Volunteer Vibes

Volunteers play many crucial roles at the Preserve. They maintain trails, welcome visitors, conduct research, educate youth groups, support special events, beautify our gardens, capture breathtaking photography, and much more, contributing their time, talents, and thousands of volunteer hours annually.

Volunteer Vibes is a collection of interviews from our amazing volunteers so that we can all learn who they are and why they do what they do for the Preserve. Let’s meet our volunteers!

Photo by Roberta Forest

June Finer

Bob Babb Wednesday Walk Volunteer Leader

Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised near London, England, and came to the USA (Chicago) in 1960, having just completed my medical training. I moved to NYC in 1967 to attend Columbia School of Public Health. I started coming upstate with my children in the 70s to attend International Folk Dance weekends and discovered hiking which I found to be most enjoyable. In 1983, I bought a weekend home in New Paltz and started regular hiking on the Shawangunk Ridge.

Why did you decide to volunteer your time and talents at Mohonk Preserve?

I am concerned for the health of the planet. The conservation of our Ridge is greatly important to me. I think the Preserve is a wonderful organization and want to support it as best I can. I love hiking and want to encourage more people to become members, hike regularly, and support all the Preserve’s goals.

Where is your favorite place/trail on the Preserve and why is it your favorite?

Whenever someone asks me, which trail is my favorite, I say “The one that I am on. Our Ridge is so beautiful that all the trails are great.”

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with June Finer – PDF

Photo by Rick Fick

Nancy Mitchell

Backcountry Patrol and Administration Volunteer

Why did you decide to volunteer your time and talents at Mohonk Preserve?

I have biked and hiked at the Preserve for many years and decided to volunteer to interact with and help visitors.

What is a volunteer accomplishment you are really proud of?

I most enjoy working with the staff when I volunteer at the Visitor Center. I also appreciate being out in nature, meeting fellow volunteers, and connecting with visitors.

Where is your favorite place/trail on the Preserve and why is it your favorite?

The scenery and tranquil atmosphere at Copes Lookout make it my favorite place to ride.

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Nancy Mitchell – PDF

Photo by Sami Shub

Ted Sendler

Backcountry Patrol and Volunteer Photographer

Why did you decide to volunteer your time and talents at Mohonk Preserve?

I have always enjoyed the outdoors. When my wife and I moved to the New Paltz area we found Mohonk Preserve provided the opportunity for friendships, adventures, learning, and photography that we enjoy.

What is a volunteer accomplishment you are really proud of?

Helping lost hikers and ensuring the safety of our trails while getting to remote areas for unique photography. Helping Friends of the Shawangunk arrange for the transfer of the Shawangunk Conglomerate Parcel to Mohonk Preserve.

Where is your favorite place/trail on the Preserve and why is it your favorite?

Sunsets at the Million Dollar View and Bonticou Crag.

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Ted Sendler – PDF

Hiker smiling in foreground with a forest and stream in background
Photo provided by Steven Miller

Steven Miller

Interpretive Guide, Trail Keeper and Facilities & Land Management Committee Volunteer

Why did you decide to volunteer your time and talents at Mohonk Preserve?

My family and I have a home in High Falls and have been members of the Preserve since 1989. We have hiked, biked, and rock-climbed here for over 30 years. When I retired, I felt it was time to give back to Mohonk Preserve, a place that has given us so much over the years.

What is a volunteer accomplishment you are really proud of?

I am most proud of being able to help visitors, especially those new to the Preserve, have a fun, safe, and satisfying experience here.

Where is your favorite place/trail on the Preserve and why is it your favorite?

My favorite trail is the northern section of the Northeast Trail. I love it for its rugged ridge walk and spectacular north views of the Catskill Mountains. The Millbrook Ridge trail is a close second, similar in character, but with southwesterly views across the Hudson Valley.

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Steven Miller – PDF

Usha Vas with her son Kiyan at the Bonticou Crag Scramble
Photo provided by Usha Vas

Usha Vas

Trailhead Ambassador

Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Singapore and came to the US – Iowa for college. I lived and worked there for about 10 years before moving to NYC. We moved to Gardiner when my son was one year old in 2002 and have lived here ever since.

Why did you decide to volunteer your time and talents at Mohonk Preserve?

After my son started college, I decided that I wanted to give back to the community. I’ve always loved hiking in the area and felt this was a perfect way to share my passion with others.

Where is your favorite place/trail on the Preserve and why is it your favorite?

I would have to say Millbrook Ridge is my favorite hike, though Bonticou Crag is a close second (minus the scramble). Honestly, I haven’t had a bad hike here…. Each place is unique and beautiful in its own right.

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Usha Vas – PDF

Photo provided by Stacey Spiegler

Stacey Spiegler

Gardening, Trailhead Ambassador and Special Events Volunteer

Why did you decide to volunteer your time and talents at Mohonk Preserve?

