The 7,500-acre Mohonk Preserve is celebrating its 50th year of land stewardship and preservation in high nature-style with a bevy of events that will encourage the public to engage with the land, the staff and all of the programs that the Preserve offers. To that end, the Preserve will kick off its anniversary celebration with its Visitor Center’s grand reopening on April 27.
According to Gretchen Reed, at 9 a.m. there will be a number of invited guest speakers including state senator John Bonacic, assemblyman Kevin Cahill, county executive Mike Hein and Gardiner town supervisor Carl Zatz, and then a full day of activities and events free and open to the public of all ages. Some of these events include the always-popular “Live Birds of Prey and Reptile Show,” presented by Robinson’s Wildlife Lectures. This program will feature animals such as hawks, owls, falcons, snapping turtles and more. There will also be a live “Turtles and Friends” show, as well as guided hikes throughout the day by Preserve conservation scientists who will help guide participants’ eyes toward the various flora and fauna, outcroppings, forests, meadows, birds and animals that are all part of the varied and unique ecosystem of the Preserve.
The newly renovated Children’s Forest, located within the 40 acres surrounding the Visitor Center off Route 44/55 in Gardiner, will be host to scavenger hunts and forest-floor searches throughout the day. “This forest is one of the only places on the Preserve where you don’t have to stay on the trail,” said Preserve educator Cathy Shiga-Gattullo. The enhancements include “tools, seating, signage with suggested activities that inspire children to engage in free, imaginative play in nature,” said Shiga-Gattullo.
Ever wonder what it’s like to be a ranger? Well, this is your opportunity to find out what type of skills and equipment our Mohonk rangers need on a day-to-day basis while patrolling and protecting the Preserve. “Life of a Ranger” will be put on by Preserve ranger Andrew Bajardi, who will demonstrate frequently used equipment and cover the many day-to-day duties of Mohonk rangers, including fire management, search and rescue, trail monitoring and public programs such as “How Did the Rope Get up There?”
According to Reed, another critical improvement that has been made to the Visitor Center’s surrounding woodlands is the J. and S. Grafton Sensory Trail: a 1/3-mile-long trail that has been newly resurfaced and is “now universally accessible, not just for those in wheelchairs but for all who may have mobility constraints.” “New signage explains how to ‘read’ the layers of the forest, serving as a starting point for visitors to get out into the rest of the Preserve and understand the forest in a deeper way,” added Shiga-Gattullo.
For a full listing of the day’s events and times go to www.mohonkpreserve.org/sites/default/files/files/pdf/vc%20grand%20reopening%20celebration.pdf. And this is only the kickoff to a year’s worth of special 50th anniversary events, including the May 4 first annual “Rock the Ridge” 50-mile challenge in 24 hours. For a full listing of events throughout the year, go to www.mohonkpreserve.org/mohonk-preserve-50th-anniversary-schedule-events.
“There is a great sense of excitement and pride and enthusiasm among our staff right now, as we reflect upon the past and celebrate today and prepare for the Preserve’s future,” said Reed. For half a century, the Mohonk Preserve has been a place of recreation, reflection and restoration. The origins of the Preserve date back to 1869 when twin brothers Albert and Alfred Smiley purchased Mohonk Lake and established Mohonk Mountain House. In 1963, the Smiley family, friends, neighbors and supporters formed the Mohonk Trust to protect the area’s unique natural landscape for future generations. Then, in 1978, the Trust became the Mohonk Preserve, and through the support of members, donors and partners, the Preserve has been a leading voice for conservation, speaking with passion and authority to safeguard the natural lands in the Shawangunks, the Hudson Valley and beyond.
The Preserve’s environmental children’s program initiatives have brought more than 75,000 kids into nature. And, prior to climate change entering the mass consciousness, the Preserve’s Daniel Smiley Research Center created a preeminent resource of biological, weather and other natural history records that span well over a century.
According to executive director Glenn Hoagland, “Today, Mohonk Preserve is acknowledged as a global model for conservation on a regional scale, promoting preservation, land stewardship, science and environmental awareness. Now, with the ongoing support of our partners and over 13,000 members, Mohonk Preserve stands ready to meet the challenges of conservation for the next century.”