SOMERS, N.Y. – Some 115 acres that were once part of the iconic Stone House Farm off Route 202 have been donated to the Somers Land Trust for preservation as open space.
The gift, from the family of Robert and Christine Beshar, comprises two tracts. One, of more than 55 acres at the farm’s southern end, is mostly wetland. The other, better than 59 acres, lies east of Route 202 (Somerstown Road), slightly north of the other parcel.
Although the historic house and 26 surrounding acres were sold earlier this year, the Beshar family retained the two parcels of open land. Both provide scenic vistas that preserve the historic character of the Route 202 corridor north of downtown Somers.
The wetlands property, the most southerly tract, supplies the Heritage Hills Water District. A scenic pond, heavily vegetated with shrub and upland forest, has a beaver lodge in one corner. One entrance to Heritage Hills also runs through the property.
The second parcel, on the east side of Route 202, contains a large pond complex, surrounding forest and informal walking trails, all attesting to the property’s popularity as a neighborhood recreation site. Like the property’s counterpart across the road, it also supplies the Heritage water district.
Both properties are water-supply land and lie over a major, mapped aquifer. Their conservation in perpetuity, the land trust said in a statement, will protect the drinking water of surrounding communities, especially in the Somers hamlet. The ponds, marsh areas, swamps and attached upland areas of the properties also support a wildlife habitat.
The land trust plans to create trails through the property. Open to the public, they will connect Somers hamlet to New York City’s watershed land along the Croton River corridor.
Somers Land Trust is partnering with Westchester Land Trust for grant funding to support a conservation easement on the property. Westchester Land Trust would hold the easement. “A conservation easement will permanently extinguish development rights on the property because it becomes part of the deed,” Michael Barnhart, the Somers Land Trust president, said.
Gerard Crane, one of Somers’ early circus entrepreneurs, built Stone House in 1849. The farm was home to his circus menagerie, including a rhinoceros that reportedly strolled into the hamlet, requiring eight horses to bring her back. The animal bathed in a stream flowing through the southerly parcel, inspiring the name Rhinoceros Creek. Somers Land Trust is considering ways of honoring this legacy in its choice of a name for the parcels.
Stone House became the Beshar family home in 1985. Robert Beshar, a lawyer who died in 2014, served on the Somers Planning Board and actively supported the land trust’s work. He and his wife, Christine, contributed both time and money and they hosted two Angle Fly Preserve fundraisers.
Acknowledging the latest gift, Somers Land Trust said, “Christine Beshar and her daughter, Fritz, worked especially hard to ensure a smooth ownership transition with this inspired donation.”
Information for this article was provided by the Somers Land Trust.