I discovered the Preserve when I went rock climbing for the first time. I remember reaching the GT belay ledge, turning around, and seeing the magic of this place. How could I not be a part of it by helping to make people aware of the need to support and protect the Preserve?

What is a volunteer accomplishment you are really proud of?

When volunteering at an aid station to support runners during a race, I enjoy the appreciation runners give to the volunteers who are there to support them. This year I filled in as the Lyons Road Aid Station Captain for the Rock the Ridge race. I’m also proud of volunteering with my daughters at various events over the years.

Where is your favorite place/trail on the Preserve and why is it your favorite?

A friend asked me to get her out hiking after open heart surgery. I began to explore places I hadn’t been to before – so many inspiring hikes it’s hard to pick a favorite. My go-to at the end of a workday is Pin Oak Allee to Duck Pond. For a little more adventure Clove Chapel to Split Rock is always a good one.

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Stacey Spiegler – PDF

Hiker and dog outside on Shawangunk Ridge enjoying a vista of the Catskill Mountains
Photo by Michael Dolan

Andy Bell

Special Events Volunteer

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Beacon and spent my college years in Boston with a work-study stint in Tokyo. Upon graduation, I returned to the Hudson Valley to begin a career with IBM.

What is your volunteer role(s) here at Mohonk Preserve?

I’ve enjoyed working the various Special Events for the Preserve for the past 8 years or so.

What is a volunteer accomplishment you are really proud of?

Healthy Ulster gives me the opportunity to share my enthusiasm for this very special place, especially with those who may not be familiar with all the Preserve has to offer.

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Andy Bell – PDF

Geraldine standing in front of a garden bench by the Mohonk Preserve Visitor Center
Photo by Andy Reynolds

Geraldine Moloney

Backcountry Patrol, Invasive Species and Healthy Ulster Volunteer

Why did you decide to volunteer your time and talents at Mohonk Preserve?

It was something I always wanted to do. Now that I am retired and have the time I can volunteer. I was also able to heal faster from an injury through nature. I feel it is my way of giving back and it is important to keep teaching society how important nature is. It is so good for the soul.

What is a volunteer accomplishment you are really proud of?

I am proud of getting up and being part of a volunteer family and meeting awesome like-minded people with a love of nature.

Where is your favorite place/trail on the Preserve and why is it your favorite?

I have been up here for nearly 50 years, yet I am new to the Preserve. Right now, the Slingerland Pavilion and the surrounding area are divine. I hope to master trailhead knowledge within the next few years.

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Geraldine Moloney – PDF

Abby stands next to a southern pine beetle pheromone trap
Photo by Sadie Kipping

Abby Jameson

Beetle Busters and Forest Guardian Volunteer

What is your volunteer role(s) here at Mohonk Preserve?

I volunteer in the Invasive Species Program, both with Beetle Busters and Forest Guardians. I check beetle traps and help to manually remove invasive species from the Preserve.

Why did you decide to volunteer your time and talents at Mohonk Preserve?

I enjoy learning more about the Preserve and being able to contribute and be in nature at the same time. The interconnectedness of nature fascinates me. I really appreciate the firsthand knowledge I gain through volunteering.

What is a volunteer accomplishment you are really proud of?

Removing invasive knotweed is especially rewarding to me. I feel I am making a tangible difference and it feels great to see an area once filled with invasive plants start to make room for native plants to grow.

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Abby Jameson – PDF

James running on a carriage road near the Sky Top Tower during Rock The Ridge.
Photo by Bill Winter

James McCowan

Backcountry Patrol and Trail Keeper Volunteer

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Massachusetts where I was fortunate to have some preserved forest and farmland nearby that I had free reign of as a child. My first exposure to Mohonk Preserve was as a Geology student and Cross-Country runner at Vassar in the late 90s. I explored the Preserve on field trips and weekend long runs with teammates and have felt deeply connected to it ever since.

Why did you decide to volunteer your time and talents at Mohonk Preserve?

I’ve been enjoying the Preserve for over 20 years and it felt natural to help care for the space that has provided me with so much solace, enjoyment, and growth. As my wife and I raise our kids in the shadow of the ridge, I want them to not only grow to appreciate the place but also understand the sense of stewardship and care for it.

Where is your favorite place/trail on the Preserve and why is it your favorite?

So many highlights but I think my favorite trail must be Millbrook Ridge and my favorite carriage road is Laurel Ledge. They are both so high-reward and highlight how wonderful a place the Preserve is.

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with James McCowan – PDF

Vinny Variano on a trail in Mohonk Preserve taking a photo
Photo by Denyse Variano

Vinny Variano

Interpretive Guide, Special Events and Rock The Ridge Volunteer

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Brooklyn, raised on the north shore of Suffolk County on Long Island, matured in Ithaca, and ripened in the Hudson Valley.

