It’s finally nice outside, go for a walk

– Photo courtesy of Mark King

A striking setting in a secluded Schenectady cemetery: The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy has protected more than 5,000 acres of land in Albany, Schenectady, and Montgomery counties.

NEW SCOTLAND – Mark King, the executive director of the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, wants you to take a walk in one of his conservancy’s 18 preserves, it will be good for you.

He offered The Enterprise three preserves in New Scotland: the Bennett Hill Preserve on Bennett Hill Road; the Holt Preserve on Upper Copeland Hill Road; and the Keleher Preserve on Gulf Hill Road.

The Bennett Hill Preserve in the early 1900s was a bit of a tourist attraction, King said. People from Albany would stay in one of several of the hotels that were in the area at the time, and would take a walk up the hill to enjoy the view.

For many years, the land was private property. The conservancy acquired the 155 acres in 1998 from Dr. Jerry Bilinski, who, King said, was very passionate about the land.

Bennett Hill is a little unusual in that there is a wetland on top of the hill, King said, which could be attributed to a clay lense, a soil type that traps water. Also near the top of the hill, hikers will find Bathtub Spring, which, King said, is exactly what it sounds like: Someone tapped the spring and ran a pipe into a bathtub in the middle of the forest.

The hill is now very different from historical pictures that King has seen, “where there are no trees whatsoever and clearly sheep grazed on it.”

The Bennett Hill Preserve is part of a push by the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy to connect and provide people with a local opportunity to easily enjoy nature, King said, to not have to drive to the Adirondacks or the Catskills to get away from the distractions of modern life.

“To enjoy something that is right here, that you can do quickly and easily, and is local enough that you might go there everyday or every few days,” he said.

King said that there have been recent studies that show people in modern life are recharged by getting out into nature, and, that even a relatively small area of forest can be helpful to a person’s mental health and stress level.

“We are strong believers in that,” he said. “The more opportunities that we can provide, the better.”

The Keleher Preserve, known to most as Wolf Hill, feels more wild feel than the Bennett or Holt preserves, King said. “There are some old stone foundations up there; people were really eeking out a living.” It offers visitors the opportunity to gain a sense of history for what used to be there, he added.

Because of logging, and all-terrain vehicle and snowmobile use, Wolf Hill has seen a lot of human use and abuse throughout the years, he said. He added that the conservancy “had sorted it out fairly well, with some very nice trails.” It is the only preserve that allows mountain biking, he said.

The majority of Wolf Hill was acquired by the conservancy in 2010, King said, with a fairly significant addition made in 2014. At nearly 450 acres, it’s largest preserve under the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy’s stewardship.

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