It’s high summer at Mohonk Preserve and a great time to take a stroll on our shady Pin Oak Allee at the Testimonial Gateway Trailhead or splash in the Coxing Kill at Split Rock, our small but mighty waterfall! In this issue of Ridgelines, we’ll introduce an important addition to our Conservation Programs team, share exciting news about our upcoming 25th Annual Benefit Auction, and profile the multifaceted work of the Stewardship staff. We’ll also remember our friend and colleague Robi Josephson.

We encourage you to enjoy the rest of the fleeting summer season by getting into nature at Mohonk Preserve and hope to see you soon on the land.

Banner photo by Tom Sendler

Applied Forest Ecologst setting up a Lindgren funnel traps to catch the Southern pine beetle
Community Science Coordinator Penny Adler-Colvin (L) and Applied Forest Ecologist Kate O’Connor (R) by Julie Gundersen

Focusing on Forest Resilience

As part of its 8,000 acres of conserved lands, Mohonk Preserve protects some of New York’s most important forested habitats. Like many in the northeast, our forests are under stress from invasive species, over-browsing by deer, weather pattern changes, and other factors linked to climate change. The Preserve is responding by ramping up our climate resilience planning, including hiring Kate O’Connor, who has joined the Conservation Programs team as our Applied Forest Ecologist – a new position focused on developing and implementing climate-adaptive forest management plans.

Mohonk Preserve has a long history of pursuing research-based land management to steward its forest communities and Kate comes to the Preserve with deep forest ecology experience, most recently as the Conservation Manager for the Beaverkill Valley Land Trust. Her position included working with private landowners on hemlock forest conservation to preserve brook trout habitat. She has also worked at Cornell University as a Research Technician & Field Representative for the New York State Hemlock Initiative and with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation as a Forest Health Specialist.

Kate will be in familiar territory as one of her first projects centers on the Preserve’s hemlock forest. A recent climate vulnerability assessment identified the Preserve’s 1,000 acres of eastern hemlock-northern hardwood forest as highly vulnerable, due in large part to the impact of two invasive forest pests – wooly adelgid and elongate hemlock scale. The impact of these pests is already evident at the Preserve and hemlock mortality is increasing here and regionally.

Of main concern are the implications of hemlock loss for changes in hydrology, fire patterns, soil stability, and critical bird habitat. Eastern hemlock is a foundation species, important for regulating stream temperature and flow and for stabilizing slopes to support high-quality cool water habitats for fish and macroinvertebrates. This ecosystem service is especially important due to predicted increased heavy precipitation and severe weather.

Working together with Conservation Programs staff, Kate’s goal is to create a plan to help declining hemlock stands transition to a healthy and biodiverse future forest that preserves, to the extent possible, the ecosystem services formerly provided by hemlock. The Preserve will share data and findings from this pioneering program with other organizations facing similar challenges.

“We could not have picked a better person to take on this critical role,” said Director of Conservation Programs Julia Solomon. “Kate came to the Preserve with the expertise we need to tackle these threats to our forests, combined with a real passion for this landscape. She has been out on the land a lot over the past couple of months and is already formulating ideas for things we can do to keep our forests healthy and help them adapt. I can’t wait to see what she will accomplish in this role.”

In her new role, Kate will also implement techniques to measure and monitor impacts of deer browse, invasive species, and recreational and other impacts in high priority, sensitive forested areas and will serve as the new program coordinator for the Preserve’s Deer Management Program. She will also lead public programs and volunteer activities that engage the community in forest management and habitat conservation and supervise and mentor seasonal field technicians and interns.

“It’s great to be part of an organization that embraces active management and is invested in striking the delicate balance of preserving biodiversity while continuing to offer the experiences that fulfill the human need for exploration, adventure and quiet contemplation,” Kate noted. “I think we’re asking some of the most crucial and timely management questions about how humans can benefit the land. That said, forestry is a long game, and it will be exciting to see the answers unfold over the coming decades.”