What is a volunteer accomplishment you are really proud of?

When hikers return to the Visitor Center and let me know what a great time they had, based on my suggestions, I consider that the best feedback a volunteer can get.

Where is your favorite place/trail on the Preserve and why is it your favorite?

So many trails, so little time… the Shongum Path is my current favorite – quiet and beautiful with a varied landscape. It leads to Split Rock, where a few hundred feet upstream, under the pines by the side of the creek, is my favorite spot in the Preserve.

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Vinny Variano – PDF

A hiker stands in front of the Mohonk Preserve Testimonial Gateway Tower with hiking poles on a sunny day
Photo by Vinny Variano

Denyse Variano

Interpretive Guide and Rock The Ridge Volunteer

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Brooklyn and spent my youth on Long Island on the South Shore near the beach. I was fortunate to spend my young adulthood in Ithaca where I met my husband Vincent and lived with our two children until we moved downstate.

Why did you decide to volunteer your time and talents at Mohonk Preserve?

My husband and I were always library volunteers. When we moved here, I wanted to try something completely different! My love of the land began with sleepaway camp in the Catskills. The Preserve’s habitat was reminiscent of that time. Helping people enjoy the natural world around them is a passion of mine. My role as a volunteer has allowed this to flourish.

Where is your favorite place/trail on the Preserve and why is it your favorite?

It is hard to choose just one place as each trailhead has such a different feel. I guess I would choose Spring Farm as my favorite because of the absolute peace and quiet. Each of the trails at SF is unique and the Spring wildflowers are amazing!

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Denyse Variano – PDF

Shannon and Pete Hinkey hiking on the Preserve with their new baby, Ashton.
Photo by Pete Hinkey

Shannon Hinkey

Backcountry Patrol Volunteer

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in the northern hills of Appalachia – mostly south and central Pennsylvania.

 

Why did you decide to volunteer your time and talents at Mohonk Preserve?

When I was dating my now-husband Pete, he introduced me to a lot of the trails all over the Preserve, and Mohonk became one of our favorite places to go together. Pete was already a Backcountry Patrol volunteer, and as I got to know the trails and love them too, joining him in volunteering seemed like a no-brainer.

What is a volunteer accomplishment you are really proud of?

Mostly I just love it when we’re out there and able to reach out to other people on the trails who are less familiar with them, and ask about directions, trail conditions, and optimal routes. It’s rewarding to be able to help people have a great experience on the Preserve.

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Shannon Hinkey – PDF

Pete hiking on the Preserve near Lost City with Shannon Hinkey and their new baby, Ashton.
Photo by Pete Hinkey

Pete Hinkey

Backcountry Patrol Volunteer

What is your volunteer role(s) here at Mohonk Preserve?

My wife Shannon and I get out in the Preserve for Backcountry Patrolling hoping to combine our love of hiking and the outdoors with keeping the woods beautiful and accessible for the many visitors who enjoy them.

 

Why did you decide to volunteer your time and talents at Mohonk Preserve?

Shannon and I always found ourselves at the Preserve when we wanted to spend time together outdoors and it was a natural progression to want to give back and help the efforts with the volunteer team.

What is a volunteer accomplishment you are really proud of?

I’m especially proud of convincing Shannon to join the volunteer staff 🙂 and my friends who I’ve recruited to help as well. I appreciate knowing that the volunteer observations directly impact the quality of the Preserve and keep it beautiful for everyone to enjoy.

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Pete Hinkey – PDF

Heidi McCowan smiles on a sunny day outside near a rock wall
Photo by Heidi McCowan

Heidi McCowan

Trail Keeper and Special Events Volunteer

What is your volunteer role(s) here at Mohonk Preserve?

I started as a Trail Keeper for the Rock Rift Trail, and now also do the Stairmaster (East Trapps Connector) and I volunteer at various special events like Rock the Ridge and the Annual Benefit Auction.

 

Why did you decide to volunteer your time and talents at Mohonk Preserve?

My husband and I have been coming to the Preserve for 18 years since we moved to the Hudson Valley, initially for climbing, now more for hiking, running, and biking. We moved to Gardiner in 2016, and when I was made aware of a need for a trail keeper, I jumped at the chance to give back to the place that has given us so much enjoyment for so many years.

What is a volunteer accomplishment you are really proud of?

I have worked at the Pine Road aid station for the past 3 years and have really enjoyed seeing all the runners and how appreciative they are of all the volunteers and supplies. The atmosphere is great, and everyone is excited to be there. My kids, Cole and Juniper come too, and they love passing food to the runners and making sure the tables stay stocked.

