Winter 2022 has been tenacious so far with significant snow and ice storms impacting our region. Fortunately, it has also offered some great opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and winter hiking in between the tempests.
In this issue of Ridgelines, we’ll highlight the Preserve’s Visitor Experience team, share preparations for the Peregrine falcons’ annual return, and preview the exciting spring racing season.
Thanks to all of our members and donors for your continued support, and we wish you a happy and healthy 2022.
Banner photo by Sami Shub
Conscientiously Connecting Visitors to Nature
In 2020, Mohonk Preserve experienced record-breaking visitation. We were grateful that so many people turned to the Preserve for healthy outdoor activity and connection with nature. We also recognize the heightened need to carefully balance recreational opportunities with conservation priorities, which led to the establishment of the Preserve’s Visitor Experience program.
Led by Director of Visitor Experience and Chief Ranger Andrew Bajardi, the Preserve’s Visitor Experience team, including rangers and trailhead staff, are on the front lines of ensuring safe, engaging experiences in nature while also assuring long-term sustainability goals for the land. They are also the Preserve’s largest program, with up to 40 staff members during the spring, summer and autumn seasons.
Our knowledgeable trailhead staff welcome visitors with helpful tips to make their experiences more enjoyable, suggesting the perfect hike and pointing out special features on the landscape you might encounter. They are evaluating signage and other wayfinding tools to make sure they are clear and helpful. And we’ve initiated new benefits such as Member Mornings and extended seasonal hours to expand opportunities to enjoy the land.
Our Ranger team is growing our successful low impact climbing project to include all recreationists, including first timers, providing the information and tools they need to develop and maintain mindful and sustainable relationships with the land. They are also working on signage about Leave No Trace and other conservation imperatives, all while maintaining our high standard of mountain rescue services.
The Visitor Experience team is taking the lead on accessing and evaluating recreational opportunities and impacts by implementing new tools to track visitation patterns and exploring mitigation options. They’re also reviewing and updating their procedures, processes and trainings to ensure that all team members have the information and skills they need to succeed.
Helping you plan a great day in nature and keeping you safe while you enjoy your inspiring outdoor adventure is all in a day’s work for our Visitor Experience team and they look forward to welcoming you on your next visit!
Continuing the Conservation Legacy of Peregrines in the Gunks
This year, Mohonk Preserve will continue a tradition of monitoring and conservation of Peregrine falcons that extends back to the 1920s when Dan and Keith Smiley began recording and tracking these birds. Dan would continue observing Peregrines throughout his lifetime and noticed a decline in their numbers the 1940s and 1950s when DDT and other pesticides wreaked havoc on bird populations. By 1968, there were no known Peregrine nests east of the Mississippi River.
In 1974, SUNY New Paltz Professor Heinz Meng began raising Peregrines in captivity and reintroducing them into the Gunks. Finally, in 1998, after an absence of over 40 years, Peregrines returned to nest in the Gunks and have been returning during breeding season almost every year since then, with Preserve staff and volunteers observing and recording their favorite perches and eyrie (nesting ledge) locations.
Peregrine falcons are a protected New York State Endangered Species, and the Preserve cooperates with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to ensure the continued recovery of the species. Preserve Conservation Programs and Ranger staff and volunteers monitor the Peregrines as part of the Peregrine Watch program, which runs from February through August in conjunction with the Peregrine nesting and breeding season. This year, after extensive research into Peregrine falcon conservation efforts nationwide, the Preserve is adopting a responsive management approach to our temporary cliff and boulder closure in the Trapps, with a broader closure at the beginning of the breeding season to optimize successful eyrie selection. Once the eyrie is established, we expect to adjust the closure using the line-of-sight approach that we typically use in establishing the extent of our closures. This approach seeks to minimize human activity within view of the eyrie and nearby perching locations. As always, our Peregrine Watch team will continue to closely monitor the eyrie and closures may be adjusted based on nesting activity and changes during the breeding season. Peregrine Watch volunteers will also monitor eyries at Millbrook Ridge and Bonticou Crag although no closures are planned for those locations this year. Updates on the progress of the breeding season will be posted to the Preserve’s website at www.mohonkpreserve.org/peregrine-watch.
Peregrines that breed in natural areas are less tolerant of humans than birds that breed in urban areas and can attack people they perceive as intruding on their territories. This can result in injury to both people and birds. Also, nesting birds that leave their eyries expose their eggs or young to predators, scavengers and inclement weather.
