"We were deeply impressed by how knowledgeable everyone is at the Land Trust. We were meeting with friendly, informed people who were anxious to see our plan for the land work out." – Irene O’Garden

Irene O'Garden & John Pielmeier

Irene O’Garden and John Pielmeier bought a fifteen-acre former horse farm off Route 9 in Garrison in 1994. They have invested a good deal of energy, time and, not surprisingly, money to create a place where nature helps them recharge their creative drive. Both are successful playwrights; John is also a screenwriter, and Irene, a poet. This spring the couple talked to HHLT about a plan that had been gestating in their minds for some time: preserving their property so that, after they are gone, it can be a place for writers and artists to work.

In acting to preserve their property in perpetuity, John and Irene share the goal of all conservation easement donors. But they are not content just to prohibit development; they want their land to be even more beautiful than it is now.

Irene: [When we bought this property] it was in really terrible shape. There was no garden, but there were fabulous old trees, including some 100-year-old catalpas. We realized that there had been no trees planted for a long time—there were some generations missing. So we’ve established a catalpa nursery and planted a bunch of crabapples. We’re anticipating the generation that comes after, so we’re putting in a beech: they’re very slow growing. One day last spring, in just a few seconds, I saw a scarlet tanager, an indigo bunting, a tree swallow, a goldfinch and a Baltimore oriole. That sequence—one right after the other, reminded me that this land isn’t just put here for us; it’s here for a lot of other creatures, too.

Irene’s and John’s experience working with HHLT on the easement donation have been positive.

Irene: We were deeply impressed by how knowledgeable everyone is at the Land Trust. We were meeting with friendly, informed people who were anxious to see our plan for the land work out.

The easement that Irene and John are donating is not their first experience working with the Land Trust. In 1996, they donated 27 acres on Horton Road in Cold Spring. The only building on it was a small cabin, and Irene and John loved to walk through the fern-filled woods. Since, at that time, the Land Trust was reluctant to be a property owner, a plan was developed to restrict development on it and then to sell pieces of the parcel to adjacent property owners, many of whom also donated easements on their land.

Irene: The idea of selling that land to a developer was like taking your pet to a slaughter house. The donation of 27 acres eventually led to the preservation of 80 acres. There was a real snowball effect, and the Land Trust got that snowball rolling.

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