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Heidi McCowan – PDF

Tonda Highley at Mohonk Preserve foothills on a summer day, skytop tower and the Shawangunk Ridge in the background.
Photo by Stephen White Smith

Tonda Highley

Hike Leader Volunteer Coordinator

Where did you grow up?

I was born & raised on a Kansas farm. Even as a young girl, I was always on the move walking through the woods and pastures. I moved to the Hudson Valley area over 40 years ago and discovered the beauty of the mountains here.

 

What is your volunteer role(s) here at Mohonk Preserve?

I am a Hike Leader Volunteer Coordinator for Mohonk Preserve. It is a role I have held for several years. I am a strong advocate for the hiking program. I started my hiking career at Mohonk Preserve as have so many others. Every day I am out on the land and am happy to assist new visitors and hikers when I encounter them or those on scheduled hikes.

Why did you decide to volunteer your time and talents at Mohonk Preserve?

The “Gunks” are my local and go-to mountains. I felt it was important to give back to the place that gives so much to me. I’ve always had a passion for the outdoors and nature, so it is a perfect match for me.

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Tonda Highley – PDF

Trailhead ambassador in and outside setting helping visitors to Mohonk Preserve
Photo by Carol Natoli

John Schrenk

Volunteer Photographer

What is your volunteer role(s) here at Mohonk Preserve?

I started as an Interpretive Guide and Trailhead Ambassador, and I absolutely loved it. Last year, I added Backcountry Patrol and helped the Invasive Species team study the Southern Pine Beetle migration. I also enjoy helping with the Preserve’s fundraisers such as Rock The Ridge, Pfalz Point Trail Challenge, and the Shawangunk Grit Bicycle events each year.

 

What is a volunteer accomplishment you are really proud of?

I am so proud of the Preserve’s action on invasive species threats. For example, if we can stop the Southern Pine Beetle from destroying those beautiful Pitch Pines on Milbrook Ridge and the Crag and allow future generations to see them, I would consider that a job well done.

Where is your favorite place/trail on the Preserve and why is it your favorite?

My absolute favorite place in the Mohonk Preserve is Eagle Cliff via the Eagle Cliff Scramble. It is a day hike from any of the Preserve’s trailheads and affords amazing views of Trapps, Smiley Tower, Mohonk Lake, and the Mountain House. And, if you go on a windy day, especially in the Spring or Fall, the thermal soaring raptors will put on a show for you.

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with John Schrenk – PDF

Woman in forested area on a hike with trees in the background
Photo by Mike Siudy

Tara Siudy

Volunteer Photographer

What is your volunteer role(s) here at Mohonk Preserve?

I am a volunteer photographer at the Preserve. There is so much beauty (and action) to capture at the Preserve. I do occasionally find myself assisting my trail-maintainer husband, Mike Siudy, with the upkeep of his assigned trails.

What is a volunteer accomplishment you are really proud of?

I get excited when I can photograph athletic events at the Preserve. It is inspiring and satisfying to be able to capture event participants on their journeys. Whether it be running in a race or riding in a bike event, photographing smiles and waves as people zoom past is what I like to capture. It is AWESOME to be able to snap a photo when people cross the finish line. I am so glad to be able to provide these participants with these moments.

Where is your favorite place/trail on the Preserve and why is it your favorite?

My favorite place on the preserve has got to be Bonticou Crag. It is such a great trail, and nothing beats the sunset while on the top. Oftentimes there are either crows or vultures roosting on the crag. I LOVE to watch the birds enjoying the view as much as I do.

 

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Tara Siudy – PDF

Ralph Durham in a wooded outdoor area with a clipboard taking field study notes
Photo provided by Ralph Durham

Ralph Durham

Special Events and Community Science Programs (Phenology, Climate Tracking, StreamWatch and Invasive Species) Volunteer

What is your volunteer role(s) here at Mohonk Preserve?

I began volunteering with the Community Science Programs starting with Phenology (I am now in my ninth year) and then explored Climate Tracking, Stream Watch, and Invasive Species. I also volunteer for a variety of special events throughout the year.

Why did you decide to volunteer your time and talents at Mohonk Preserve?

I was looking for volunteer opportunities and found Environmental Science volunteer projects on the Preserve’s website. Being that I had a minor in Environmental Science, it seemed to be the perfect match.

What is a volunteer accomplishment you are really proud of?

I am most proud to be participating in the continuing data collection for one of the largest Phenological databases in the country.

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Ralph Durham – PDF

Photo by Tonda Highley

Siu S. Yuen

Volunteer Photography, Hike Leader and Special Events

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in the city on the Lower East side of Manhattan. I came up to the Hudson Valley to attend college at SUNY New Paltz. Thirty-plus years later, I still reside in the Hudson Valley area as I do enjoy nature and the fresh air.