Kate holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Biology from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. In addition to her scientific background, she is an avid outdoor enthusiast with a deep love of the Shawangunks, and among other skills, expertise in technical and research-focused tree climbing. As Winnie-the-Pooh noted, “If you need a bit of perspective, climb a tree.”

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Auctioneer Alex Sherwood gives a high five to an audience member at the Preserve's Auction
At the Annual Auction Benefit by Kate Schoonmaker

25 Years of Bidding for Good

Guests at Mohonk Preserve’s 25th Annual Benefit Auction on Saturday, September 17 will have the opportunity to help advance the Preserve’s conservation mission, while also bidding on extraordinary adventure trips and enjoying a festive evening of great food, drink and friends. The event will raise funds to provide critical support for conservation, education, stewardship and visitor efforts that yield long-term environmental and community benefits.

The Preserve’s annual auction, organized in 1997 by late Preserve Board member Jane Taylor, has become one of the area’s most enjoyable and impactful social events, raising more than $3.5 million to support all aspects of the Preserve’s mission.

To mark 25 years of this special event, guests will enjoy a silent auction full of fantastic finds for home and garden, goods and services for health and wellness, works of art, jewelry, activities and experiences, outdoor gear and delicious food and drink. They will also enjoy music by Manhattan Swing with Joe Bonacci, featuring the songs of jazz royalty, and the chance to bid on a live item including a special performance by the band.

Other exciting live auction items will include outdoor adventures such as an OARS five-day Snake River rafting trip for two through Hells Canyon, Idaho, home of some of the best big waves and whitewater rapids in the Northwest, and a Sweetheart Birding Trip for two from Naturalist Journeys exploring Arizona’s bountiful winter birding region and including species from colorful hummingbirds to majestic Sandhill cranes.

Closer to home, bidders may also raise their paddles for a Backyard Birding Tour with Research Ecologist Megan Napoli and learn to identify birds by sight and by sound and create a bird-friendly backyard, or scale new heights during Rock Climbing for Two in the Gunks with Alpine Endeavors.

Bidders will also have the opportunity to support exciting Preserve initiatives, including expanded outdoor education programs for city kids in Kingston schools, a new climate-resilient forest management initiative, restoration of key historic carriage roads and development of new trails, and equipment and training to keep our Patrol and Trailhead Rangers visitor and rescue-ready.

And making this special event even more special, we’ll be honoring Director of Research Emeritus Paul Huth with the Preserve’s Long View Conservation Award for his nearly 50 years of conservation and natural history work on the Shawangunk Ridge.

“We are so excited to gather again and continue the legacy Benefit Auction with opportunities to support all of the wonderful programs and services Mohonk Preserve provides and honor a true conservation champion,” said Preserve Board Member and Auction Committee Chair Laurel Sweeney. “My favorite part of attending this event is seeing paddles rise to help the Preserve fulfill its mission of stewardship and access.”

Don’t miss your chance to be part of this magical and meaningful evening. For more information or to order tickets, visit www.mohonkpreserve.org/auction.

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Pin Oak Allee during a recent ice storm
Winter Storm Damage at the Pin Oak Allee by Stephen D. Stewart-Hill

Stalwart Stewardship

Mohonk Preserve’s mission is to protect the Shawangunk Mountains region and inspire people to care for, enjoy and explore their natural world. The Preserve’s Stewardship program is responsible for the planning and management of the land and facilities which our community entrusts to our care.

Over time, the concept of stewardship has evolved from simply domestic tasks to acceptance or assignment of responsibility to shepherd and safeguard what we value. To steward involves a commitment to the responsible use of time, money and talents in service of our values.

“Stewarding over 8,000 acres of a unique ecosystem surrounding the Shawangunk Ridge, along with human interaction, requires a strong commitment to finding a balance in our conservation efforts,” said Mohonk Preserve Director of Stewardship Chuck Reid. “It challenges us to interact with the land in consideration of our natural ecosystem, history, and our agricultural and recreational uses.”

