Over 200 Guests Enjoy Live Music at Rensselaerville Event

On Saturday, June 24, guests flocked to the Daniel Conkling House in Rensselaerville for a one-of-a-kind event with the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy and the brass musicians of the Albany Symphony.

Generously hosted by Stewart Myers at his historic property, this “Celebration of Music and Nature” celebrated the protection of the Eldridge Farm and the preservation of the historic agricultural landscapes of Rensselaerville. An outdoor reception was followed by a performance by the brass musicians of the Albany Symphony, conducted by David Alan Miller. Host Stew Myers was invited to conduct the final encore of the evening.

After the performance, many guests joined MHLC Conservation Director Sarah Walsh for a guided hike around the property. At the end of the evening, guests drove home in a light rain, greeted by a beautiful rainbow.

“We are so grateful to everyone who made the Celebration of Music and Nature at the Daniel Conkling House a very successful event,” writes MHLC Executive Director Mark King. “The winning combination of a stunning setting, a gracious host, and beautiful music created a perfect afternoon. Sunny skies and a steady breeze certainly helped round out the day. Stewart Myers’ restoration of the home and grounds of this historic estate is a gift to all who see the property. For years, the Conkling house appeared to be in its final stage of decay until the acquisition by the Open Space Institute lead to the preservation of the property, and the subsequent sale to Stewart and Roy Myers brought about a rebirth of the home. The property is located across the street from the Eldridge property which was protected by MHLC in 2016 and also adjoins lands of the Huyck Preserve to the north, creating a block of more than 500 acres of preserved lands.”

Check out the photo gallery of this unique summer event below. You can also view these photos on the Times Union’s “Were You Seen” page.

Mark King Presents 25 Years of Conservation with CDRPC on July 20

Join MHLC and the Capital District Regional Planning Commission for a luncheon on July 20, and learn more about our Executive Director, his experience and insights into conservation in the Capital Region, and MHLC’s conservation efforts in our 25th anniversary year in 2017.

The second in the Capital District Regional Planning Commission’s (CDRPC) speaker series CDRPC@50, this luncheon presentation will be held on Thursday, July 20 at the National Register-listed University Club of Albany at 141 Washington Avenue at Dove Street. The University Club will serve a hot and cold buffet from noon to 1 PM, with Mark’s presentation commencing at 12:30. The cost for the luncheon is $20. Reservations for the luncheon are required by Wednesday, July 19 and may be made online. To register for the luncheon, click here.

The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy is celebrating 25 years of conservation in Albany, Schenectady, and Montgomery counties. King will provide an overview of the many activities of the Conservancy including our preserves, farmland protection, climate change and resiliency efforts, and the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail.

For more information, and to save your spot at this event, visit the CDRPC’s website.

 

Calling All Artists: Rail Trail Committee Seeks Muralists

Proposed Site of ART Mural

In late 2016, a group of Bethlehem community members gathered, inspired by the idea of creating public works of art along the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail. Forming a volunteer committee known as Art on the Rail Trail (ART), these citizens have spent the past eight months working steadily, receiving approval from MHLC, as well as from the Bethlehem Town Board, to implement this public art project. ART identifies several benefits of creating public art along the Rail Trail, including: improved quality of life, beautifying the trail during all seasons, and a sense of community ownership. The first proposed art installation is a mural on the corner of Adams Street and Hudson Avenue in Delmar.

The members of ART have been reaching out to local businesses and residents, building sponsorships, community support, and public awareness for the project. Now, the committee is ready to hire an artist to paint the mural, and has posted a Call for Artists with the Arts Center of the Capital Region.

On June 29th, from 6 to 7 PM, an open house will be held at 90 Adams Street for interested applicants. ART welcomes all artists who apply, but is specifically interested in those who have experience in public art, mosaics, and murals. The group is hoping to hire an artist who lives in the Capital Region in an effort to support local community members. ART is particularly interested in proposals which incorporate the themes of connectivity and movement. Applications are due by July 31st, 2017 at 11:59 PM, and must be submitted through The Arts Center of the Capital Region’s website

Throughout the month of August, up to three finalists will be selected and a public presentation will be made. The committee is prioritizing transparency in the selection process, welcoming community members to voice opinions on the different proposals. By mid-October, the mural will be completed, and there will be a mural unveiling ceremony.

ART’s project is a community effort, so be sure to stay engaged and informed via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Love the Rail Trail? Love art? Support this community project by donating to ART today!

Gardens and Glissandos: Join MHLC & the Albany Symphony on June 24

Rensselaerville Azaleas

Music aficionados and nature lovers have long known that great music, like a long walk in the woods, does wonders for our minds and our bodies. The experience of a live concert soothes the soul and sparks the imagination, just as a day in the fresh air energizes the body and quiets the mind.

Scientific data provide evidence to support these well-known phenomena; peer-reviewed studies show us how music and nature improve our health. In 2016, researchers from the Imperial College London tested the levels of cortisol, the primary stress hormone, in over 100 volunteers both before and after attending a live orchestral concert. The results? Across the board, the experience of live music lowered the volunteers’ cortisol levels. A 2015 study compared neural activity in walkers who strolled through city environments to those who walked through a natural setting. The researchers, based at Stanford University, found that those who walked through more natural areas had decreased neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex; in other words, a more natural environment helped walkers stay calm and healthy.

