The Woodstock Land Conservancy (WLC) has named Maxanne Resnick as its new executive director. Currently a West Hurley resident, Resnick has lived in Ulster County for 22 years and brings to her new position a wide range of project development and management skills, along with a track record as an organizer and community activist.
WLC was formed in 1988 and shortly thereafter galvanized over 500 Woodstockers to help save the iconic Zena cornfield. The organization has helped preserve over 1000 acres, including many key landholdings in Woodstock and the eastern Catskills.
An avid hiker and cyclist, Resnick is inspired by her love of the outdoors and is familiar with the challenges of land stewardship as a longtime owner of large parcel of land in Shandaken. She earned a Masters degree in real estate development from Columbia University, so she has tools of a transactional nature that will be valuable when the WLC is purchasing land or receiving donations of property. Resnick also served on the Onteora school board, produced several large-scale music events for the school district, and helped to establish the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice.
“At Onteora, I was exposed to the breadth of this community,” said Resnick. “Being on the board, I had to deal with complex sets of issues, manage multiple issues at the same time, and work with a wide variety of people. All those experiences will hold me in good stead in this position.”
For several months in 2015 she served as a consultant for WLC, organizing the group’s year-end fundraising initiatives. In the process, she worked closely with outgoing director Marita Lopez-Mena and became familiar with major donors who support the organization.
As she takes over the leadership, one major focus for Resnick will be reaching out to the community. “I intend to broaden the appeal and awareness of this organization,” she said. “Even though it’s well-established and well-loved by many people, there are many who don’t know what WLC does and the beautiful properties that can be accessed. I want to get that word out, engage people to come out and join our educational events and fundraisers that are a lot of fun.”
WLC recently acquired Snake Rocks, a property off Yerry Hill Road, and took on the management of Thorn Preserve, a former farm on John Joy Road that was acquired for preservation by Catskill Center for Conservation and Development in Arkville. Last May’s successful Bioblitz was a collaboration between scientists and community members who hiked the Thorn Preserve, cataloguing species. It will be repeated this year in June to see what different species are out in a different time period, not only engaging the public in research but also informing WLC’s management practices of the property. “It’s an amazing opportunity for people to collaborate with scientists,” pointed out Resnick. “Last year, they found a rare butterfly at Thorn — it was very exciting.”
Earlier in January, an 8 a.m. bird walk drew 20 people, including Resnick, who recalled, “A flock of snow geese flew over us going south. One guy in the group had been counting them the day before.”
Also on her plate will be assessing plans for the Ulster County rail trail, which was recently approved by the county legislature. Design studies are about to begin for a section of 11.5 miles along the northern edge of the Ashokan Reservoir, providing public access to a spectacular stretch of land.
This year, the WLC will be seeking accreditation from the Land Trust Alliance, a national organization that sets out best practices, policies, and standards for member land trusts. “It’s a lengthy application process that WLC has been gearing up for over several years,” said Resnick. “They’re looking for land trusts to have good practices, the capacity to preserve the land now and forever, and to be financially sound.” WLC will benefit from the examples of practices the alliance can provide, and the affiliation will open up the possibility of broader financial support from certain foundations.
“Our board is all-volunteer, and we have a lot of professional knowledge,” she observed. “For a small organization, we’ve done an amazing job with only two paid staff. The Alliance will give us a fraternity of other land trusts on whom to call when exploring issues. It’ll be supportive in all different ways.”
Other land acquisition possibilities are on the horizon as well. Resnick invites people to contact her and attend WLC events. “Our program director, Virginia Luppino, schedules at least one event a month. We’re involved with Transition Woodstock, with a film series coming up. There are lots of opportunities to get out and learn. We welcome volunteers, whether for maintenance and stewardship of the land or for fundraisers.” Comedian Colin Quinn, who supported the group with a fundraiser a few years ago, will be returning. The annual Vernal Fling will be held in May, and last year’s successful Harvest Festival at Longyear Farm will be repeated in October.
Regarding the importance of WLC’s mission of land preservation, Resnick observed, “So many of us are drawn to this area by physical beauty. WLC is making sure we keep that intact. As we face the specter of climate change, we’re going to need to protect our water even more, take care of our land, and come up with solutions for flooding. Keeping the forests also helps us reduce carbon dioxide output, to reduce climate change. For our soul inspiration as well as for our literal environment, WLC is about making sure we all continue to exist.”