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 compromized 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, frames supported by lumber wired to the underside, 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 (although commercial electricity is now available – they do not wish to support nuclear power, an industry that leaves dangerous waste for centuries), 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 for preservation.

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 impact.

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 – well spread out, 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 styles.

What the Preserve Offers

Guided tours of the Preserve are offered to educate individuals and groups to identify birds, plants, insects & animals and learn about ecologically friendly lifestyles; showing the practical application of solar power, conservative use of water, using recycled building materials, safe recycling of human waste, low energy food preservation techniques, practical organic gardening, conservative fuel consumption.

1. Nuggets January 2020.pdf
2. Nuggets February 2020.pdf
3. Nuggets March 2020.pdf
4. Nuggets April 2020.pdf
5. Nuggets May 2020.pdf
6. Nuggets June 2020.pdf

A small Craft Shoppe/Arts Studio is available for workshops and offers hand-made or ecologically friendly items such as Adirondack willow baskets, rustic furniture, local photographs, recordings of nature sounds with music, etc.

Overnight retreats are offered to individuals and groups. These visitors may walk on a trail, bike on Preserve bicycles, canoe on the Black creek with Preserve canoes, meditate, use the library, practice yoga, attend a class or workshop. The purpose of a retreat is to allow you to experience nature in a peaceful environment, encouraging bonding to nature and the desire to protect it. Whispering Pine Lodge (two bedrooms/kitchen/bath/living room) with full modern amenities is available as well as a campsite for rustic camping with tent or RV by an unpolluted stream, and a one room rustic style cottage are available. Guests must provide their own bedding and food. Contact us for further information.

Educational activities are offered throughout the year through workshops at the preserve, guided tours and a Nature Library for visitors of about 1,000 volumes. Check our Calendar of Events.

Outside of the Preserve, we offer a slide presentation about the Preserve and our lifestyle here, which may be combined with a musical presentation by HARP & HARMONY. Contact us for booking dates.

Workshops occur regularly on related topics, including nature crafts (basketry, rustic woodworking, etc.), alternative energy, bird & plant identification, Zen & Yoga, holistic health, emergency self-defense, drama, music, art, self-sufficiency skills (saw sharpening, building with recycled materials, etc.), organic gardening. Check our Calendar of Events for upcoming workshops.

News releases on environmental protection issues are published in newspapers and magazines when possible. Our newsletter is mailed to a list of past visitors and interested people via US Postal service or e-mail citing the activities of the Preserve and offering advice on ecological issues of lifestyle.

Publications of books and recordings produced by Preserve affiliates FOREST PRESS and HARP & HARMONY are offered to the public in support of the Preserve on ecologically related topics. The recordings include nature sounds recorded within the Preserve and music performed by professional musicians.

Deep Ecology awards are awarded annually to area individuals and organizations that have made a substantial effort to preserve & protect the environment. These are sometimes monetary and sometimes in the form of an appropriate book on ecology donated to a public library.

Soft release in the Preserve is made possible for re-habilitated wildlife offering a natural environment with some/minimal human supervision to facilitate their return to a natural lifestyle.

Naturally occurring seedlings of trees in the Preserve forest which are too crowded for survival are offered to people willing to plant them in optimal conditions for the purpose of re-forestation on treeless lands.

Maintenance of the buildings, trails, publications, equipment, etc., of the Preserve is accomplished by volunteers. Volunteers are necessary to ensure perpetuation of this endeavor as we have no paid staff. Monetary Donations are also greatly needed and appreciated as there are many expenses regarding building maintenance, communication and publication costs.

Consider booking us for a slide presentation about the Preserve, and/or a concert at your school, library, church or organization to help us share our lifestyle and ideas about low-impact living and the preservation of life.

We need ideas and facilitators/leaders for programs at the Retreat center. The building and space there is intended to be used by like minded people and groups so if you have something to offer or need a space for an environmentally oriented, reflective or cultural event, consider using this place.




back to top