MHLC Executive Director Mark King is pleased to announce that the Conservancy is partnering with the Albany Symphony to bring an afternoon of music and nature to Capital Region residents and visitors. States King, “We invite the community to join us for a celebration of the music and the landscapes that make the Capital Region such a special place to live.”

Join MHLC and the Albany Symphony for an afternoon of music and nature on Saturday, June 24. Enjoy an outdoor reception and light refreshments before an outdoor performance by the brass musicians of the Albany Symphony, conducted by David Alan Miller. Generously hosted by Stewart Myers at his historic home in Rensselaerville, the evening will also include guided walks through the lawns, fields, and gardens of the Daniel Conkling House, a restored 1806 Federal mansion.

Click here to RSVP for this event, or call 518-436-6346. The suggested donation for the event is $75 per person, and all proceeds will support the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy. Space is limited, and it is recommended that participants register by June 19.

The Eldridge Farm in Rensselaerville

The event celebrates MHLC’s protection of the Eldridge Farm and the preservation of the historic agricultural landscapes of Rensselaerville. “As a board member of the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, a resident of Rensselaerville, and the Chair and Founding Trustee of the Carey Institute for Global Good, I am honored to be part of this wonderful event,” wrote Carol Ash, former commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. “Our local community is so appreciative to the Conservancy for protecting the beautiful landscape in which we live – the music of the Symphony will celebrate the beauty of the hills.”

This event is also a continuation of a partnership between the Symphony and the Conservancy. In June of 2016, MHLC offered a private tour of a conservation easement as part of the Symphony’s week-long American Music Festival. In 2015, David Alan Miller was the guest speaker at MHLC’s Annual Awards Dinner. On June 24th, the two local institutions will join again to bring this one-of-a-kind experience to community members.

For more information, and to purchase your ticket to the June 24 event, click here.

New Conservation Director Focuses on Connectivity

We are excited to welcome Sarah Walsh, our organization’s first Conservation Director, to the MHLC team. Sarah joined in late May and will oversee our stewardship activities and assist with land acquisitions.

As Sarah delves into fields, forests, and filing cabinets, she brings a focus on connectivity to our conservation work. One of Sarah’s goals is to link our preserved lands, providing a critical link for wildlife between the Capital District, the Catskills, and the Adirondacks.

“This position is getting me back to my non-profit roots and I’m very excited to join this team at an exciting time for conservation in the Capital Region.”

Sarah brings nearly ten years’ experience in habitat restoration initiatives for bird habitat, riparian and wetland areas as well as experience in protection of conservation lands, non-profit program development, and trail planning. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Science from SUNY ESF and her Master’s degree in Science Education from the University of Albany in 2012. Sarah is an avid outdoor enthusiast who enjoys back-country skiing, mountain biking, hiking, paddling, sailing, and bird watching.

As Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy celebrates twenty-five years of conserving lands, we will continue to strategically conserve lands while taking into account research and policies regarding climate change and connectivity. We will also continue our goals for providing the public with ways to connect to the land of this region through acquisitions of parcels that allow for public access and recreational opportunities.

Sarah, Sawyer, & National Trails Day Volunteers

On October 21, we will be opening the Fox Preserve, a generous donation of land in Colonie from Pat Fox. This 70-acre Preserve offers hiking trails with views of Shaker Creek and the Mohawk River and is located within walking distance of the Mohawk-Hudson Bike Trail, providing visitors a great place to hike rest and enjoy the wonderful green spaces this region offers. On June 3, volunteers joined Sarah and our Stewardship and Volunteer Coordinator, Sawyer Cresap, at the Fox Preserve for National Trails Day. The group spent the morning clearing brush and making trails, preparing this Preserve for its Grand Opening this fall.

A week later, Sarah and Sawyer traveled to Hagaman to visit Mosher Marsh. Ellie Peters donated this 43-acre parcel to the Conservancy in 2008. Ms. Peters, conferring with our conservation team about recent flooding and beaver activity at the Preserve, remarked that her father had scattered a bag of lupine seeds in their garden when they built the house over fifty years ago. Today, the flowers are still blooming and have migrated all the way over to the preserve entrance and all throughout the meadow along the trail.

Sarah and Sawyer noted buttercups, bird boxes, clover, and a daisy that loves the wet soil near the beaver lodge – Philadelphia Fleabane. The trail is currently flooded near the first bridge, so visitors to the preserve are  encouraged to walk up along the meadow near the lupine.

Enjoy these photos of Mosher Marsh from Sarah, Sawyer, and our Stewardship Intern, Jake Hill.

Guest Post: Meet our Stewardship Intern, Jake!

Jake works with Kathy Meany to remove trash from the Bozen Kill Preserve

Jake Hill returns to MHLC to complete his second summer as our Stewardship Intern in 2017.

Growing up in the Capital District, nature and the outdoors have always been a large part of my life. Some of my happiest memories involve exploring the landscape of Altamont, with many days spent catching animals and swimming in the Bozen Kill River.

Having spent the majority of the past three years away from home while attending school at SUNY Geneseo, I’ve gained even more of a love for the land here. This passion for the outdoors was also strengthened by the courses that I was taking at college. As a biology major with geology and environmental studies minors, my understanding and appreciation for nature and land has grown exponentially with each passing year.

