Fall is fantastic at Mohonk Preserve! While the leaves took their time changing, the results were a longer season for visitors to enjoy nature’s splendor. In this issue of Ridgelines, we’ll share information on efforts to protect critical bird habitat, highlight the accomplishments of departing Director of Education Kathy Ambrosini, and review recent restorations of our historic carriage road network.

You’ll also find beautiful autumn images from our Mohonk Preserve Volunteer Photographers, along with a listing of generous donors who provided critical support to the Preserve in the third quarter of this year.

We wish everyone a happy holiday season and hope to see you on the land!

Banner photo by Gerald Liddelow

Blackburnian Warbler by Deborah Tracy Kral

Habitat Resilience for the Birds

Climate change and habitat loss are affecting the places that birds need to survive. A 2019 study on the decline of North American birds by Rosenberg et al. reported the net loss of over three billion birds across a wide range of species and habitats, while a 2021 report from the National Audubon Society showed that two-thirds of North American bird species could face extinction if we fail to slow the rate of global temperature rise. It is more important than ever that we manage our forests, grasslands and wetlands with a focus on protecting migratory and native bird species.

At Mohonk Preserve, we’ve been protecting and studying critical bird habitats and monitoring our changing climate for over 60 years. We’re committed to continuing this important work and are happy to share preliminary results of an ongoing study of breeding birds and exciting news about a new research initiative to support climate-resilient bird habitats.

Since 2016, Mohonk Preserve Research Associate and SUNY New Paltz Associate Professor Dr. Kara Belinsky and her students have been studying migratory birds at Mohonk Preserve. This year, Dr. Belinsky and one of her students, Vic Bucci ’24, recently documented their preliminary findings in a presentation “Conservation in the Face of Urbanization: How Local Habitats Can Support Breeding Migratory Birds.” This presentation includes a comparison of bird communities at two sites at Mohonk Preserve – an area at the edge of the Preserve near Brook Farm in the Foothills and an area deep inside the Preserve near the Spring Farm Trailhead.

Dr. Belinsky and her team measure breeding bird communities at these sites using the Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) protocol, contributing to a continent-wide research collaboration of over 1,200 bird banding stations. Bird banding involves capturing birds in specialized nets and closing a small metal band with a unique number on each bird’s leg before release. Banding allows researchers to accurately identify, count and age birds.

The results showed that bird abundance, diversity and productivity (the number of new fledglings) at Spring Farm far exceeded those at Brook Farm, illustrating the importance of conserving large areas of native habitat to support diverse bird communities. The next step of the project is to compare these local results with data collected at other MAPS sites to identify how preserved habitat size and development in the surrounding land affects bird communities across the continent.

“These results underscore the importance of Mohonk Preserve’s role in supporting migratory birds through local land conservation,” said Dr. Belinsky. “My hope is that my work will help guide the global increase in land conservation needed to ensure our forests and skies continue to be filled with our beloved but vulnerable warblers, thrushes and swallows.”

In addition to ongoing avian research at Brook Farm and Spring Farm, Mohonk Preserve is launching an initiative to conserve bird diversity in our transitioning eastern hemlock-northern hardwoods forests. We will be monitoring breeding bird biodiversity and resilience against climate change in conjunction with pilot management interventions designed to preserve and maintain ecosystem services in 250 acres of vulnerable eastern hemlock-northern hardwood forest habitat. These forests guard cold-water streams and provide habitat for breeding birds but are declining rapidly due to pressure from hemlock woolly adelgid, elongate hemlock scale and shifting precipitation and temperature patterns.

Monitoring and population trend examination will be done at both the community and individual species levels. This includes hemlock-dependent species like the black-throated green warbler, Blackburnian warbler, blue-headed vireo and Acadian flycatcher, and New York State Species of Greatest Conservation Need such as wood thrush, scarlet tanager and Louisiana waterthrush. The project will be headed up by Mohonk Preserve Research Ecologist Megan Napoli, with assistance from the Conservation Science team, Dr. Belinsky and her students, and Preserve interns and community science volunteers. The project is supported by a generous grant from the Blake-Nuttall Fund.

