Friday, 17 May 2024 07:54

A daughter’s gift to the past ... and future

Carol Hillestad
Poconos /
| 14 May 2024 | 11:08

We humans love to belong — to families, clans, societies, friend groups, clubs and congregations of all kinds.

Some of us also long for another kind of connection: a connection with the natural world, with its rhythms and peace, its forests and wetlands and wildlife, its profound beauty.

A few of us are able to live this way. Not just famous thinkers like Thoreau at Walden, but also folks right here in our neck of the Pocono woods. Marsha Hallett’s mother was one. Jean Dietz was a college professor, the kind of teacher students remember for a lifetime and sometimes call to say “you changed my life.” She commuted to the city campus for decades, but lived in rural Barrett Township, Pennsylvania — in a simple, uninsulated cabin, on the marshy edges of a fen.

“Our family has been here for generations, and this land was my mother’s true home. She loved it,” Hallett said. “So do I, and so do my children. Preserving it took time. But thanks to the land trust, now I know all this beauty and wildlife is protected. Permanently protected.”

In 2023, working with Pocono Heritage Land Trust, Hallett placed a conservation easement on 29 acres of water and marsh, pine and spruce, conserving this unique habitat — including part of the fen. The property protects the water of Mill Creek. Keeping the land in its natural state and undeveloped keeps water safe and plentiful for every nearby landowner, as well as trout, eagles, water birds, the forest itself and every living thing — all the way downstream to Brodhead Creek and beyond.

The land Hallett loves is a place where the chattering mind settles, the breath slows, and nature takes over. It still belongs to her. Yet in a very real way, she has kept it safe for her mother, generations of her family — and all of us who care about the natural world.

What is a fen? Fens are a kind of wetland, formed over thousands of years. A fen hosts diverse and often rare plants and animals while capturing and storing carbon, providing natural climate protection.

From resort to preserve: The land Marsha Hallett has preserved was once part of the early resort industry in Barrett Township. In the mid-1800s, her great-great-grandfather Henry Price established Price’s Mountain House — which included an inn, cabins like the one Marsha’s mother lived in (which is being restored), and fully equipped tents for camping. The new railroad brought tourists by the thousands to the Poconos, seeking clean air, pure water, and unspoiled nature.

About conservation easements: Conservation easements are voluntary legal agreements that permanently protect the conservation values of a property by limiting how the land may be used, in perpetuity. Each conservation easement is unique, tailored to the wishes and needs of the property owner. Pocono Heritage Land Trust has worked with landowners throughout the Poconos and today protects more than 5,000 acres in our area.

About Pocono Heritage Land Trust: Pocono Heritage Land Trust (PHLT) is dedicated to the conservation of important lands and waters — including open space, agricultural landscapes, and natural areas in the Poconos. The beauty and diversity of the Pocono landscape have drawn people to this region for well over a century. Today, more than ever before, long-term protection of precious natural areas depends in part on the actions of concerned private landowners. Preserving our natural legacy and ensuring that your land is protected in its natural state can bring many benefits. Perhaps the most gratifying is the knowledge that present and future generations will cherish the natural areas your actions made possible. For information: or 570-424-1514.

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