Jake Builds Trails for MHLC

Last May, after finishing my sophomore year of school, I began my summer internship at Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy. Having learned about land conservancies at school I had become interested in land conservation and saw an internship at MHLC as the perfect opportunity. It gave me the ability to give back and help preserve the land that I grew up on, and see if land conservation really was an interest of mine.

A highlight of last summer was the ability to work on the Bozen Kill preserve, an area that I remember exploring before it was anything but an open field with grass taller than my head. Being able to both maintain and build new trails on that preserve only strengthened the bond that I had with the land and really showed me the importance of the Conservancy’s work.

This realization stuck with me and led to me returning for a second year of my internship with MHLC. I am coming back with an increased understanding of the Conservancy and how it works, along with an increased passion for conservation. I look forward to being back on all the preserves I frequented last year, along with interacting with all the amazing people that are associated with MHLC.

Land conservation is always of the highest importance, now more than ever. Knowing that I am playing a role in keeping land from being developed and destroyed is a very rewarding feeling, and when I consider that the land I am helping to protect is the land that I grew up on it becomes even more special. Hopefully a whole new generation is able to explore MHLC properties and find the wonder they hold, falling in love with nature just as I did. Being able to play a role in preserving the land so that one day that is possible is why I came back for a second year of MHLC, and why conservation is now an incredibly important aspect of my life.

Jake

Let me take you down, ’cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields

The ribbon cutting ceremony at Strawberry Fields Nature Preserve

As you wind your way up the steep, paved drive to Strawberry Fields Nature Preserve, you will be welcomed by a series of signs featuring the lyrics to The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever,” a song which continues to evoke a mellow, other-worldly feeling fifty years after its original release in 1967.

The lyric signs, dappled by morning sunlight and framed by the emerald green of maple leaves in spring, set the stage for the grand opening of our Strawberry Fields Nature Preserve last Saturday, May 20. Over 150 guests drove to Cranes Hollow Road in Amsterdam to celebrate the opening of this 118 acre property to the public.

MHLC Board Member Claiborne Walthall and daughter Anna enjoy hiking at the grand opening

Visitors mingled and enjoyed coffee, pastries, fruit, and granola. Maple syrup, which was harvested and processed on the property by landowner Jeff Leon, was for sale, with all proceeds going to MHLC to directly support the preservation of Wolf Hollow in Amsterdam.

MHLC Executive Director Mark King, welcomed the crowd in a sunny field, a strong breeze cooling the air. “Thank you for joining us for the opening of our newest preserve,” said King. “We are proud to be working with landowners in Montgomery County to continue to protect the open spaces which make this area so beautiful, and to create preserves for the public to enjoy.”

Jeff Leon, owner and steward of the preserve, spoke of his work with MHLC to protect this property in 2013 under a conservation easement. He named the property “Strawberry Fields” because of the many wild strawberries found in the open fields and along the trails. As guests leave the property, they see the lyrics to John Lennon’s “Imagine” printed on the back of the driveway signs. Leon explained that he chose the lyrics to “Imagine” because of the unifying message of the song. “I may be a dreamer,” Leon remarked, “but I’m not the only one…For nearly 50 years, Strawberry Fields has given me so many opportunities to learn about, and appreciate, the breadth of life. By opening our nature trails to the public, I hope many more people will take the same opportunities to more deeply realize how much human existence depends on nature, and why overexploitation of nature threatens that existence. Deeper appreciation of nature’s essential assistance can lead us to living in a sustainable manner.”

After the remarks from King and Leon, the official opening ceremony concluded with Leon cutting a large ribbon, assisted by his grandchildren. The ceremony was followed by a series of guided tours on the preserve’s trails. The crowd split into smaller hiking parties, trekking across open fields to explore the features of the red and yellow trails: views over the Mohawk River Valley, hemlock forests, a sinkhole, excellent birding areas by a large pond, and the fields and successional forests in which over 300 vascular plant species have been identified by botanists.

 

Climate Change and Conservation with the MHLC Board

On a May morning in Selkirk, NY, MHLC’s Board of Directors met with Scenic Hudson’s Science Director Nava Tabaka and Land Conservation Director Seth Mckee under an overcast sky. The rain held off as the group hiked through a property that was once proposed as a site for a landfill but which has been protected by Scenic Hudson. This property borders the Hudson River and includes part of the Binnen Kill watershed. The group observed the extensive wetlands and discussed how rising sea levels may affect the area.

After the morning hike, the Board reconvened at the home of Christine and Paul Shields, who graciously hosted the Board’s annual retreat: an opportunity to connect, reflect, and look to the future. The staff from Scenic Hudson, our partner and fellow Land Trust Alliance-accredited non-profit organization, shared their groundbreaking tools for strategic conservation planning in a changing climate.

Claiborne Walthall, newest member of the MHLC Board, reflected that “Scenic Hudson’s presentation was very useful. It was interesting to learn about what a partner organization is doing, and exciting to see the possibility for incorporating climate change into our conservation strategy to expand upon the solid criteria which we already use. This was a great example of learning from a companion organization.”