“Mohonk Preserve has an incredible opportunity to not only investigate how bird communities respond to the decline of hemlock, but also how the effects of different management strategies may influence these communities,” Megan noted. “By promoting climate-resilient, diverse forests we aim to retain suitable habitat for both hemlock-dependent species and the overall bird communities that inhabit our hemlock forest. I am very excited to be a part of this project and look forward to sharing our results with other land managers so that the lessons learned at Mohonk Preserve can inform forest management in areas of hemlock decline throughout the Northeast.”

We’ll continue to share information about these projects and our other climate and habitat resilience initiatives in future issues of Ridgelines.

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Director of Education Kathy Ambrosini with her son. Photo provided by Kathy Ambrosini

To Everything There Is a Season

When Director of Education Kathy Ambrosini announced that she would be stepping down at the end of November, we knew we wanted to take this opportunity to acknowledge her many contributions to the Preserve throughout the past three decades.

Kathy began her career with the Preserve in March 1992 as Education Coordinator and was named Director of Education in September 1995, serving in that capacity until 1998. After maternity leave and the birth of her son, Kathy returned to the Preserve as Education Coordinator and was again named Director of Education in 2002.

During her tenure with the Preserve, Kathy was instrumental in developing the Preserve’s award-winning NatureAccess® program, which provides quality outdoor and environmental education for people of all ages and abilities and advanced our summer camp program, which encourages children to discover the wonders of the natural world. Kathy has overseen the growth of our many diverse programs and events, which offer something for everyone, from recreationists to naturalists-at-heart, supporting lifelong learning and strengthening connections to the land.

Kathy also created decades of curriculum-based school field studies and instruction, including our City Kids on the Ridge program, working with underserved schools from the Mid-Hudson Valley, along with our outreach programs, which bring the natural wonders of the Shawangunk Ridge and its wildlife into schools, libraries and community centers.

Over the years, Kathy has been the recipient of numerous awards and accolades. In October 2002, she was named Outdoor Educator of the Year by the New York State Outdoor Education Association (NYSOEA) and the next month she was selected to participate in the Biodiversity Education Leadership Institute as one of 43 education leaders from around the country.

In 2003 Kathy received the NYSOEA Service Award, and in 2006 she was recognized with the Beyond the Letter of the Law award from the Resource Center for Accessible Living for her work on the Preserve’s NatureAccess® program. In 2008, Kathy was presented with NYSOEA’s Leadership Award for NatureAccess®, and she was named the 2010 Inclusivity Hero by the NYS Inclusive Recreation Resource Center.

Earlier this year, Kathy was contacted by a University of Wisconsin-Madison Learning Specialist with a request to review a guide Kathy authored, Making Outdoor Programs Accessible™, for inclusion as part of their efforts to better prepare students and volunteers in disability awareness. The reviewers appreciated the wealth of tools and resources in the guide and accepted it as a supplemental resource for use in their program. They will be purchasing copies from the Preserve to distribute to educators participating in their hands-on training.

As we acknowledge and respect Kathy’s outstanding achievements as an educator, staff members also value her as a friend and colleague who has been an integral part of the Preserve’s success and wish her all the best for the future!

We are also fortunate to have a stellar team of experienced educators in place, including Education Outreach Coordinator Ashawna Abbott, Education Coordinator for Youth & Public Programs Lauren Borer, and Education Coordinator for Student Programs Kim Tischler, along with an excellent group of Seasonal and Volunteer Educators. We look forward to continuing to provide innovative and impactful programs for learners of all ages and abilities.

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Carriage Road Restoration at Spring Farm by Mohonk Preserve Stewardship Staff

Caring for Our Carriage Roads

One of the most treasured and enjoyed features of Mohonk Preserve is our historic carriage road network. Originally established by Albert and Alfred Smiley, founders of the Mohonk Mountain House and Minnewaska Mountain House, the initial network of over 70 miles of hand-built, broken-stone carriage roads was created between 1870 and 1929 between the two resorts.

The carriage road network was envisioned by the Smiley brothers as a way for their guest to enjoy “the quiet contemplation of nature” as they traveled to, from and between the two resorts. Today, these historic carriage roads are located on the properties of the Mohonk Mountain House, Mohonk Preserve and Minnewaska State Park Preserve, and are enjoyed by over a million visitors each year.

