Woodstock Land Conservancy prepares to open new preserve to public

Wintry light over Zena Cornfield, the first property to be protected by WLC. (Photo by Ellie Reese)

Many of us live near patches of privately owned forest that are cherished by local residents for wandering, hiking, and marveling at nature. When just such a parcel, located at the northeast base of Ohayo Mountain, came up for tax auction, Woodstock neighbors joined forces to buy it and have now turned the pristine 11 acres over to the Woodstock Land Conservancy (WLC) for preservation.

Over the next year, the WLC will be preparing to open the Jones Preserve to the public. Meanwhile, its 2019 schedule of monthly educational programs has already been posted, providing opportunities to experience other preserves owned or managed by WLC. Walks and talks cover such topics as bird-watching, planting pollinator-friendly plants, mushroom foraging, and more, beginning with Walking in The New Year with ecologist Peter Koch on Saturday, January 5, noon to 2 p.m., at the Israel Wittman Sanctuary.


When Ray Tekosky and Jeremy Harlow joined forces to purchase their neighboring land, which features ecologically sensitive vernal pools and a quarry pond, they recognized that it might be worthy of conservation and approached WLC to consider its donation. Harlow explained, “We went in as neighbors working together with the goal of preserving the truly special environment around our homes. This land touches several of our properties and is a gateway to a beloved social trail system that none of us wanted disrupted. Once purchased, we quickly engaged with our neighbors to ensure we had support, and all agreed that donating it to the Woodstock Land Conservancy was the right way to go.”

It took a couple of years to work through the requirements for donation, said WLC executive director Maxanne Resnick. Neighbors contributed to the transaction costs involved, making the donation truly a community project. “Now we have to work on trails,” said Resnick, “and create a management plan, which is one of our practices as an accredited land trust. We have to raise money to make a parking area and an information kiosk.”

Besides protecting land, the WLC is devoted to education through its First Saturdays on the Trail programs, encouraging people to find pleasure in the wild and understand the need for preservation. Participants in the 2019 walks will discover the features of different natural habitats, gain an understanding of climate change impacts, and learn about the need to protect water.  

The January 5 walk will be led by Peter Koch, a native of Woodstock who spent many years teaching ecology at Georgia University, focusing on marine, estuarine, and salt marsh ecology. Koch, back in Woodstock for many years, will share his knowledge and love of the Catskills ecology with participants. The Israel Wittman Sanctuary, located on the Woodstock-Saugerties border, is a forested property with a gently-graded two-mile loop trail. See sidebar for details on signing up.

For the seventh year in a row, WLC will collaborate with Woodstock Transition to present a series of films on ecological topics, on the last Monday night of the month from January 28 to April 29. This year, the series will be co-sponsored by the Woodstock Jewish Congregation (WJC) and St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church. Screenings will be held at the Woodstock Jewish Congregation. See the WLC website for details.

2019 First Saturdays on the Trail

These monthly programs are free. For details, or to sign up for email notification, see http://www.woodstocklandconservancy.org. The January 5 walk is limited to 20 people, so register by emailing Ellie Reese at ellier.wlc@gmail.com. Parking is off-site. Meet at the Woodstock Music Lab (1700 Sawkill Road, Kingston — the former Zena Elementary School) at 11:30 a.m. for carpooling. Wear appropriate winter clothing and comfortable hiking gear for the moderate-grade terrain. In the case of heavy rain, snow, or bad weather, this event will be canceled.

The monthly schedule:

January 5 — Walking in the New Year: An Ecology Exploration with Peter Koch, Israel Wittman Sanctuary.

February 2 — Bird Walk with Mark DeDea, The Catskill Center’s Thorn Preserve.

March 2 — Winter Sports & Stroll with Overlook Bicycles, Zena Cornfield

April 6 — Chainsaw Skills & Trail Clean up with Limber Tree Service, Sloan Gorge.

May 4 — Pollinator Planting with Chris Layman, The Catskills Center Thorn Preserve.

June 1 — Poetry at the Quarry with Will Nixon, Snake Rocks.

July 6 — Eat Your Invasives with Del Orloske, The Catskill Center’s Thorn Preserve.

August 3 — Enrapturing Raptors with Ellen Kalish, The Comeau Property.

September 7 — Fabulous Fungi, Sloan Gorge Preserve.

October 5 — Waterways of Woodstock with Amanda Lavalle, Around Town.

November 2 — Woodstock Tales, TBD

December 7 — Winter Walk & Ride, Ashokan Rail Trail.

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