Projected Changes Within the Hudson River Estuary

Seth and Nava of Scenic Hudson explained to the group the potential impacts of sea level change under various future projections based on scientific modeling. Sea levels have already risen 15 inches along the river since 1900, and the rate of change is increasing quickly. An increase of six feet is possible by the end of this century. This change will have a dramatic impact on the Hudson’s unique intertidal freshwater wetlands.

Scenic Hudson is using sea level rise modeling and climate science to better understand these changes and to guide their conservation work. By using complex computer modeling and building on work from organizations such as The Nature Conservancy, Scenic Hudson is developing online mapping tools which can guide land protection efforts of organizations throughout the Hudson Valley. The MHLC Board discussed how our organization can use this framework to guide conservation decisions going forward, specifically within the Hudson River Estuary‘s thousands of acres of wetlands.

An estuary is a body of water found at the meeting of an ocean and a river. Here, saltwater mixes with freshwater. The Hudson River Estuary is almost 150 miles long- this ecosystem reaches from Manhattan to the Federal Dam in Troy. As tides come in, salt water moves upriver. As tides go out, the salt water retreats. This balance between ocean water and river water creates both brackish and freshwater environments which have evolved under the constant influence of the tides, adjusting and thriving in an environment where the movement and chemistry of the water continually fluctuates.

Over 7,000 acres of intertidal wetlands are located in the Hudson River Estuary, and they contain critical habitats for thousands of species of plants and animals. These wetlands also serve as filters, removing pollutants from the Hudson River and regulating water quality.

These unique ecosystems, and the benefits they provide to human communities along the Hudson River, are under direct threat from rising sea levels caused by climate change. As water levels rise in the Atlantic Ocean, water levels will rise along the Hudson River Estuary.

From Scenic Hudson’s Report “Protecting The Pathways”

The Hudson River Estuary is likely to experience 3-6 feet of sea level rise by the end of the 21st century—a rate faster than any in recent millennia and potentially much faster than the wetlands’ ability to accrete and maintain their position between the tides. Steep slopes and shoreline development may further limit the wetlands’ potential to adapt by restricting horizontal movement. Together these factors pose a fundamental challenge to the long term persistence of the Hudson River Estuary’s wetland habitats and the health of the entire ecosystem.Scenic Hudson

Protecting Wetlands Along the Northern Estuary

The northern reaches of this ecosystem, which are situated within the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy’s service area of Albany, Montgomery, and Schenectady Counties, are outside the reach of the Atlantic saltwater. According to Scenic Hudson, “in the northern half of this long freshwater stretch the river is shallow and broad, and undeveloped low-elevation shores are more abundant. Approximately half of the estuary’s current tidal wetland area is found in this most northern reach.”

As the sea level rises, we can fight the loss of wetlands by protecting existing wetland areas and by protecting wetland pathways, the areas identified as both current wetlands and the adjacent areas into which the wetlands may migrate as sea level rises and sediment accretes. By preserving these wetland pathways, MHLC can increase the adaptability of freshwater wetlands along the northern traces of the Hudson River Estuary.

From Protecting the Pathways: “Ensuring that wetlands have the physical room to adapt to rising sea levels is essential to the long-term health of the Hudson River Estuary ecosystem as well as human communities. A land protection strategy that prioritizes undeveloped parcels with the greatest potential for hosting future wetland areas (including persistent current wetlands and wetland migration areas) can serve as a blueprint for action by federal and state agencies, municipalities, land trusts, and other conservation entities. Minimizing future development and infrastructure investments in these areas will also reduce risks to communities and property owners in the changing flood zone.”

Looking Forward: MHLC and Climate Change

In our silver anniversary year, we are taking our 25 years of experience, consulting with other conservation experts, and incorporating the latest scientific research and policy changes to expand and improve our conservation plans moving forward.

Want to join the conversation about climate change and conservation in the Capital Region? MHLC will have a table at the upcoming League of Women Voters of Albany County Meeting on Wednesday, May 31 from 6:30 to 8:30 PM at the Bethlehem Town Hall. This meeting, entitled “Climate Change: The End? Or the Beginning?,” features guest panelists Congressman Paul Tonko and Dr. Jeff Corbin, Chairman of Environmental Science at Union College. This program will focus on new innovations in conservation, business, and science in addressing climate change.

Spring Trail Work at Swift Preserve

This week, MHLC welcomed our new Stewardship and Volunteer Coordinator, Sawyer Cresap, into the office.

She didn’t stay in the office for long! It’s springtime, and there’s trail work to do. This Thursday, Sawyer met with John Sherman, Preserve Steward of Swift Preserve, to remove some downed trees from the preserve trails.

Enjoy Sawyer’s before and after photos of the work, as well as some shots of trout lilies, violets, and the wetlands in springtime.

Swift is one of MHLC’s “Pocket Preserves” – little pockets of nature, tucked within developed areas and easily accessible for a hike any time of day. This 21.6-acre wetland is located in Delmar directly across Delaware Avenue from the Bethlehem Central High School sports field. A gift from the Swift group, the Preserve was created to protect the wetlands remaining after homes were constructed on neighboring parcels. It includes a 1-acre man-made wetland, built to help compensate for the natural wetlands that were filled in. It officially opened to the public in 2007, and is a favorite  spot for MHLC staff craving a dose of vitamin D, the smells of the forest, and the sounds of the wetlands on our lunch-time breaks from the office on Kenwood Ave.

