By Edie Johnson
The 200-year Legacy of Morgan, Ingells & van Heerden Conservation at Clove Brook Farm
Dedicated to: Sandra Ingells van Heerden October 12, 1932 – May 17, 2019
There are certain families who were said to have “Made America”. Certainly no one family can make that kind of impression without the help of many others, but when generations of a family join forces toward a particular goal it can make a mark that lasts a century or more. Such is the case of John Pierpont Morgan, who purchased a large swath of land in Cornwall that has become iconic farmland along Otterkill and Clove Roads at the border of Cornwall and Blooming Grove. On his passing the farm stayed in family hands, and through the preservation efforts of his granddaughter, conservationist Sandra Van Heerden, and her husband Jan van Heerden, these generations have provided one of the most beautiful and bucolic views in the region. Here tourists come to see the historic Moodna Trestle and rolling farmland at the foothills of the 2,500 Schunnemunk State Park. Back in the day, Morgan brought fellow financiers here to view the beauty and ride horses in what has become protected parkland . Sandra was an avid equestrian, and horses and a variety of other farm animals have lived on the homestead ever since. With the Moodna Trestle just over the hill and access to the Long Path and Appalachian Trail up the hillside it has become the treasured jewel of this corner of the county. Even George Clooney came here to film. But while she entertained at the farm graciously, Sandra van Heerden treasured the farm for its quiet solitude and the tremendous ecological corridor that surrounds it, including rare and endangered animal species, flora and fauna. She lived another more public life, having been influential in endeavors in New York as well as across the world. She traveled with Jan, who she met in South Africa, worked for the benefit of New York City social services and Planned Parenthood, along with travelling numerous times to South Africa as well as an extended stay in Taiwan for her husband ‘s UN Activities. In 2001 Clove Brook Farm was given a PERMANENT CONSERVATION EASEMENT through the Orange County Land Trust. Conservation easements vary as far as how strict the conditions are, whether hay may be grown, whether restricted to agricultural use possible allowable structures on the site and the like. But whether the Clove Brook homestead stays in her family, or eventually becomes part of the Land Trust or one of the area’s other 72 preservation groups, or to another preservationist wanting to protect a view, a lifestyle and a very special vision of nature, the end goal, to secure this 200-year old farm in permanent preservation has been set in perpetuity.
Editor’s Note: Every time I read of this family’s great conservation efforts I get a goosebumps, because of that family’s outstanding contribution to our community essence, but also because it is likely the first significant view of Hudson River countryside that I ever saw. When I was about 2 weeks old my family brought me from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn to my grandparents’ Mountainville country home. We spent all of our summers here, and passed the Trestle every time we went from their house to our summer cabin on the Moodna Creek. The view is in my blood and in my genes. When my grandparents passed I cried. But while saying goodbye to our Cornwall and Blooming Grove country homes, my mom hugged me and said “You never know…some day you may be back and living right on the other side of that hill.” and here I am.
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