When Kathleen Kust was just three years old, she and her family relocated from Lexington, Massachusetts to Alexandria, Virginia. During the family’s house hunt, Kust and her brother, who was two at the time, were very keen on the homes that had pools – especially pools that had frogs in them. Eventually, with the help of Kathleen and her brother Robert’s input, the family landed on a home in Alexandria that would accommodate her father’s work that coordinated with the State Department and the World Bank in Washington, D.C.
60 years later, Kathleen still lives in her childhood home located in the heart of Alexandria where the family holds a conservation easement through the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust. When Kathleen first contacted NVCT, she was living thousands of miles away. “I was living in Sonoma, California and deeply involved still with the park department here (in Alexandria) and these issues, because my mother still lived here. I read the newsletter that announced that NVCT was being formed in 1994.”
Shortly thereafter, Kathleen and NVCT began to draw up the easement on her current property. Kathleen recalls that NVCT was the only trust in the area that would cover Alexandria, Virginia and the only one at the time that considered it important to save land in urban areas.
Today, Kathleen and Robert’s property is adjacent to a flourishing community park which allows species to thrive on both her property and the surrounding land. Insects, snakes, salamanders, box turtles, squirrels, migratory and local birds, foxes, raccoons, possums, rabbits, and chipmunks are some of the many wildlife animals Kathleen has “hosted” on her property. This year alone, there was a litter of five foxes that called her property home.
When asked what Kathleen loves most about her property, she said, “It feels like a paradise to me, just in general. It always gives me strength and hope.” Located on the Arlington ridge, Kathleen’s land is home to tree species like Chestnut Oaks and other plants that can withstand dry dappled shade. At the foot of the hill, the Cretaceous clays are exposed. These shrink-swell clays limit drainage, therefore, the plant species that live there must tolerate wet feet. Kathleen’s property also features an artesian spring where she planted a mock Virginia magnolia bog.
“It’s something for the ages, for generations to come. Not only can I have the privilege of living here but I can know that I’ve done something good.”