Above: Sydney Antonio out for a walk in her woodlot. Below: Evon Antonio (in hat)
discusses forest management with Cornell Associate Professor Shorna Broussard-Allred as part of a woods talk event.
[ STEWARDSHIP STORY ]
If you asked Sydney Antonio how she came to own 450 well-managed acres
of forestland in upstate New York, she would tell you it had a lot to do with
hating summer camp as a child.
She really hated it.
In 1959, her mom sent Sydney and her brother off to a rustic wilderness
camp, where Sydney found the situation too structured, conforming, and
“My mother dropped me off on Sunday,” Sydney recalled, “and Monday I
wrote her a letter explaining my concerns.” Her mother didn’t get the letter,
though, and so she never picked Sydney up. By Friday, her patience had run
its course and she was determined to put an end to her camper’s nightmare.
Sydney packed up her bags and ever so discreetly left the premises of the
camp. She was all of 12 years old.
She walked to the side of the highway, stuck her thumb out, and started
hitchhiking. Sometime later, a truck driver picked her up and drove her near
the edge of the city before dropping her off. “He gave me enough money to
take the subway home,” she added.
“When I got home I was prepared to get the licking of my life, but nothing
happened. I was grounded, but I was allowed to read as many books as I
wanted, so I was a happy camper at home,” she said.
She spent the rest of the summer at home in the city, an act that prompted
her mother and maternal grandmother to go looking for some place that would
get Sydney off the streets of the Big Apple during the summer months.
“They found this parcel,” said Sydney of the property she now owns in
Haines Falls, New York. “It had been thoroughly timbered, so they got it
cheaply.” Her mother bought 450 acres and her grandmother purchased
another 275 acres in 1959.
Because of their concerns about
possible discrimination during the
purchasing process, they formed
a corporation to make the deal.
Sydney’s mother was an
engineer, a graduate of Cooper
Union. Her father was a Tuskegee
Airman and lawyer. “The following
year they built a house. They did it
piece by piece. Being an engineer,
mother knew what to do,” said
Sydney. “I spent the rest of my
summers here in Haines Falls,
Decades later, after 20 years as a passenger service agent with Pan
American Airlines, Sydney decided to move permanently upstate away from
the city. Her husband, Evon, shared her love of the outdoors, so they bought
a parcel of land in the same county as Sydney’s mother’s land and built their
Unfortunately, their house burned down after an explosion caused by a
leaking propane valve in November 1997.
They decided to rebuild their home, but this time they did it on Sydney’s
mother’s land. Their new domicile was built on the family compound and
they’ve remained ever since. Today, Sydney and Evon own 450 acres of land,
about 445 of which is forested. The remaining 5 acres or so is just the land