Dr. Milford Becker spent the last years of his life trying to preserve some of the land he owned, but he did not see his vision realized. Almost seven years after passing away, his wish is coming true.
Becker, who was a Guilderland veterinarian, reached out to Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy 15 years ago inquiring about how to preserve his land. Becker died in August of 2007 at 91 years old, with his wife, Mary, also passing away before a deal was finalized. The Becker family, though, kept pursuing perseveration efforts and MHLC recently purchased the 156-acre Becker property.
Milford Becker’s daughter, Linda, said her family lived at the corner of Bozenkill and Westfall roads for 42 years. She said they would walk to property almost every day.
“My parents loved the land and especially the birds,” said Linda Becker. “My mother knew the call of every bird, and my father knew every tree on the property.”
Mark King, executive director of the MHLC, said conservation efforts usually involve a long process.
“Land protection and conservation efforts tend to take a long time. They are expensive, and it is hard to get people to agree,” said King. “Sometimes it seems like a miracle when it all comes together, and we couldn’t be happier that it did.”
MHLC also acquired 27 acres of neighboring land several years ago, which expands the preserve to 214 acres, including more than a mile and a half of stream frontage.
“It is a good amount of land, and it is really the conglomeration of three different acquisitions,” said King. “It is a remote and very intact natural area.”
The Bozenkill is one of the major tributaries of the Watervliet Reservoir, which supplies water to Guilderland and the City of Watervliet. The preserve includes heavily forested areas, steep wooded slopes, small fields and extensive stream frontage.
“These acquisitions will eventually allow access to a beautiful stretch of the upper Bozenkill and Bozenkill Ravine — areas that were inaccessible to the public,” King said in a statement. “We look forward to adding parking and trails that will make this an outstanding nature preserve within walking distance of the Village of Altamont.”
According to Charles Gehring, director of the New Netherland Project, Bozenkill is a Dutch term; “kill” refers to a stream and “bozen” means angry or raging. The name becomes especially appropriate following heavy rains or during spring runoff.
Kim Elliman, president and CEO of the Open Space Institute, said preserving the 156-acre Becker property is a testament to the Beckers commitment to conservation efforts.
“As responsible stewards and lovers of nature, Dr. Becker and his family recognized the natural beauty and conservation significance of this special landscape. The designation of their homeland as part of this new preserve provides a wonderful tribute to them and their legacy of stewardship and generosity,” said Elliman.
The Open Space Institute provided significant financial support for the project, according to King, and holds a conservation easement over the property ensuring its permanent protection.
The Nature Conservancy also supported the project through the Doris Saunders Plant Strategic Acquisition Fund, which the late Henri Plant and his family created to help protect the upper Bozenkill area. Henri Plant was closely associated with another preserve along the Bozenkill, the Christman Sanctuary, which spans 120 acres in the Town of Duanesburg.
Plant’s daughter, Suzette, was pleased to see more land around the Bozenkill preserved.
“Forty years ago, a small group of people first set out to keep the Bozenkill forever wild,” said Suzette Plant. “It is wonderful that despite the number of years it is taking to acquire additional land, people are still committed to making the dream come true.”
The MHLC paid approximately $110,000 for the 214 acres of land, with an additional $40,000 set aside to care for the property, according to King. An official name for the land has not been determined, but King said it would likely honor the Becker family.
“We don’t anticipate the real public opening until the spring,” King said, “because we have to do some planning and figure out where to best locate trails and put in a parking lot.”
An official announcement of the preserve formation will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 12, at 10 a.m., at the corner of Westfall Road and Bozenkill Road in Guilderland.