One family’s land preservation is a symbol of hope
Pat Ferrone was just 9 years old when she started visiting Black Lake in the summers, spending time helping with gardens, rowing in flat bottom boats that her aunt and uncle had fashioned, and picking blackberries on the hill near her aunt and uncle’s camp.
For Pat, these summer days spent savoring the slowness of nature and the water were formative to her character. “Black Lake has come to be a place I go back to in my mind, a peaceful place, a place of beauty.”
Pat still prides herself on her “eye” for the heliotrope-tinted purple berries that show up along the ridge on hot, summer days, along with the other gifts of color that nature delights us with regularly.
Because of her love for this area, in 1987 when a farm came up for sale near Hutch’s Hollow, the neighboring farm where she spent her youth, she and her husband, Joe, felt compelled to purchase it.
Pat recalls a spring day, as she, her mother, and sister, were up from Connecticut and out surveying the land. Pat sauntered by the farm’s porch and thought to herself I have seen this before.
Looking down at the book she had been reading, Places in the World a Woman Could Walk, she noticed that the cover of the book resembled the property that she and her husband, Joe, had just aquired. Knowing that the farm had previously been owned by a famous artist, Jack Beal, she looked into the coincidence. As fate would have it, the book cover was painted by the former owner of the farm.
Pat’s sense of being in the right place has only grown over the years. “It never gets stale,” she says. She loves to reconnect with people when she returns to Black Lake, plant her garden, and slow down a little. “Being at the Lake is a real gift that I’m truly grateful for.”
Sharing Joy with others
Joe and Pat began talking with the Indian River Lakes Conservancy about conservation for a portion of their property in 2021. The land officially became protected and owned by IRLC at the end of 2022, and Ferrone Woods Preserve will open to the public summer 2023.
“Someday, when I can no longer enjoy this place, I will really miss it.” She is excited at the notion of opening Ferrone Woods Nature Preserve and seeing many others walk the land and experience the simple joy of reaching the top of the hill and spotting a blackberry.”
Visitors to the Ferrone Woods Preserve will also be able to find enchantment in the vernal ponds, a small Hemlock forest, spring ephemerals, or a walk along a large stone wall from another time.
For Pat and Joe, they also see their land donation as a way to connect with others who may also have conservationist values. After all, it is thanks to the conservancy’s membership — that’s you — for making it possible for IRLC to preserve tracts of land and help conservationists to realize their hopes for the future of their properties.
Imagining a peaceful and protected world
Spending time in wild places and being comfortable being outside, in contemplation, changes us as people. In turn, it affects our communities and our world.
“It makes you listen in a way you might not otherwise,” Pat suggests.
Pat says, “The preserve is meant to be a refuge, a little bit of hope in the midst of our complicated and often destructive world. When we’re facing threats to the literal existence of our species, I felt that taking the step to protect the land was important.”