To learn more about Sawyer, visit our MHLC Team page.

Guest Post: Meet our Communications Intern, Christiane!

Hi there!

My name is Christiane Lee, and I am the new intern at the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, you can find me writing letters, emails, and blog posts at our office in Delmar. Let me take this time to tell you a little bit about myself and how I became the intern at your local land trust.

I am a junior English major and writing minor at the College of Saint Rose. I am both the intern at the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy in Delmar, NY, and an office clerk at the Hubbard Interfaith Sanctuary in Albany, NY. Although I live in Albany for my schooling, I am not actually from the area. I was born and raised in Tolland County, Connecticut, with my two younger sisters and older brother. When I’m not at school or my jobs, I enjoy reading, writing, playing the piano and ukulele, hiking, and painting.

A typical day at my internship consists of a lot of writing and reading. Over the course of the day, I work on numerous projects, like drafting and editing blog posts, social media posts, and press releases about our upcoming events. I put my English major skills to work and carefully proofread our newsletters and flyers. I have recently been addressing and mailing out hundreds of our Nature Passports, and have also been working on the early stages of some new and exciting projects which MHLC will be releasing later in 2017.

Christiane prepares Nature Passports to be mailed.

I applied for this internship at the Conservancy back in December. I believe conserving land, air, water, and other natural resources is crucial for our development as part of the global community. Without the Earth, we have no home. I, too, spend a lot of time on our nature trails, and recognize the inner peace fresh air, singing birds, and tall trees gives us. I want to make sure that future generations have places where they can play and learn about the Earth and its other inhabitants. As an environmental advocate, I wanted to work with a team that holds similar values, and found the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy. With this organization, I am able to express my fervor and passion for environmental conservation, and help the MHLC give back to the public by providing clean and safe spaces to explore and reconnect with nature. I greatly appreciate all of the knowledge and guidance my mentors here have given me.

I hope to meet some of you, our supporters, in my time working at the Conservancy, and want to thank you for letting me work at your local land trust!

Sincerely,

Christiane

Strawberry Fields Forever: Grand Opening of Our New Preserve!

MHLC welcomes the public to the grand opening of a new preserve in Montgomery County, the first of our 25th anniversary year!

On May 20th, you are invited by the Conservancy, and hosts Jeff and Judy Leon, to join our growing community of Capital Region conservationists at the grand opening of Strawberry Fields Nature Preserve, located on Cranes Hollow Road in Amsterdam. The celebration begins at 10 AM with a light breakfast, followed by a grand opening ceremony at 10:30. After the ceremony, guided tours of the new trails will head out to explore the blooming, spring-time landscape of this “oasis for flowers and birds.”

This event is free, but you must reserve your spot by registering online. Please RSVP by May 12th.

RSVP Today!


Strawberry Fields
is 118 acres of protected land. The property includes the nature preserve, a family homestead, and a working farm. It was protected in 2013 under a conservation easement with MHLC. For more information about Strawberry Fields Nature Preserve, visit our Preserve page. We also recommend “Strawberry Fields is an oasis for flowers, birds” – a piece written by Karen Bjornland in The Daily Gazette:

It will not be long before the spring flowers are blooming off Cranes Hollow Road in Amsterdam. At the Strawberry Fields Farm Preserve, you will see bloodroot, trout lily, marsh marigold, trillium and mayapple. In July, tiny wild strawberries, the namesake plants of the preserve, will pop up all over the fields.The Daily Gazette

The property provides habitat to abundant and diverse wildlife, and protecting that life is a primary purpose for the preserve. Over 300 vascular plant species, over 100 bird species, and uncounted other members of the food chain have been identified here. Visitors can often spot American woodcock, turkey, ruffed grouse, pileated, red-bellied, downy, and hairy woodpeckers, Northern harrier, bluebirds, bobolink, meadowlark, osprey, red-tailed hawks, and Baltimore orioles. Deer sightings are common, as are squirrels, woodchucks, rabbits and chipmunks. Less commonly sighted are fishers, foxes, bobcats, weasels, and coyotes.

We hope you will join us on May 20th for the grand opening of this ecologically unique and stunningly scenic preserve. RSVP Today!

 

 

April Events: Hiking and Backpacking Workshop and Schoharie Creek Preserve Hike

April Precipitation Brings More Conservation

Dave Muska leads a naturalist workshop

As the first, wintry quarter of 2017 comes to a close, we are gearing up to celebrate spring during our 25th anniversary year! MHLC is hosting two hikes in April, and preparing for several more events in May. Join us and get your nature fix at some of our fun, educational, and recreational community events.

On April 8th, we are partnering with Ondatra Adventures for a Hiking and Backpacking Workshop featuring tips and tricks to have a safe and fun hiking excursion. This interactive workshop is led by David Muska, a licensed NYS Wilderness Skills Instructor and owner of Ondatra Adventures. The event will begin at 10 AM  at our Bennett Hill Preserve in New Scotland, and is expected to end at 1 PM. Space for this popular event is limited, so reserve your spot now by visiting our events page!