Carriage Road Restoration at Spring Farm by Mohonk Preserve Stewardship Staff

Caring for this historic carriage road network requires a significant commitment to maintenance and rehabilitation. In 2010, the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation/Minnewaska State Park Preserve, and Mohonk Preserve commissioned the Restoration and Maintenance Manual for the Shawangunk Carriage Road System. This state-of-the-art guide for the restoration of the carriage road network includes a detailed assessment of road conditions, plans and details for restoration, vegetation management and restoration of historic vistas, and specific guidelines for ongoing maintenance.

Stewardship Staff at Mohonk Preserve

Since that time, Mohonk Preserve has worked diligently to maintain and restore our over 30-mile carriage road network. With the purchase of the Mohonk Preserve Foothills in 2014, we also assumed stewardship of several additional historic carriage roads and trails. In 2020, in conjunction with the opening of the Preserve’s new Testimonial Gateway Trailhead, we restored Lenape Lane and collaborated with Open Space Institute on the White Oak Bend Path as part of the jointly managed River-to-Ridge Trail. The following year, the Preserve restored Upper Duck Pond Road in conjunction with the opening of the Duck Pond Trailhead.

Carriage Road Storm Restoration by Stephen D Stewart-Hill

In 2022, ice storms caused damage to several carriage roads, resulting in significant repairs to Old Minnewaska Road, Trapps Road and Lenape Lane. To improve storm water drainage at the Spring Farm Trailhead, we replaced 10 damaged culverts and resurfaced washed out areas along Spring Farm and Bonticou Roads. This summer, the Stewardship team restored Overcliff Road and Glory Hill Road is slated for restoration in 2024.

Many of the significant carriage road repairs in recent years were made possible by multiple grants received from the New York State Conservation Partnership Program, which is administered by the Land Trust Alliance New York Program. Thanks to Mohonk Preserve members, supporters and partners, our Stewardship team has been able to step up the pace of carriage road restorations with additional staff, equipment and supplies, helping to ensure that carriage roads are here for everyone to enjoy for generations to come.


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In Remembrance: Bradley Snyder

We are sad to note the passing of Bradley Snyder on July 30, 2023. Brad was originally hired as assistant administrator for The Mohonk Trust in 1973 and served as co-administrator with Dan Smiley for many years. In 1981 when The Mohonk Trust was reorganized as Mohonk Preserve, Inc., Brad became the Preserve’s first executive director, serving until 1985.

Before joining The Mohonk Trust, Brad earned a Ph.D. in German language and literature and taught for five years at Mount Holyoke College. In 1981, he authored the popular book The Shawangunk Mountains – A History of Nature and Man, published by Mohonk Preserve and featuring illustrations by former Mohonk Preserve ranger and naturalist Karl Beard.

“Brad presided during a very formative and perilous time for The Mohonk Trust and Mohonk Preserve,” Karl noted. “He was executive director during the explosive growth of rock climbing and as a climber himself, Brad engaged with the climbing community in a profound way, helping to promote clean climbing and stewardship. Along with Dan Smiley, Brad led the landmark Mohonk Trust v. Board of Assessors court case, which decided conservation to be a tax-exempt use of land in New York State, and oversaw the maturation of the Trust into Mohonk Preserve, Inc. He did good work here, with an enormous and lasting benefit in so many ways.”

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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 Preserver and Premium Memberships, Donations, Business Memberships, Sponsorships and Funders, and Memorial and Honorary Gifts received July 1 through September 30, 2023, and a listing of current Legacy Society Members.

Get Into Nature: See a full list of upcoming programs here including a Late Fall Tree ID and Amanita of the Northeast for the Curious Naturalist Webinar.

Mohonk Preserve 2024 Calendars make great gifts, get yours today at the Visitor Center or order a calendar online!

Gift Memberships: Give the gift of the great outdoors with a Mohonk Preserve membership! Gift Memberships are available at the Visitor Center or online here.

Online Holiday Auction: Join us for Mohonk Preserve’s Online Holiday Auction from December 8–15, 2023.​​​

Art Shows at Mohonk Preserve: An art exhibit by Liza Mills and Doug Ferguson is on display at the Mohonk Preserve Visitor Center until November 11. This will be followed by a photo exhibit by the Mohonk Preserve Volunteer Photographers in December. Stop by and enjoy the view!

Shawangunk Grit is on November 4, 2023. The Testimonial Gateway Trailhead will open for visitors at 9:30 a.m. Learn more about this event here.

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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