What is a volunteer accomplishment you are really proud of?

When my hikers praise me as a very good leader and that they enjoy my hikes. I personally love longer hikes with beautiful views. The Preserve’s land sure provides that and a lot more.

Where is your favorite place/trail on the Preserve and why is it your favorite?

One of my favorite places/trails is hiking up the East Trapps Connector (the Stairmaster!) to the Millbrook Ridge Trail and Millbrook Mountain. After Millbrook Mountain, one goes on to Gertrude’s Nose at neighboring Minnewaska State Park for a 12- mile outstanding lollipop hike. The hike is long and strenuous, but it offers a variety of terrain, carriageways, and rocky trails along part of the Shawangunk Ridge in addition to great views!

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Siu S. Yuen – PDF

Photo by Aurora Cosillo

Juan Cosillo

Volunteer Trail Keeper

Why did you decide to volunteer your time and talents at Mohonk Preserve?

My whole life I have had a curiosity to learn about the trees, the plants, and the animals – everything the forest has to offer. It was the reason I decided to move to Kingston, New York. I wanted to spend more time in nature and learn as much as I could from the forest. When I learnt that I could give back to the forest by volunteering as a trail keeper, I signed up.

What is a volunteer accomplishment you are really proud of?

I am proud that I have been able to protect the Mohonk Preserve for the past 7 years. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to give back to the forest. I feel rewarded each time I return to maintain my trails and look back at all of the memories I have made. Whether it’s sawing down a large fallen tree by hand or just taking a break at a one of the cliffs along the trail.

Where is your favorite place/trail on the Preserve and why is it your favorite?

The trails I maintain on the Preserve are my favorite. I love the pitch pines that grow along the trail. I also live very close to the area and am proud to call this place my home.

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Juan Cosillo – PDF

Nature photographer on the land
Photo by Maryalice Citera

Gerald Liddelow

Volunteer Photographer

Why did you decide to volunteer your time and talents at Mohonk Preserve?

Becoming a volunteer has given me an opportunity to use my love for photography and nature to contribute to the preservation of a piece of our natural world through Mohonk Preserve. I also get to cover the programs and events which broaden the scope of my photography.

What is a volunteer accomplishment you are really proud of?

That would be having my image chosen to be on the cover of the Mohonk Preserve calendar. I have always thought that getting your picture into a calendar is quite an accomplishment for any photographer.

Where is your favorite place/trail on the Preserve and why is it your favorite?

My favorite place for both taking pictures and simply hiking is the blue trail up and along Millbrook Ridge. The views are amazing, and the trail takes you from open ridge views to under the tree canopy and back to open views with numerous photo opportunities.

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Gerald Liddelow – PDF

Tom Sarro stands in front of a summer house vista
Photo by Joe Bridges

Tom Sarro

Peregrine Falcon Watch Volunteer Coordinator and more.

Why did you decide to volunteer your time and talents at Mohonk Preserve?

The Preserve provided the perfect combination of allowing me to learn and experience more about nature. I find it a pleasure to meet like-minded people who have similar goals centered on making the natural world sustainable and available for all to enjoy.

What is a volunteer accomplishment you are really proud of?

During my two sabbaticals from teaching, I conducted the fall hawk count almost every day throughout the season. We sent the data to the Hawk Migration Association of America. Here at the Preserve, we were able to use the data to observe trends over time.

Where is your favorite place/trail on the Preserve and why is it your favorite?

I can’t pick one favorite place for different reasons. My favorite places are:

  • Rhododendron Swamp – we conducted our first vegetation analysis here. The diversity of plants and birds made it a very special place to be. It is my understanding that it was also a favorite of Dan Smiley.
  • Coxing Kill – the stand of hemlocks here gives me a sense of the forest primeval. Early morning breeding bird census conducted here never disappointed. I brought a group of inner-city eighth graders to the Coxing and I think they got a real sense of the natural world.
  • Duck Pond – we were fortunate to camp overnight during a breeding bird census. Waking early in the morning to mist floating above the water and the early morning chorus will be something I will never forget.
  • Sleepy Hollow – having participated in several breeding bird censuses here I still marvel at the diversity of plants and birds in a relatively small area.
  • Of course, the Hawk Watch, even on those days when very few birds were flying, sitting there, overlooking the Catskills, gave me a sense of place. It was here on those quiet days that I had time to reflect and put in perspective what it means to be a visitor on this planet for the short time we are here.

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Tom Sarro – PDF

Ruth Backenroth in her garden. Photo by Walter “Snapper” Earl.
Photo by Walter “Snapper” Earl

Ruth Backenroth

Gardening and Education Volunteer

Why did you decide to volunteer your time and talents at Mohonk Preserve?

