After more than ten years of work, the final piece of the Helderberg Conservation Corridor–the 237-acre Heldeberg Workshop–has been protected. The Workshop property is the largest undeveloped acreage below Thacher Park, known for the highest amphibian and reptile species concentrations in the northeast and recognized by the Audubon Society as an important bird area. The property’s unique wetlands, scenic open spaces, and wildlife habitat are now safe from the fragmentation of suburban sprawl.
A Conservation Corridor Complete
The Heldeberg Workshop property is a critical component in creating greater connectivity within the Helderberg Escarpment, a goal of New York State’s Open Space Plan and a priority for MHLC. In the last ten years, MHLC and other conservation partners have protected 3,700-acres spanning from Thacher Park across Indian Ladder Farms to the Black Creek Marsh Wildlife Management area. The protection of the Heldeberg Workshop marks the completion of this phase of the Helderberg Conservation Corridor, an idea born ten years ago after MHLC completed the Indian Ladder Farms conservation easement.
With the ever-present threat of climate change and over-development, adding these lands to the Helderberg Conservation Corridor gives wildlife room to roam—a crucial element of survival for a vast number of species.
MHLC Executive Director Mark King said, “This project results in the preservation of an iconic landscape beneath the Helderberg Escarpment. Thousands of children and adults have fond memories of their Adventure in Learning experience on the Heldeberg Workshop property, my self-included. And hundreds of thousands enjoy the views of the Workshop and surrounding pastoral lands from the overlook at John Boyd Thacher State Park. We would like to give special thanks to the Workshop Board members, including Margaret Craven and Al Breisch, and all the neighbors and supporters who made this project a success.”
Along with significant community support driven by MHLC’s fundraising campaign over the last three years, additional funding for this project was made possible by various grants. The funds include $100,000 from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant (NAWCA), a $24,600 grant supported with funding from the New York State Conservation Partnership Program (NYSCPP) and New York’s Environmental Protection Fund (NYSCPP is administered by the Land Trust Alliance, in coordination with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation), and a $5,000 contribution from the Open Space Institute (OSI).
Adventures in Learning for Generations to Come
The conservation easement will also provide an infusion of funds for the Heldeberg Workshop’s educational programs—the “Adventure in Learning” summer camp, a program that for nearly 60 years has delivered the ultimate outdoor experience to hundreds of students each summer. This summer program gives students a unique experience with courses in art, theater, science and high adventure, all taught in an outdoor setting. After much uncertainty during the global pandemic, these funds will ensure the Workshop’s treasured program will be around for many generations.
Workshop’s Board of Directors Chair Al Breisch said, “When the Heldeberg Workshop moved its base of operation to our current location at the foot of the Helderberg Escarpment in 1967, we recognized that we had become the stewards, not just of our unique educational program, but also as stewards of a unique piece of undeveloped land. We have long been concerned about the future of our programs that reach 1,200 to 1,400 students each summer. We are grateful for being able to partner with MHLC to secure this land for future generations of children. Not only do we rejoice, but the salamanders and other critters who make this land their home, rejoice.”
To learn more about the Heldeberg Workshop’s programs, please visit their website.