Conservation Profile: Maureen Hales
In 2008, Maureen and Peter Hales purchased an old clapboard farmhouse in the middle of the Rest Plaus Historic District, a nationally recognized open space area in Marbletown that’s been in continuous agricultural production for over 250 years. Through neighbors, they learned that Rondout-Esopus Land Conservancy held conservation easements all around them and that their property was a missing piece in a large swath of protected land. “We believed in and supported conservation efforts, but we didn’t have any direct experience,” Maureen says. After meeting with then-president Walter Levy, the Hales walked their land with RELC volunteers and learned more about the Conservancy.
Together the couple seriously considered the future of their property. “The idea that someone could subdivide it was inconceivable to us,” Maureen says. “One day while driving over the mountain from New Paltz, I realized that many of the vistas I’d enjoyed since first coming to the area in the early ’80s hadn’t changed, and that I’d taken it for granted. It occurred to me that the fact that these vistas hadn’t changed wasn’t by chance but rather by design. It’s about planning, and Peter and I realized that we could be part of the planning.” The Hales began the easement process within a year of purchasing their property.
"We didn't want the easement to limit the possibilities for varied future agricultural use,” Peter said at the time, “and RELC was sympathetic and understanding of the triple mandate to preserve the visual, agricultural and cultural integrity of the entire area and our small part in the larger picture."
Two years after putting their land in easement, Peter Hales joined RELC’s board of directors. Peter passed away in 2014 and the following year Maureen assumed his seat on the board, where she continues to serve today.
The experience of having their land in easement has shifted Maureen’s conception about stewardship from the individual to the communal. “When I think about our property I no longer think about it in isolation because now, as Peter said, it’s part of a much larger picture. We are all part of the shared experience of this place,” she says. “And we’re all responsible for what we look at each day.”