The Preserve lands are just so beautiful and accessible. When I returned for college, I took my first field studies classes and learned about the Preserve and what I was hiking by all these years. What a treat to have all this in our backyards. I realized it is now also a responsibility we need to take on to maintain it however we can help.

What is a volunteer accomplishment you are really proud of?

Working in the garden group gives me an immediate feeling of accomplishment. Weeding really is rewarding! Also, returning the next week to see the space you provided allowed for new flowering that has made a notable change. Working with the education group is a more reflective experience but also provides a feeling of accomplishment. Observing when students see the Preserve for the first time is such a positive experience and renews my hope for the future.

Where is your favorite place/trail on the Preserve and why is it your favorite?

Spring Farm may be my favorite place on thePreserve. The trails are varied, and the views are the best!

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Ruth Backenroth – PDF

Anka Angrist on a nature walk in front of a field
Photo by Diane Sadowy

Anka Angrist

Conservation Science Volunteer

What is your volunteer role(s) here at Mohonk Preserve?

I currently participate in Conservation Science with Phenology and occasionally in Peregrine Watch and at special events.

Why did you decide to volunteer your time and talents at Mohonk Preserve?

Volunteering offered a direct way to express my love for and contribute to the mission of the Mohonk Preserve.

What is a volunteer accomplishment you are really proud of?

Rather than a particular accomplishment, I am pleased that my observations benefit important research and preservation programs

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Anka Angrist – PDF

Christopher Zimmerman in front of trees
Photo by Bae Zimmerman

Christopher Zimmerman

Volunteer Bike Patrol and Trailhead Ambassador

Why did you decide to volunteer your time and talents at Mohonk Preserve?

What would Ulster County be without the Preserve? I’m glad to give back. I’ve been inspired in large part by fellow members at the Bruderhof, the religious commune I belong to. Whether maintaining trails, volunteering at races, or making financial contributions, our organization has been a proud supporter of the Preserve for decades. There’s a family connection too: like the Smileys, my grandparents were Quakers. They were frequent guests at the nearby Mohonk Mountain House.

What is a volunteer accomplishment you are really proud of?

I’ve solicited volunteers from the Mount Academy, a local high school, for Rock the Ridge, and I’ve taken teens hiking and cycling at the Preserve. As a teacher and parent, I’m eager to energize the next generation. Unless we act, there won’t be a wilderness for them to enjoy.

Where is your favorite place/trail on the Preserve and why is it your favorite?

That’s easy – Copes Lookout. No matter the season or weather, there’s nothing like hiking up to one of those little wooden gazebos and drinking in the view.

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Christopher Zimmerman – PDF

Volunteer standing in front of Mountain Laurel on a trail
Photo by Jannette Pazer

Matt Logan

Volunteer Trailkeepers Coordinator

What is your volunteer role(s) here at Mohonk Preserve?

I’m the Volunteer Trailkeepers Coordinator, one of the more traditionally individualistic volunteer groups at the Preserve. As climate change creates increased challenges of washed-out trails and downed trees that can be more for one trailkeeper to manage, we’re looking to gather our folks together for coordinated group projects.

Why did you decide to volunteer your time and talents at Mohonk Preserve?

Growing up in New Paltz I spent countless days with friends hiking, biking, and exploring the ridge from Skytop on down, so it seems only natural to want to stay involved and give back. Trailkeeping (and trail building, where I also volunteer), is super fun and rewarding in the way it lets one “curate” the best possible experience of a trail for hikers.

What is a volunteer accomplishment you are really proud of?

I’ve worked to improve and maintain a good number of trails over the years. Getting to shape and groom the new Lost City Escarpment Trail is definitely the most rewarding, especially as a rock climber who often works with the Preserve as a board member of the Gunks Climbing Coalition. If you haven’t checked this trail out, I guarantee you’ll find it to be one of the prettiest in the Gunks!

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Matt Logan – PDF

Volunteer in a natural setting
Photo by Kent Stivers

Artie Hidalgo-Espinosa

Trail Builders Volunteer Coordinator

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Cuba on a farm. I emigrated to the US when I was 10 in 1961. In NYC, I lived in Hell’s Kitchen, attending school in Harlem. After retirement as Assistant General Manager of MTA buses, I came to the Hudson Valley where I co-founded the Jolly Rovers Trail Crew, a nonprofit, specializing in stonework for trails.

What is a volunteer accomplishment you are really proud of?

I am most proud of my involvement teaching stonework skills all over the Eastern seaboard, including at Mohonk Preserve. It means a lot to me to have these opportunities to teach stonework skills to others.

Where is your favorite place/trail on the Preserve and why is it your favorite?

Giant’s Workshop is one of my favorite trails. It was where I started as a Trail Keeper. It’s a very beautiful trail with scrambles and steep ascents as well as wonderful rock formations.

