Gift of Nature
It's the largest single gift of real estate in the conservancy's forty-year history, and executive director Susan Lackey is excited by its potential. "All our other reserves are entirely wild," she says. "This preserve's a more parklike setting." The Reicherts drained swampland when they purchased it in 1964, carved out rough nature trails, and turned one of the two ponds on Portage Creek into a swimming hole in summer and a skating rink in the winter.
While the donation assures the property will never be developed, neither will it be a public park. A caretaking couple continues to live on a home on the property, and the donation agreement stipulates that visitors must first obtain permission from the Land Conservancy. "[Dr. Reichert] was concerned about it being overused," Lackey explains. A trial run suggested the potential problems; the conservancy allowed in a few visitors to walk around, but when word got out, crowds appeared, parking spaces were snatched up, and neighbors complained. (The conservancy hopes to provide more parking.)
Lackey and staff are talking with a Boy Scout troop about campouts and with a startup environmental education center about children's programs. Lackey thinks the preserve may have special appeal for town kids. It's a place, she says, where "kids can go out and see the wilderness, but they're only fifteen minutes from home." Whether visitors will be allowed to swim or skate on the ponds hasn't been decided.