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Sisters to donate their home for park

Published: Friday, Feb. 1, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

HARVARD – Growing up, Barbara and Beverly Behm had their own little slice of wilderness in their backyard – a stream, a garden, a wooded home for wildlife. Now, the two are arranging to open their personal park to the public.

Barbara and Beverly are writing a provision into their trust and will to – upon their deaths – donate the property at 700 N. Howard St. to Harvard, as well as money needed to turn it into a city park.

“We’re both conservationists and understand the loss of habitat and how that affects nature and the community,” Barbara Behm said. “So we thought it would be a shame if the land went to a development and crowded out the animals and the recreation aspects.”

The approximately 1.75 acres, on a dead-end street off West Diggins Street, adjoins Little League baseball fields and extends back to railroad tracks.

The Behm sisters, who are in their early 60s, also have offered to leave money to transform the property, but those details are yet to be worked out, City Administrator Dave Nelson said.

Their proposal was referred by the City Council to the Parks and Recreation Committee, which accepted it Wednesday night.

“Particularly with the parks, you’re always running on a low budget, and the acquisition of park land is expensive,” Nelson said. “So when you get a donation, you’re saving money in the long run.”

Barbara and Beverly Behm said they are excited that something lasting will come from the property where their grandpa built a house. Their father, Emil, met his wife, Margaret, four houses down.

Margaret Behm, a longtime secretary at Harvard High School, where Barbara and Beverly graduated, died in 2008. Beverly, a retiree from the printing industry, then moved back into her childhood home.

“It’s mostly to memorialize and honor our parents,” said Barbara, who works as a librarian and writes children books in Mequon, Wis. “And we just wanted to do something nice for the nice town of Harvard.”

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