In death, Carl Bergstresser hopes to preserve his Braden River property for wildlife.
Carl Bergstresser had a passion for nature, and especially for the place he called home along the Braden River.
His 12-acre parcel at the end of Linger Lodge Road was one of four originally owned by himself and his siblings, after being passed down from his family. On his property and at the nearby Linger Lodge, originally a fish camp created by his grandparents in the 1940s, he grew up camping and fishing.
“Carl grew up in the woods,” longtime friend and neighbor Ed Berardi said. “He always appreciated the nature around him and did what he did to protect it.”
His passion lives even after his death, which came on July 26 at the age of 56.
With no immediate heirs, Bergstresser’s estate has been handed to three executors with a will that states the land cannot be developed.
“The real estate is to be preserved perpetually, on a permanent basis for wildlife,” co-executor and local attorney Bradley Magee said. “The plan is to find a nonprofit or government that will take it and use it for conservation.”
Once the probate process is complete, Magee will add a deed restriction barring the property from development. Then, it will be transferred to the appropriate entity.
“We’re a few months away from that,” Magee said.
Friends describe Bergstresser as an Old Florida outdoorsman, who loved to fish, watch nature and come to the aid of neighbors. He loved his dog, Jed, and a was a regular at Linger Lodge restaurant.
Bergstresser kept the head of a 12-foot gator on his end table in his home.
He called authorities when people illegally tried to hunt hogs on the land. And, after he protected himself against a 7-foot-long rattlesnake with a pitchfork, he swiftly carried it over to Berardi’s house.
“He brought it down to show my kids, to expose them to what the snake looks like and what it sounds like,” said Berardi, a father of two. “He had hogs he fed regularly at his house. They all had names. There were 14 of them at one point.”
“Carl was very passionate. There’s a lot of wildlife out here,” said Phil St. John, who befriended Bergstresser and is also an executor of his estate. “He had story after story about bobcats, foxes and other animals.
“He really thought this was his slice of heaven back here and was genuinely concerned for the woods. He said he and his father hand-cleared this land, where they would camp out as kids.
Ultimately, he told friends, he hoped the preservation of his acreage also would spur the salvation of the ones now proposed for a 33-home development on the three acres adjacent to him (see box, right). That land is under contract to Neal Communities.
His friends hope the land can be preserved, as well, but know that it won’t be the same without him.
“Carl will be dearly missed,” Berardi said.