Marion Karl poses with her dog Leila at the top of a hill on her property in Cooperstown, N.Y., on May 21, 2015. The hill is part of Karl’s 173 acres in a conservation easement, and she hikes to it almost daily to take in a view of Otsego Lake.

To many people, the concept of home can be a visceral experience, a concept that churns up a number of varied memories and emotions. In its most basic form, home refers to a place where one lives permanently—but to someone like Marion Karl, a seasoned traveler as a daughter of missionaries, it serves as a place to lay down deep roots in a community, a place that deserves to be preserved and protected.

Otsego County is home to Cooperstown, N.Y., and Otsego Lake, pictured on May 21, 2015. The Otsego Land Trust recently celebrated reaching the 10,000-acre milestone in conserved lands.

Karl purchased her land on Otsego Lake—just outside of Cooperstown, New York—in three different parcels. “As soon as we [Karl and her husband] bought our house, I started looking for land,” Karl explained. “Now, I have 173 acres, which I bought in three different parcels. I bought 100 with the first purchase. Later on, a lumber company wanted to come in to cut some trees across the way and I thought, ‘That would be terrible,’” leading her to purchase the remaining property and place it under conservation easement though the Otsego Land Trust in 2008 to ensure its protection is in perpetuity.

A ruffed grouse pauses amid Karl’s trees, which can only be cut down under the guidance of a certified forester.

Over the years, Karl’s property has embodied the sense of ‘home’ for her and her family, and now it will be preserved for generations to come. “When I walk with Marion on her land, her love for the forests and fields of her protected place is evident in her eyes, her conversation, and the way she knows every inch of the paths we travel,” said Virginia Kennedy, Executive Director of the Otsego Land Trust.

Karl stops to smell blooming pinxter azalea bushes on her property in Cooperstown, N.Y., on May 21, 2015. “These two were transplanted,” said Karl, who was told by a forester that the trees would overshadow them when they got larger.

A cabin on Karl’s property offers a quiet retreat from downtown Cooperstown, just a few miles away. Nearby is a lean-to that Karl’s oldest son built when he was 16 years old.

Karl’s cabin features a loft and a solar shower.

Karl, who was born to missionaries in India, keeps a collection of flags from every country she has visited.

Bird boxes are arranged in pairs on Karl’s property to let territorial bluebirds coexist with other species.

In the winter time, trails on Karl’s property become paths for cross-country skiing. “The new [cross-country skiing] technique requires wider trails,” Karl said.

Karl stands near a small pond on her property, in Cooperstown’s Cornish Hill.

This is the second of a series of three profiles of property owners that are protecting their land through the Otsego Land Trust, a nonprofit organization dedicated to conserves the natural heritage of woodlands, farmlands and waters that sustain rural communities, promote public health, support wildlife diversity and inspire the human spirit.

To view more photos, visit the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Flickr page.

Photos by Will Parson
Text by Jenna Valente



Stephanie Smith

Larry, thanks so much for your comment! We're so glad you enjoyed the piece. We have some additional images that can be found on our Flickr site:

larry bennett

Beautifully done! Would your writer and photographer share more images and notes? Not for publication or any kind of reproduction, but to get a fuller picture and understand the who, what, when, where and why of this story. It's magical.

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