Land Conservancy celebrates 25 years and saving the Zena Cornfield

Zena Cornfield (photo by Dion Ogust)

Zena Cornfield (photo by Dion Ogust)

Marita Lopez-Mena, who’s been serving as director of the Woodstock Land Conservancy (WLC) for only a few “very hectic” months now, recently recalled the first time she saw the Zena Cornfield, which will be celebrated Saturday August 9 on the 25th anniversary of its becoming WLC’s first big land protection project.

“I moved to Woodstock in 1970 and I remember very clearly driving by the cornfield,” she noted. “You approach it with the mountain in the background and it touches your heart. It’s one of those places that’s a truly iconic landscape.”

Lopez-Mena, who went on to become the founding director at the Hudson River Maritime Museum in Kingston, development director for Scenic Hudson, and executive director of the Benedictine Health Foundation, said how proud she was to be one of the 550 donors who came together to purchase the cornfield and preserve it back in 1989…an effort she remembers taking off with the help of a front page Woodstock Times story.


“I was living in Kingston at the time, my only spell away, and my donation was small,” she continued. “But I had to do it. None of us could imagine not having the cornfield there.”

Just as most Woodstockers cannot imagine their town without it today, even though many are not fully aware of the effort it took to raise $125,000 back then, and all that’s come since with the ensuing empowerment the project gave the land conservancy.

For Saturday’s celebration event, which costs $20 per individual and $30 per family for continuing fundraising purposes, the Land Conservancy has a low-key day of fun planned. Things will kick off at 1 p.m. with attendees asked to bring a basket of favorite picnic food, a blanket, and picnicking gear. Tables will be provided, although the field will be open for wandering, and staking one’s own picnic sites. Just bring sturdy footwear and sunblock; there won’t be any shade except whatever Overlook provides as the day lingers.

There will be grilled corn on the cob for all, cornbread, and strawberry lemonade; nature walks with Peter Koch; a treasure hunt with Deborah and Richard Heppner, music by Ilfra Halley and The Whirligig Farm Band, and kids activities. Several painters and photographers — including Craig Barber, Stewart Dean, Calvin Grimm, Bobby Lucy, Jennifer Lynn Morse and Nicole Roskos — will be working throughout the field.

Lopez-Mena said that what she’s looking forward to, most, is the celebration program set to include Jim Davis’ Blessing of the Land and storytelling from Gioia Timpanelli, alongside some geological background from Robert Titus and history from Richard Heppner.