 

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Artie Hidalgo-Espinosa – PDF

Trail Builders volunteer with tools and hardhat.
Photo by Christopher Hoey

Linda Shekita

Trail Builders Volunteer

What is your volunteer role(s) here at Mohonk Preserve?

At Mohonk Preserve, I am part of a group called the Trail Builders. We specialize in stonework. Our first job was to remediate the Connectors Trail, outside the visitor’s center. Now we are working on a new trail near Coxing Trailhead.

What is a volunteer accomplishment you are really proud of?

Every day of trail building gives me a great sense of accomplishment. On June 11, the Trail Builders built a crib wall and set one step! At 65, I am very thankful that I have the physical strength to do this work. It is challenging but rewarding.

Where is your favorite place/trail on the Preserve and why is it your favorite?

Duck Pond is one of my favorite places on the Preserve. Early in my career, I taught 3rd grade in New Paltz. We took our classes there every year for a field trip. It was one of my favorite days of teaching and brings back many joyful memories!

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Linda Shekita – PDF

Photo by Susan Lehrer

Carol Rietsma

Phenology Volunteers Coordinator, Board of Directors Secretary, Education Committee Chair, and more.

Why did you decide to volunteer your time and talents at Mohonk Preserve?

I love working and recreating outdoors. My first graduate student at SUNY New Paltz was Paul Huth; his thesis addressed environmental triggers for phenology (nature’s calendar). He asked me to serve on the Research (now Conservation Science) Committee. I was later invited to join the Board of Directors. For my forty-plus years of teaching, I regularly took my students to the Mohonk Preserve for field experiences.

What is a volunteer accomplishment you are really proud of?

I am proud to help the Mohonk Preserve protect this beautiful landscape. I am also proud to help teach our Phenology volunteers how to make accurate observations and contribute to our understanding of global climate change.

Where is your favorite place/trail on the Preserve and why is it your favorite?

Presently, it is walking the Pin Oak Allee at the Testimonial Gateway through all the seasons of the year. It is calming, inspiring, and majestic.

 

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Carol Rietsma – PDF

Photographer sitting in a natural landscape with camera
Photo by Maryalice Citera

Renee Zernitsky

Mohonk Preserve Volunteer Photographers Coordinator

Why did you decide to volunteer your time and talents at Mohonk Preserve?

The friendly staff and numerous supporters were a cause I wanted to be a part of. I’m retired now and have been able to spend more time volunteering at the preserve.

What is a volunteer accomplishment you are really proud of?

I feel I have accomplished the role I set out to do for the Preserve and I’m most proud of being a part of the Volunteer Photography team. I’m especially grateful to my two co-coordinators for their continued support, and our team of over 100 volunteer photographers, for their dedication to the leadership of the team. We have supplied the preserve with thousands of photos over the years and continue to do so today. We have been able to share something we are all personally passionate about and I enjoy working with like-minded people with the same goals.

Where is your favorite place/trail on the Preserve and why is it your favorite?

My Favorite place/trail on the Preserve will always be Bonticou Crag. It’s like you can see the whole world from up there. It makes me proud to think that I am a part of preserving it for future generations. My favorite trails are Lenape Lane to Duck Pond.

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Renee Zernitsky – PDF

Photo by Kate Schoonmaker

Ken Pawson

Interpretive Guides Volunteer Coordinator

What is your volunteer role(s) here at Mohonk Preserve?

I am the volunteer coordinator of the Interpretive Guides. I also serve with Rosemary at the Annual Benefit Auction, Rock the Ridge, Bridge 2 Bridge Run, and the Pfalz Point Challenge. Other volunteer assignments I’ve served in: Backcountry Patrol, Healthy Ulster, Phenology Observer, Climate Tracking, and informational tabling events.

Why did you decide to volunteer your time and talents at Mohonk Preserve?

My first Preserve hike was on the Chapel Trail. I enjoyed it so much that I spent a season taking as many different hikes as I could, taking notes on details as I went along. When I needed new suggestions, I stopped in at the Visitor Center and spoke with a volunteer Interpretive Guide, who gave me a tour using the VC’s topographic model. I thought then that I’d enjoy sharing the knowledge I gained that year with our visitors. I joined the Interpretive Guides the following year, and I’ve loved it ever since.

What is a volunteer accomplishment you are really proud of?

The greatest accomplishment is knowing that you’ve been helpful to someone. It’s a kick when visitors return from a hike you suggested and tell you that the hike was awesome and directions were spot on. It’s also great to help participants in the Preserve’s special events – especially Rock The Ridge – the racers’ expressions of appreciation inspire me to volunteer again and again.

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Ken Pawson – PDF

Photo by Marc Fisher

Georgiana Fisher

Gardening Volunteer Coordinator

Why did you decide to volunteer your time and talents at Mohonk Preserve?

