(Somers, NY) – The family of Robert and Christine Beshar, former owners of the iconic Stone House Farm on Somerstown Road north of Somers hamlet, donated the open land adjoining their beloved Stone House on Friday, April 21st to the Somers Land Trust (SLT). The family had sold the historic house and its surrounding 26 acres earlier this year. However, two parcels of open land remained. Both parcels abut Somerstown Road, Route 202, and provide a scenic vista that preserves the historic character of the entire road corridor north of Somers hamlet.
The most southerly parcel of almost 56 acres is almost entirely wetland and provides the water supply for Heritage Hills Water District. The property contains a scenic pond, at the corner of which is a beaver lodge, and is heavily vegetated with shrub and upland forest. One entrance to Heritage Hills also runs through the property.
The second parcel lies on the eastern side of Route 202 and slightly north of the southerly parcel. The property contains a large pond complex and surrounding forest and also supplies water to the Water District. A number of informal walking trails attest to the neighborhood popularity of this part of the property for recreation.
Both parcels were part of Gerard Crane’s farm and famous circus menagerie in the mid-nineteenth century. The adjacent barn housed a rhinoceros who is reputed to have bathed in the stream flowing through the southerly parcel, thereby lending the name Rhinoceros Creek. The rhinoceros also appears to have strolled into the hamlet as well, requiring eight horses to bring her home.* The Land Trust is considering ways of honoring this legacy in its choice of a name for the parcels.
Protecting both properties in perpetuity will conserve land of great importance. Since both are water-supply land and lie over a major, mapped aquifer, their conservation protects drinking water vital to the surrounding community especially in Somers Hamlet. Given the ponds, marsh areas, swamps and attached upland areas, the land also supports important wildlife habitat. Finally, these lands connect the hamlet to New York City watershed land along the Croton River corridor. SLT intends to construct trails through the property and then open it to the public. This will not only provide quiet recreation and enjoyment of the scenic beauty of the land, but it will also provide a safe walking corridor to and from the Somers Hamlet to local residents. The Land Trust also intends to approach NYCDEP to extend its trail network into the adjacent watershed lands and the Town to continue the larger north-south trail network that has been part of the Town’s master plan for decades.
In order to ensure the land is conserved in perpetuity, Somers Land Trust is partnering with Westchester Land Trust for grant funding to support a conservation easement on the property to be held by Westchester Land Trust. A conservation easement, as part of the deed on the property, guarantees the land will always be protected as open space.
Robert Beshar served for many years on the Somers Planning Board. The family contributed both time and funds to SLT over the years and hosted two very successful and well-attended fundraisers to support the land trust’s work on the Angle Fly Preserve. Christine noted, “My husband Bob and I devoted considerable passion, time and resources to preserving the stunning architecture and natural setting surrounding the Stone House Farm; we are very happy the Somers Land Trust will continue to look after preserving the land and ponds.” Christine Beshar and her daughter Fritz worked especially hard to ensure a smooth ownership transition with this inspired donation.