 154 acres preserved
GUILDERLAND — Dr. Milford Becker, veterinarian, put in writing, before his death, that he wanted his land preserved. Now, seven years after he died, his wish is coming true.
The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, along with the Open Space Institute and the Nature Conservancy, have purchased 154 acres of land, along the Bozenkill, from the Becker family.
“My father wanted to preserve the land for future generations,” said Linda Becker.
Dr. Becker specialized in treating small animals, but also had a soft spot for birds, and the Department of Environmental Conservation often sent birds to his clinic for rehabilitation.
“We called him the Bird Man of Altamont,” said his daughter.
She said her father had an affinity for nature, and loved to walk in his fields, counting birds and imitating their calls.
Before Dr. Becker died, in 2007, he had contacted several agencies in an attempt to preserve some of the land he owned, but was unsuccessful.
After his death, his family pushed hard to grant his wish, and Ms. Becker said they are all grateful that they could make it happen.
“They were really dedicated to this and motivated to see it happen,” said Mark King, executive director of the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy. “They made a pretty big sacrifice on their part.”
The Beckers, he said, sold the land to the three organizations at a price far below market cost — $100,000 for the 154 acres. Each organization contributed the same amount to the purchase price, although the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy is the lead agency on the project.
“If the land were to sell at full market value, we probably could not have managed it,” said King.
He said the initial outreach for the preservation came from Dr. Becker, roughly 15 years ago, but it never really went anywhere due to lack of funding and the capacity to take on a new project.
“It languished for a long time, and then when Dr. Becker and his wife both passed away and his family was trying to figure out what to do, it really gained new legs,” said King. “The stars sort of aligned for everything to come together.”
The owners were ready and willing, and funding was available through the Acquisition Fund, which was created by the late Henri Plant and his family, to help protect the upper Bozenkill area.
As far back as the 1970s, said King, Albany County had studied the corridor along the Bozenkill and reported that it was a priority for conservation. The report, said King, declared the corridor a unique natural area and an important component for local water supply.
The county reviewed foreclosed properties in the area designated important for conservation, and offered them to the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy — known back then as the Albany Land Conservancy — which decided to accept them, even though they were remote and landlocked.
“They were accepted with the idea that someday we would acquire another parcel that would connect them all,” said King.
The Becker land, he said, pulls the whole area together and makes a continuous preservation area of 214 acres.
It also provides a point of accessibility to the Bozenkill.
“For the first time, people will really be able to see a big stretch of the stream,” said King.
The land, which he describes as being “spitting distance” from Altamont, provides one-and-a-half miles of stream frontage.
The land will eventually be open to the public, and will feature a parking lot with a kiosk, and walking trails, but, said King, that likely will not happen until the spring of 2015.
Other preserves along the Bozenkill include the Christman Preserve, in Duanesburg, and Wolf Creek Falls, in Knox, and, although the two are not connected, and won’t be connected to the Becker land, either, King said he hopes that a connection will come in the future.
Ms. Becker said she, and her family, are happy to be able to bless future generations with the land and to keep it forever wild.
Her father’s favorite hymn, she, said, was “How Great Thou Art,” and really reflected how he felt about his land. Through tears, she recited, “When through the woods and forest glades I wander/ And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees/ When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur/ And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze/ Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee/ How great Thou art, how great Thou art.”