Peregrines typically mate for life and tend to return to the same territory each year to have their young. Peregrines incubate their eggs for about a month until they hatch and the young stay in the eyrie for over 40 days as they mature. Temporarily closing breeding areas in the Trapps to climbing and bouldering provides the Peregrines with the best chance of choosing an optimal eyrie site and successfully breeding.
The Preserve has worked collaboratively with the climbing community for decades to help protect the Peregrine falcons and we appreciate their support of our conservation mission and patience as they wait for their favorite climbs and boulders to reopen once the breeding season concludes. We also thank the dozens of Peregrine Watch volunteers, many of whom are climbers, who have generously donated their time, skills and energy to support these remarkable raptors on the ridge!
Racing to Support Mohonk Preserve’s Mission
With spring on the horizon, Mohonk Preserve is excited to present a great lineup of on-land races for trail runners. Whether you’re up for a 5-mile run or a 50-mile challenge, the Preserve has something for everyone. The Preserve’s 70+ miles of carriage roads and trails provide a great surface for runners as they travel through a magnificent ecosystem of mountain cliffs, forests, fields and other beautiful places. And you’ll be running for a great cause – these events are environmental fundraisers that help support the Preserve’s conservation mission, including protecting and maintaining the carriage roads and trails network.
First on Mohonk Preserve’s race calendar is the Rock and Snow Bridge 2 Bridge 5-mile Run on April 9, 2022. This popular race is often the first up for the year, attracting a dedicated group of 300 runners to the Preserve’s Spring Farm Trailhead in High Falls. While it may be the shortest in distance of all our races, it offers a variety of terrains and landscapes. With race day support from the Shawangunk Running club, and sponsorship support from outdoor gear experts Rock and Snow, and with the famous Bruderhof Community pies as prizes for top finishers, this race is a favorite of local and regional runners. Registration is open now – sign up today!
For runners up for a greater challenge, registration is now open for the Preserve’s largest fundraiser, the Rock The Ridge 50-mile Challenge on May 14, 2022. Participants choose between completing the full 50-mile course or completing it as part of a relay team of 2, 3, or 4 people. The course winds along well-maintained carriage roads, through lush forests and over ridgelines with magnificent vistas. The event’s 18-hour time limit and relay option accommodate people with a wide range of abilities from elite ultra-athletes to first-time 50-milers and relay teams. With over 600 registrants for last year’s event, Rock The Ridge is one of the largest ultras in the country. Sign up today to reserve your spot!
Now in its ninth year, Rock The Ridge attracts participants from across the country and around the world who come to test their mettle and support Mohonk Preserve’s conservation mission through individual fundraising. Participants love this high energy event because of its well-marked course, fantastic volunteers, well-stocked aid stations and an enthusiastic group of spectators at the finish line. Since 2013, Ridge Rockers have helped raise more than $2 million to support the Preserve’s Education, Conservation, Stewardship and Visitor Experience programs.
The Preserve’s 2022 race calendar wraps up in October with the Pfalz Point Trail Challenge at Mohonk Preserve on October 2, 2022. Beginning at the Spring Farm Trailhead, runners will cover ten miles of extraordinary trails including broad open meadows with spectacular views, steep and rocky footpaths, and gently rolling carriage roads. Runners love this race not only for the course, but also for the famous chili lunch served after the race.
Whether you sign up for your first race or go the distance with Rock The Ridge, make 2022 the year you get into nature by participating in one of our amazing races. For more information on running at Mohonk Preserve, visit www.mohonkpreserve.org/visit/activites/#run
GET INTO NATURE. Join Mohonk Preserve’s Education Outreach Coordinator Ashawna Abbott on February 15th for a special Black History Month webinar addressing the need for greater diversity and inclusion in outdoor spaces. Click here to register. See a full list of upcoming programs.
IN APPRECIATION. Go to our listing of Memorial and Honorary Gifts, Premium Members, and Business Members received October 1 through December 31, 2021.
CHECK THIS OUT. COVID-19 Visitation Protocols. Please note: Masks are required indoors and social distancing is encouraged for visitors at all times.
Calling all volunteers! From Backcountry Patrol to Trailhead Ambassadors, our upcoming Volunteer Orientations offer something for everyone!
Summer camps are back at Mohonk Preserve! Registration is open for Camp Peregrine and Mountainside Adventures for children age 7-13.
MOHONK PRESERVE BUSINESS MEMBERS. We welcome our new business members who joined between October 1 through December 31, 2021:
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