I am continuing my work with The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy as the Outreach and Development Coordinator. The offices are located in Slingerlands, New York, just south of Albany. The web site is www.mohawkhudson.org .
When they started in 1992, it was fully volunteer group to protect our local water quality, preserve working landscapes and protect wildlife habitat in Albany County. Presently, there are 2500 acres that have been preserved in three counties: Albany, Montgomery, and Schenectady. The land preservation occurs chiefly through donated lands and easements. Now it has three paid staff: one full time director, a half-time program coordinator and myself, as three quarter time outreach and development coordinator. There is a volunteer Board of Directors, as well as a volunteer Advisory Council to guide our work.
I report to the executive director, Jill Knapp. Besides my fundraising work, she has brought me to several projects that are what I term “policy in action.” The town of Bethlehem, where I live, has had a long history of citizen action committees focused on land use issues There have been several groups that have been appointed by the town government, as well as private citizen groups. Jill invited to get involved with Bethlehem Tomorrow, just such a citizen group. In the last month they have been moving towards circulating a petition to get a referendum on the ballot in support of open space and the town’s funding of it. One component we are researching is there a need for economic impact study. The interplay of different groups and history of those interactions has been fascinating to observe. The need to protect open space is certainly a social movement and the actors have agendas that can overlap in both positive and conflicting ways. We had a window of opportunity this spring to move the agenda along when a golf course came up for sale in the town
. This was “policy in action”, watching the stakeholders on both sides of the issue were able to attain a larger platform at town meetings through petition drive to get movement on the issue of open space protection.
MHLC had worked with Open Space Institute ten years ago to raise money to buy the development rights to Indian Ladder Farms. We are currently working with them on another property. So I am able to see other partnerships at work moving the agenda along. Building on the legacy of the Indian Ladder Farm easement, we organized a function at that site to work towards protecting more land in that region. The interested parties that came from that function have now met again to work on looking at moving that strategic plan forward. Since, MHLC has very limited funding for acquisitions, I have begun putting a package of grants together to increase our capacity.
Another example of partnering of different stakeholders, is the Rail Trail that goes through our area. Albany County purchased of a nine-mile track of abandoned railroad from the Port of Albany through Bethlehem and Slingerlands. A group of volunteers formed a sub-committee of MHLC, entitled Friends of the Rail Trail (FORT). There is a large price tag to get the entire trail open to the public, with decayed bridges the largest issue. MHLC was able to work with the county and towns to open 1.85 miles this June on Trails Day. Although the county owns the trail, MHLC’s insurance will cover that stretch for now. I worked with FORT to coordinate the public opening, with just two weeks notice from the county.
This year, MHLC attained a grant for a new program called Adopt a Forest, that Jill has turned over to me, as part of my internship. The concept is to have youth groups adopt a parcel at one of our preserves. I have been following through on initial contacts with schools and other groups to implement their “adoptions”.
I will update you on these and further projects as I proceed in my internship through the end of December.
Great to hear all the exciting work everyone is doing- Kate Murray