Photo of Schoharie Creek Preserve by Catherine Abida

The second guided hike we are offering this April is at the Schoharie Creek Preserve. On Sunday, April 30th, join us for an educational, guided hike led by the Schoharie River Center. This hike will start at 1:30 p.m. and explore the 198-acre Schoharie Creek Preserve in Charleston, NY. This preserve features several beautiful waterfalls along Wilsey Creek at the northern border of the preserve. Be prepared for some steepness along the trail, and enjoy the fresh air and incredible views!  Space for this outing is also limited, so register today.

We hope to see you at these events in April- both hikes are an excellent opportunity to fill out a few pages in your Capital Region Nature Passport!  See you on the trails!

Sunshine and Snow: February Fat Biking at Keleher Preserve

On Saturday, February 18th, MHLC held its first fat biking event: A Day of Fat Biking at Keleher Preserve. The unexpectedly warm weather made for a beautiful day of biking.

On top of Wolf Hill, bikers gathered in the parking lot of Keleher Preserve. The bright morning sun sparkled on the deep snow that had piled up over the past few weeks. A small bonfire filled the lot with the smells of wood smoke, and Bountiful Bread, generous sponsor of MHLC, brought hot soup, baked goods, and hot cocoa. Mark King, Executive Director of MHLC, and Brian White, owner of Bountiful Bread, greeted everyone before the first group hit the trails for the 10 AM ride, led by Brian.

We would like to thank the many partners that made this wonderful event possible. Thank you to Brian for leading the tours and the event, to Bountiful Bread for sponsoring the morning and keeping the participants fed and energized, and to Jim Smith of Red Maple Land Services LLC for grooming the trails so that our athletes could enjoy the snowy landscape. We are also grateful to the neighbors on Gulf Hill Rd and to our dedicated Preserve Steward at Keleher for maintaining access to the preserve and protecting the beauty of this forested haven on the Helderberg Escarpment.

Enjoy this gallery of photos from the event! MHLC is celebrating 25 years of conservation in 2017, and we hope to see you at our next public event. Visit our events page for a list of upcoming events.

 

Protected Forever: 218 More Acres Preserved in Rensselaerville

The hamlet of Rensselaerville is one of Albany County’s most beautiful locations.  Recognized on the National Register of Historic places, it is steeped in historic character; to visit is to step back in time to an earlier era.  MHLC is pleased to announce the preservation of a key parcel that contributes to the area’s historic and scenic landscape.  Working together with the Eldridge family and the Open Space Institute, we have closed on a conservation easement which now protects 218 acres along the ridge on the eastern side of the hamlet. This easement will ensure that the views of the property will remain undeveloped and open for future generations to enjoy.

The Eldridge property is situated across the Ten Mile Creek valley from the Hilltown Café and post office. The property dominates the view from this center of community activity, and by protecting the property, we have saved the characteristic, rural setting of this part of the hamlet.  The 218 acres include forests, fields, and headwater streams of the Ten Mile and Catskill Creeks. The property is directly across Albany Hill Road from the Conkling Farm, a spectacular property which is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been protected by a conservation easement secured by the Open Space Institute.

By connecting easements and focusing on critical conservation areas, we create corridors of conserved land. The Eldridge property is part of a ring of protected lands surrounding the hamlet which now stretches for more than five miles.  The conservation of this property preserves a wonderful legacy for the Eldridge family, who have a long history with the community of Rensselaerville.

What is a conservation easement?

A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement to permanently limit the development of a property.  The property remains privately owned and stays on the local tax roles.  MHLC holds more than 1100 acres of easements in the Helderberg Hilltowns and works with partners such as the Open Space Institute and the Huyck Preserve to preserve the scenic and ecologically important landscapes of the Helderberg Escarpment.

If you are interested in conserving your land, visit our “Conserve Your Land” page to learn more about whether a conservation easement is the right choice for you.

 

 

A Day of Fat Biking at Keleher Preserve: February 18

February 18 will be MHLC’s first fat biking event on a public preserve.

Join MHLC at the first outdoor event of our 25th anniversary year: A Day of Fat Biking! Fat biking, a special kind of mountain biking with wide tires to trek through soft terrain, provides a fun and fast way to explore the snowy landscape. Grab your fat bike and meet us out on the trails!

On Saturday, February 18th, the Conservancy is hosting its first-ever day of fat biking at our beautiful Keleher Preserve in New Scotland. Featuring two guided fat bike rides by Brian White, owner of Stuyvesant Plaza’s Bountiful Bread, the event will allow visitors to experience Keleher Preserve in a completely new way. Keleher Preserve, situated at the top of Wolf Hill, is part of the Helderberg Escarpment and features sweeping vistas of the Capital Region. The bike tours will kick-off at 10 am and 12:30 pm, and soup and hot cocoa will be provided by Bountiful Bread between tours and after the second ride. There will be a bonfire in the parking lot of the preserve for all those who need to warm themselves up!

MHLC is excited to work with the active mountain biking community in the Capital Region to enjoy and celebrate the lands we have worked to conserve. Let us know if you enjoy your ride by sending your photos and comments to the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Click here to reserve your spot today!

