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The Preserve was founded in 1974 when Tim and Peg Spencer Behrendt bought
3.5 acres on Shawangunk Road in Cold Brook, N.Y. This place
was chosen because no highways or other human sounds could be heard. They
dismantled a small hay shed, gathered old windows and other pieces of
discarded lumber and recycled it into a small house on their small parcel of
deep forest wetland
This was the Vietnam War era and they wanted to create and live in a place
where senseless killing and destruction didn’t exist.
It didn’t take long for them to realize that their small sanctuary was
compromised by neighboring hunters, trappers, and loggers. Piece by piece,
they bought adjacent parcels of property as they were put up for sale, as
the money could be raised, and land partners found to help finance the
purchase. By living a lifestyle that required low capital, they were able to
put a major portion of their earnings into land.
This lifestyle entailed driving old VW’s without heaters, with frames supported
by lumber wired to the underside, and hiking ½ mile after work in the winter
through deep snow to get home to their unheated cottage, carrying groceries
on their backs. They started out with candles and kerosene lamps for lights,
and a small wood stove that wouldn’t hold a fire through the night. The
insulation was minimal at first. A candle set on the floor would blow out.
Over time, they added solar power, and now use a combination of solar and ecologically produced commercial power. (They do not wish to support nuclear power, an industry that
leaves dangerous waste for centuries). They've added more insulation, a better wood stove,
back-up LP heaters and many, many more acres that are now forever wild,
protected from logging, hunting, trapping as long as there is a Board of
Directors for the Preserve dedicated to it’s continuation and preservation.
Should it be necessary to dissolve the Preserve in its present form, the
Board is legally committed to turn over the lands to a similar organization
to continue its preservation objectives..
The primary purpose of the Preserve is protection of the Preserve lands.
This is facilitated by posting and patrolling. Hunting, trapping,
lumbering, and recreational vehicles are not allowed. Major alteration of the flora, fauna and
topographic structure of the property are not allowed. This makes it
possible for the life forms on these lands to live with minimal human
Because these lands are protected, we are able to offer a natural and safe
environment to the general public in which to offer educational services and
cultural programs to foster enjoyment and appreciation of nature.
The philosophy behind this is called “ahimsa” the philosophical basis of
Mahatma Gandhi. This means “minimal harm”. Realizing that it is impossible
to live without having some impact and destruction of other life-forms
(animals and plants) at the Preserve, we try to minimize that impact while
experiencing a worthwhile existence. The criteria for this must vary
according to individual needs and the environment we live in, therefore,
ahimsa is a subjective concept. There are no absolutes. What is minimal harm
in one case may not be in another.
In this Preserve, we also practice democratic decision making including
“seats” representing the interest of land, sky, water, vegetation and
wildlife. We value such things as; recycling, a small human population
within the preserve, organic gardening, frugal water use,
renewable – safe and well used energy, vegetarian or near vegetarian diet,
movement towards self-sufficiency, holistic health practices and simple life
Preserve founders Timothy Hume Behrendt, and Peggy Spencer Behrendt in 1974