Exciting news! MHLC has been awarded a $400,000 grant from the State’s Regional Economic Development Council for the acquisition of the historic Bender Melon Farm property. This funding is a huge step toward preserving this iconic landscape along the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail located at the corner of Route 85 and 85A in Voorheesville. With the grant, and the help of many passionate supporters, we are now halfway to our fundraising goal and are racing to raise the remaining funds by May 2020!
With extensive frontage along both sides of the Rail Trail, the Bender Melon Farm property provides a scenic corridor along the popular Rail Trail enjoyed by more than 200,000 recreationists annually according to Albany County. Once acquired, we plan to create additional parkland, mountain bike trails, and other amenities. The Bender Melon Farm funding complements a $411,000 Economic Development grant awarded to the Town of New Scotland for improvements to the adjacent Hilton Park and the relocated historic Hilton Barn. In 2016, The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy purchased the land where the barn is now located, and the Town undertook a dramatic move of the barn from its original location across Route 85A. Subsequent to the barn move, MHLC purchased an additional 15 acres adjacent to the new barn location and donated the property to the Town of New Scotland to become the Hilton Park.
MHLC will work closely with the Town to add popular amenities to the Hilton Barn and Park and Bender Melon Farm. Nature trails, mountain bike trails, an amphitheater, skating rink and restrooms are among the new facilities envisioned for the area. An emphasis of the MHLC grant is the quality of life improvements offered by trails and recreational amenities as well as community amenities that create the potential to attract and maintain jobs.
Public Benefit for Everyone
Both projects center around the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail, which provides recreational and transportation benefits, and connects diverse communities. Construction of the City of Albany South end connector trail segment between the current terminus of the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail on South Pearl street to the Corning Preserve is underway. This connection will provide City of Albany residents and suburban dwellers with an easy, carbon free transportation corridor between pastoral New Scotland landscapes and the State’s Capital City.
Working within the recommendations of the Town’s hamlet plan, the Conservancy has put together a vision for the property that preserves the farmland and the character of the Town, while allowing for the expansion of the Hilton Park, the creation of new park amenities, and the continuation of agricultural use of the land.
The grant award will allow for a portion of the land acquisition costs to be covered while also protecting the historic Bender Melon Farm permanently as parkland. We would like to thank Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State of New York for the Regional Economic Development Council grant that has helped to launch us halfway to our fundraising goal.
The impact of a large residential development on our natural community would be significant, potentially impacting the water quality of the Phillipinkill, which begins on this property and runs to the Hudson River. By preserving this landscape, we can protect important natural resources and conserve one of the iconic landscapes of Albany County. The project will also protect vital habitat for the wildlife that is being threatened as development increases in this area.
In addition to preserving the beautiful rural sense of the New Scotland section of the Rail Trail, the conservation of the Bender Melon Farm would have other tangible benefits for the community, such as limiting the traffic volume that would come with a large residential development and the strain that an influx of students would have on schools.
The Conservancy has an option to purchase the farm by May 2020, when time would run out.