Keep your New Year’s Resolution and stay active this winter! After our day of fat biking at Keleher Preserve, pick up your free copy of MHLC’s new Preserves & Map Brochure at the preserve kiosk. This brochure lists all of our preserves that are open for winter recreation, and includes an icon key to help you find which preserves are best for winter recreation – such as snowshoeing, skiing, tracking, winter photography, wildlife viewing, hiking, and more.

As the weather begins to warm in April, MHLC will partner with Ondatra Adventures to host a Hiking and Backpacking Tips and Tricks Workshop. In the summer and fall, the public is invited to a series of programs including birding hikes, new preserve openings, family wilderness craft programs, a Hike-a-Thon in July, and a special gala affair at Thacher Park’s new visitor center in September. More information on all events can be found on our events page.

After 25 years, the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy continues to expand and connect the network of preserved lands across Albany, Montgomery, and Schenectady Counties. The growing community of conservationists and supporters who make this preservation work possible are a group of people dedicated to protecting the scenic, recreational, and environmental value of the Capital Region landscape. In celebration of its silver anniversary, MHLC invites friends both old and new to join in a year of conservation, recreation, and connection.

See you on the trails!

Times Union: Were you Seen at MHLC’s 25th Anniversary Celebration?

Photos from our 25th Anniversary Annual Dinner are now featured on the Times Union’s website.

Click here to see photographs of this sold-out event, which honored Matthew Bender IV, a local philanthropist and conservationist, and Stewart Dutfield, the Rail Trail Ambassador Coordinator.

“On Saturday afternoon, conservationists from across the Capital Region met at the Corning Tower in downtown Albany to celebrate 25 years of land conservation with the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy (MHLC). The sold-out crowd filled the observation deck, enjoying drinks and a light buffet as a cloudy sky opened and rays of light from the setting sun spread across the breathtaking landscape below.”

Read more about the event on spotlightnews.com.

The annual dinner was our first of many special events planned throughout 2017 in celebration of our 25th year. Visit our events page to learn about upcoming events throughout Albany, Montgomery, and Schenectady counties.

Didn’t make it to the dinner? Be sure to join us at our next event: A Day of Fat Biking at Keleher Preserve on February 18th!

 

Celebrating 25 Years of Conservation: Cocktail Party Honoring Matt Bender and Stewart Dutfield, Nature Hikes, and the Capital Region Nature Passport

Photo by Robert Stone: A View of the Catskills from the Bolotsky property, protected by MHLC in 2016.

Photo by Robert Stone: A View of the Catskills from the Bolotsky property, protected by MHLC in 2016.

Join us as we kick off a year of celebration and conservation with our annual dinner, which has been moved up to January 28th! MHLC has been your local land trust for 25 years, and we have so much to celebrate together.

On Saturday, January 28th, we will start a year of special celebrations with our annual dinner: a cocktail party honoring Matthew Bender IV, local philanthropist and conservationist, and Stewart Dutfield, Rail Trail Ambassador Coordinator. Join MHLC board, staff, and friends to experience the breathtaking view of the winter sunset over the preserved lands of the Capital Region from the Corning Tower Observation Deck while enjoying cocktails and a light buffet. Click here for tickets to this one-of-a-kind event!

This party will be the first of dozens of celebratory, conservation-focused events on MHLC’s calendar this year. In February, we will host our first outdoor event of the year with a day of fat biking on the trails of Keleher Preserve, with food and beverages provided by Bountiful Bread of Stuyvesant Plaza. As the weather begins to warm in April, we are excited to renew our partnership with Ondatra Adventures to host a Hiking and Backpacking Tips and Tricks Workshop. In the summer and fall, the public is invited to a series of programs including birding hikes, new preserve openings, family wilderness craft programs, a Hike-a-Thon in July, and a special gala affair at Thacher Park’s new visitor center in September. Visit our events page for more information on all events.

In February, MHLC will also be releasing the Capital Region Nature Passport, a new, free resource for explorers, adventurers, and naturalists of all ages and expertise levels. The passport is a collection of 25 micro-adventures which can be completed entirely within the forests, streams, and fields of MHLC’s public preserves and protected lands. From finding hidden habitat gems to trying out new trails, the passport encourages visitors and citizens to pull on their boots, get out the door, and get some dirt under their nails, exploring the spectrum of nature experiences waiting to be enjoyed in the Capital Region. Free copies of the passport will be available at all MHLC preserve kiosks and at the Conservancy’s office at 425 Kenwood Avenue in Delmar.

After 25 years, we continue to expand and connect the network of preserved lands across Albany, Montgomery, and Schenectady Counties. The growing community of conservationists and supporters who make this preservation work possible are a group of people dedicated to protecting the scenic, recreational, and environmental value of the Capital Region landscape. In celebration of MHLC’s silver anniversary, we invite friends both old and new to join in a year of conservation, recreation, and connection.

Stay Active This Winter on MHLC Preserves

Snowshoers enjoy Bennett Preserve. Photo by Alan VIa.

Snowshoers enjoy Bennett Hill Preserve. Photo by Alan Via.

Snowshoeing, skiing, tracking, winter photography… what’s your favorite outdoor winter activity? Keep your body moving and invigorate your winter spirit by exploring the snowy beauty of our preserves this year. Whether you enjoy vigorous aerobic activity or are looking for a family-friendly adventure, there are 17 preserves currently open for visitors to enjoy and explore.