When my husband and I moved to Highland, NY 18 years ago, I decided to join the gardening group at the preserve. After two years as a volunteer, I was asked if I might be interested in becoming the Gardening Coordinator since the present coordinators were leaving. I agreed and enrolled in the Ulster County Master Gardeners Course to enhance mostly everything I didn’t know about gardening.

What is a volunteer accomplishment you are really proud of?

I am so proud of the work our gardening group has accomplished around the Visitors Center transforming what was once overgrown bushes and hard rocky soil into an enhancement of plants. Many nice friendships have formed, and this group seems to enjoy working together and working the land.

Where is your favorite place/trail on the Preserve and why is it your favorite?

My favorite trail is The Lost City. When you reach your destination, the views are the best!

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Georgiana Fisher – PDF

Photo by Dick Williams

Rick Cronk

Climbers’ Trail Crew Volunteer Coordinator

Why did you decide to volunteer your time and talents at Mohonk Preserve?

My first volunteer experience on the Preserve was joining Thom Scheuer and others fighting a brush fire above the Overcliff Road. Fourteen years ago, Dick Williams invited me to join his volunteer trail crew and try my hand at trail building. After I retired from my teaching career in 2009, I became a regular on the crew. I figured it was a great way to give back to the Mohonk Preserve, and the climbing community, for all the good times and great experiences I have had on the Preserve.

What is a volunteer accomplishment you are really proud of?

The Climbers’ Trail Crew’s collective accomplishments are easily seen in the network of ascent trails that have been built over the years. A legacy that will hopefully outlast all who have contributed their time and energy in service to the Mohonk Preserve, its members, and the general public who visit.

Where is your favorite place/trail on the Preserve and why is it your favorite?

The best thing about my favorite trail is that I never see anyone on it. In times past, hundreds of climbers would have passed along this trail as they finished their climbs and returned to the base of the crag. Nowadays, the trail is all but abandoned and fallen into disuse as climbers now rappel down to the base of the crags.

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Rick Cronk – PDF

Photo by Christopher Yates

Peter Boyle

Backcountry Patrol Volunteer Coordinator
April 15, 2022

Why did you decide to volunteer your time and talents at Mohonk Preserve?

I hiked the Millbrook Ridge Trail on my first visit to the Preserve and immediately fell in love with this beautiful place. I’ve always had a passion for conservation and the protection of wildlife, open spaces, and the environment so this was a perfect match for me.

What is a volunteer accomplishment you are really proud of?

I am most proud of the positive feedback I’ve received from my fellow volunteers, and from Preserve staff for my efforts. I hope that by getting out on the land to meet and support my fellow volunteers, I can have a positive impact on volunteer retention.

Where is your favorite place/trail on the Preserve and why is it your favorite?

The Millbrook Ridge was love at first hike, but as a Backcountry patroller I’m off-trail still exploring and discovering new sections. Each area has its unique beauty and attraction.

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Peter Boyle – PDF

Photo by Larry Feldman

Jill Feldman

Chair of the Volunteer Committee

What is a volunteer accomplishment you are really proud of?

I thrive on detail and get great satisfaction by completing a task and completing it well. But the best part of my volunteering has been getting to know and making friends with staff members at Mohonk Preserve.

 

Where is your favorite place/trail on the Preserve and why is it your favorite?

As a long-time member of the Preserve, one of my favorite trails is the Shongum Path. When friends or family come to visit, this is our go-to trail – close to parking, easy enough for novice hikers, with Split Rock as a destination. Walking on the plank path and hopping over streams is especially fun for our three grandsons. I am having more and more trouble keeping up with them these days.

What is your volunteer role(s) here at Mohonk Preserve?

In November 2015, I began volunteering every Wednesday helping with data entry, mailings, and even organizing the supply room! Later, I accepted the Volunteer Committee Chair role, too.

I have volunteered with the Conservation Science on several projects:

  • Mounting herbarium specimens collected by Paul Huth
  • Digitizing the card catalog in the DSRC library
  • Interpreting and digitizing information on these cards*
  • Currently, I am assisting Megan Napoli to transfer bird breeding observations (dating back to the 1990s) to an Excel spreadsheet.

*I wrote a Volunteer Voice article – “A Century of Natural History Observations” – which describes the worldwide digitization project.

Larry and I collect StreamWatch data once a month. Our assigned spot is the Humpo Marsh.

I also assist Larry with his Climate Tracking duties at the Mohonk Mountain House dock. We are currently gathering weekly water temperature and ice-cover data in concert with Professor David Richardson of SUNY New Paltz.

 

Read more: Volunteer Vibes with Jill Feldman – PDF

Banner photo by Gerald Liddelow