In 2018, MHLC is introducing you to some of our incredible community members: volunteers, easement holders, donors, and more. In August, we spoke with Arlen Westbrook at her home in Elsmere. Arlen is a retired social worker who loves to hike and canoe in the Hudson and Mohawk River valleys and beyond. She is also a member of the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy.
Sitting on her screened-in porch, surrounded by the green of late-summer maples and the sounds of cicadas, Arlen described why she has supported MHLC for over fifteen years, and explained that she finds great value in the green spaces and accessible trails near her home.
How did you first become involved with the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy?
I met John Abbuhl (a founding member of the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy) through my work at the Capital Area Speech Center. I’ve always been interested in nature, conservation, and wildlife, and John told me that there was a group I may be interested in supporting. I joined the Conservancy as a member in 2005.
What do you wish more people knew about nature and land conservation?
I think many people are very disconnected from the world around them. Some people are frightened of being in the woods. I wish more people had the opportunity to go outside and observe the world around them. I collect sand and stones and shells- everything out there is free to enjoy. All you have to do is look and find it.
Have you always been interested in nature?
I have always been interested in nature and connecting with animals, plants, lakes, oceans, woods. I don’t have a deep philosophy about nature; it simply matters to me. As my late husband Perry Westbrook used to say, “Connecting with animals and plants is connecting with our elemental nature as human beings.” I think that’s true. We are part of nature, and we have to protect nature. This is especially important to me as we learn more about climate change, which is very frightening.
I’ve lived mostly in this area since 1952, although I also travel. Wherever I am, I like to support nature and wilderness. I support the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy’s goals.
Why do you continue to support MHLC?
I just like what you do! I’ve never been disappointed with the Conservancy’s work.
I appreciate that there are opportunities to go on shorter, more accessible walks through the woods. As I age, rough hikes are more difficult for me. I used to hike the Adirondacks and the Catskills and go to the top of huge peaks when I was 30. Now that I’m older, I like to go on shorter walks in the woods, and a preserve with a good parking lot is more accessible to me.
The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy has grown from something very small into quite a large organization, and it’s nice to see the work that has been happening. One of my favorite places to walk nearby is the Five Rivers Environmental Education Center, which MHLC recently expanded by preserving 35 neighboring acres.