This challenge is compounded by the growing impacts of weather episodes related to climate change, and the demands of the hundreds of thousands of visitors who get into nature at the Preserve each year. To address these challenges, the Preserve has opened the Testimonial Gateway Trailhead, restored the historic Pin Oak Allee, and rebuilt the Lenape Bridge, all while balancing our connection to our history and our ecosystem.

Every year, Stewardship staff works to maintain and restore our 30 miles of historic carriage roads and 40 miles of trails. In 2021, we rebuilt Upper Duck Pond Road, Kleinekill Farm Road, and sections of Lenape Lane. This year, the team responded to extraordinary ice and rain events which ripped through the landscape. Preserve staff rebuilt sections of Old Minnewaska, Trapps Road, Cedar Drive, and Lenape Lane, along with clearing countless downed trees along the carriage roads and trails.

As the Stewardship team continues to adapt and remain in balance, they have introduced new initiatives focusing on maintaining the foot trails, developing a new physical inventory management system for the built environment, conducting historical assessments of structures, maintaining fields to promote agricultural use while providing primary habitat for pollinators and grassland birds, and making improvements to trailheads to welcome a diversity of visitors to the Preserve.

As we move forward, we are working to reduce our carbon footprint by improving our mechanical systems, enhancing weatherization of our structures, transitioning to electric equipment, providing more EV charging options for our visitors, and improving the ability of our forest and lands to be resilient to climate change and sequester carbon. “Our stewardship efforts will never cease – the community has entrusted us with that responsibility,” Chuck noted. “All these efforts are focused on making sure that the lands in our care will continue to flourish today and in perpetuity.”

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Robi Josephson and Bob Larsen at the Van Leuven Cabin by Ted Reiss

In Remembrance: Robi Josephson

We are sad to note the passing of our longtime friend and colleague Robi Josephson on June 21, 2022. Robi became a Mohonk Preserve Research Associate in about 1990 under Paul Huth’s direction, working on a SUNY New Paltz thesis project about John Burroughs in the Shawangunks. She went on to work on several Daniel Smiley Research Center volunteer projects, including populating an important database of our Native American artifacts.

In 2002, she authored the popular book Mohonk:  Mountain House and Preserve, (Arcadia) working with DSRC staff and using a number of our images for the first time. In 2013, Robi and late Mohonk Preserve Historian Bob Larsen published An Unforgiving Land:  Hardscrabble Life in the Trapps, a Vanished Shawangunk Mountain Hamlet (Black Dome Press), again working closely with DSRC staff.

Robi was editor of the Preserve’s Ridgelines newsletter from 1997-1999 and gave many history presentations at the Van Leuven and Yeaple Cabins in period dress.

As Paul noted, “She certainly shared her talents and time with the Preserve and was a good friend.”

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View seasonal photographs by our volunteer photographers below!

See more photos by the Mohonk Preserve Volunteer Photographers on their Facebook page.

Seasonal Updates

IN APPRECIATION. Go to our listing of Memorial and Honorary Gifts, Premium Members, and Business Members received April 1 through June 30, 2022.

Attention Runners – Get ready to run for the hills! Registration for the Pfalz Point Trail Challenge on October 2, 2022 is now open and registration for Rock The Ridge on May 6, 2023 opens on August 15th.

Reduced Trail Maps Prices – Full-color, water resistant maps of Mohonk Preserve are available at trailheads for just $5.00! Digital Trail Maps are available for download on the Avenza App for $1.99.
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Hudson Valley Climate Week is September 17 – 24. We will be hosting related programs on September 24 at the Testimonial Gateway Trailhead. Stay tuned for more information!

MOHONK PRESERVE BUSINESS MEMBERS. Thank you to all our Business Members. See the full list of Mohonk Preserve Business Members in our area guide.

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