Bennett Hill Preserve is a favorite for visitors who enjoy snowshoeing, and the scenic vistas stretch for miles on a clear winter day, making for stunning winter photographs.

Following and identifying animal tracks in the snow can be a fun and educational activity for both adults and children. We recommend visiting www.naturetracking.com, which features galleries of common animal tracks and an article on tracks commonly seen in the snow.

Pick up your preserve brochure and use the icon key to find the right preserve for your winter adventure.

Pick up your preserve brochure and use the icon key to find the right preserve for your winter adventure.

In 2017, we will open trails for mountainbiking at Keleher Preserve! Once these trails are open, bring your fat bike out to Keleher and explore the preserve on two wheels.

For more information on the recommended activities for each of our preserves, stop by the MHLC office in Delmar or a preserve kiosk to pick up your free copy of the Preserves & Map Brochure, which includes an icon key to help you find which preserves are best for winter recreation, scenic views, wildlife viewing, family-friendly trails, and more.

Snap some photos of your snowy adventures and share with the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy community on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can also enter our Photo Contest to receive a chance to win free ice cream and tickets to the Albany Symphony in June!

 

Historic Hilton Barn: A Permanent Home and a New Park

This project completes a multi-year collaboration between town government, dedicated citizens, the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, and generous donors Peter Kelly and Jennifer Hilton…
Hilton Barn Relocation

The green circle indicates the new site of the Hilton Barn. The red circle shows the former site.

 

On Wednesday, December 14th, 2016, the Town of New Scotland’s Town Board officially approved the creation of the Captain Joseph Hilton Town Park, the new home of the historic Hilton Barn. The creation of the park completes a multi-year collaboration between town government, dedicated citizens, the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, and generous donors Peter and Barbara Kelly and Jennifer Hilton. The park will provide an attractive setting for the Hilton Barn and will enhance the Albany County Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail (ACHH Rail Trail) by creating a new recreational and educational destination for pedestrians and cyclists.

The park is located on a 14-acre parcel at the intersection of Hilton Road and Route 85A in the Town of New Scotland.  It expands upon the current 1.1 acre site, which was acquired by the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy earlier this year and donated to the Town for the relocation of the Hilton Barn. The historic Hilton Barn was constructed in 1898 for Captain Joseph Hilton. It is believed to be the largest post and beam structure still standing in Albany County and was built primarily for hay storage at a time when horses were the primary means of transportation.

“The Hilton Barn is a spectacular example of what could be constructed by one family with a grand vision in a bygone era, when wood and slate were abundant. Its loss would have been a catastrophe for our community. My wife Barbara and I hope that the purchase of the 14 acre parcel, with the major contribution from Jennifer Hilton, will make it possible for the Town of New Scotland to develop the land into an imaginative park, which will integrate the Barn with the Albany County Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail. We wish to thank the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy for their efforts to help save the Barn, when so many times it was on the verge of being destroyed,” said donor Peter Kelly.

The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy was approached by Town of New Scotland officials in early 2015 for assistance in finding a new location for the historic Barn, which was threatened by an expanding housing development. MHLC Executive Director Mark King recognized an opportunity to enhance the ACHH Rail Trail while also protecting vital green space and local history. With the creation of the Captain Joseph Hilton Town Park a year and half later, this vision has been fulfilled. “The area surrounding the new park is undergoing rapid development; more than 200 houses are planned or being constructed within a mile of the property. This park could be one of the few open spaces left in the area. The Hilton Barn and the green space protected by the park will be a visual reminder of the Town’s agricultural history,” said King. “This project would not have been possible without the exceptional donor generosity of Peter and Barbara Kelly and Jennifer Hilton.”

When the Conservancy began the search for the new home for the historic Hilton Barn in 2015, it was discovered that Hilton family heirs still owned land across Route 85A from the former location of the barn and next to the ACHH Rail Trail.  MHLC facilitated the purchase of the 1.1 acre site, finalized in March 2016, again with the support of donors Jennifer Hilton and Peter and Barbara Kelly. States Jennifer Hilton, “Preservation of this barn is important to me in so many ways.  Built by my great Grandfather, Captain Joseph Hilton, it is the last vestige of the Hilton Farm.  It is also an important landmark heralding New Scotland’s agricultural heritage.  My hope is that this structure becomes a town focal point for many to enjoy now and in the future. Many thanks to the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, the Town of New Scotland and all who have worked so hard to make this a reality.”

Doug LaGrange, Town of New Scotland Supervisor said, “The Town is grateful for the generosity of the Hilton family, private donors, and the efforts of the Conservancy. With the addition of 14 acres of parkland, the Town will have the space needed for a community meeting place and recreation area—centered around the Hilton Barn and Rail Trail. The Hilton Park will be a destination not only for residents of the Town but visitors from all over the Capital District using the Rail Trail. With direct access to the trail, visitors will have a place to rest, picnic, and enjoy the historic barn. It is our hope that the park, and the Hilton Barn, will be a community meeting place to bring residents together and enjoy the history of the area. The Town’s planning process identified this area as the perfect location for a park. Thanks to the efforts of private donors and MHLC, we have now achieved that goal.”

The Historic Hilton Barn after moving to its new home in early 2016