While this winter season has been somewhat unseasonable, the drier weather has provided some good opportunities for exploring the Preserve’s carriage roads and trails.

In this issue of Ridgelines, we’ll share details about our Brook Farmhouse Project, outline preparations for the peregrine falcons’ annual return to the ridge and preview the spring running season.

Thanks to all our members and donors for your generous support of our year-end appeal, and we wish you a happy and healthy 2024!

Banner photo by Jane Vecchione

Rendering of Restored Brook Farmhouse

Centering Conservation and Stewardship at Brook Farmhouse

Mohonk Preserve is currently in the planning process for rehabilitation of the historic Brook Farmhouse, located in the Mohonk Preserve Foothills area, for adaptive use as the new home of the Preserve’s Conservation and Stewardship teams.

The Preserve’s Conservation team includes a staff of conservation science and land protection professionals, along with visiting researchers and volunteers, who study and monitor regional habitats and protect Preserve lands and conservation easements. Our Stewardship team is responsible for the planning and management of the Preserve’s land and facilities including our historic carriage roads and trails, the Visitor Center and other Preserve buildings, facilities and equipment.

Mohonk Preserve uses ecological knowledge to drive land conservation and management decisions, and engage the public, making our Conservation and Stewardship teams integral to our organizational mission and goals. Relocating staff members to the Brook Farmhouse will result in significant benefits to these efforts. The building is easily accessible to the local community and is in near proximity to many habitats and ecosystems that are critical to this work. Its spacious rooms and capacity to support technology will facilitate research, lab work, training, public programming, and land and facilities management.

For decades, Mohonk Preserve’s Conservation program has been headquartered at the Daniel Smiley Research Center at the Mohonk Mountain House. As a result of the continuing growth of the Preserve’s Conservation team, which now includes Conservation Science and Land Protection, along with the need for additional staff housing at the Mountain House, the Preserve began evaluating alternative sites for the Conservation team to relocate. The Brook Farmhouse was a natural choice, given its proximity to existing research plots along with enhanced community programmatic access.

The 3,300 square-foot Brook Farmhouse was built in the late 1800s and acquired by the Smiley family in 1906 to support Mohonk Mountain House operations. In 2014, Mohonk Preserve purchased the farmhouse, along with over 800 acres of surrounding land for conservation purposes. In 2020, we built a new trailhead at the nearby Testimonial Gateway with ample parking and amenities to provide recreational access to the land.

The Brook Farmhouse project is part of a multi-year initiative to renovate the entire Brook Farm Complex. For the current phase, we will rehabilitate interior historic features to improve energy efficiency and create workspaces, community meeting space and the functions of a wet lab. Additional amenities will include electric vehicle charging stations, a visitor orientation kiosk and native plantings. The farmhouse’s existing footprint will remain the same.

The second phase of the project will include repurposing an existing barn on the site and establishing a maintenance building for Stewardship staff, equipment and supplies. Once both the Conservation and Stewardship programs are in operation at the Brook Farm Complex, up to 20 permanent and seasonal staff members will work at the site.

Rehabilitating the Brook Farmhouse for programmatic use clusters recreational and work opportunities within walking distance of New Paltz. The project preserves rural and scenic character, supports climate change resilience, facilitates public access, and advances on-site community education programs and community science volunteer opportunities.

The Brook Farmhouse Project will enhance Mohonk Preserve’s capacity to serve a variety of community groups, including schoolchildren, aging populations and individuals with mobility disabilities, as well as conservation scientists and outdoor recreationists such as hikers, cyclists, equestrians and birders. The area includes a New York State Birding Trail and is adjacent to the popular River-to-Ridge Trail, jointly operated by the Preserve and Open Space Institute.

The project is one of several outcomes from ten years of community participation in the Mohonk Preserve Foothills area, resulting in multiple plans for site development, trail improvements, and the implementation of new trailhead facilities. We have also received input from Mohonk Mountain House, the Town of New Paltz Historic Preservation Commission, the New York State Historic Preservation Office, and volunteers through the Preserve’s Land Management & Facilities Committee. On February 8, the Preserve hosted an information session at the Visitor Center for neighbors to review and discuss the project.

Mohonk Preserve has completed the site development plan, historical analysis, architectural engineering, and construction documents for the Brook Farmhouse renovation. The plans have been submitted to the Town of New Paltz Planning Board for approval.

A public hearing on the project opened at the Town of New Paltz Planning Board on February 12, where a representative from the Town of New Paltz Historic Preservation Commission and a local neighbor spoke in support of the project. The Preserve is finalizing documents which will be reviewed at the Planning Board’s March 11 meeting at 7 pm at Justice Court, 59 N. Putt Corners Road, New Paltz. The Planning Board meeting will also be live streamed on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCx_gKl1M_G1YAumRIihs__Q.

Thanks to the many experts, neighbors, volunteers and the public for their input, and to state and local officials and other community leaders who have provided support for the project.

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Peregrine Falcon by Tom Sarro

Protecting Peregrines in the Gunks

The history of monitoring and protecting peregrine falcons on the Shawangunk Ridge dates to the 1920s when brothers Dan and Keith Smiley began recording peregrine sightings on Mohonk Mountain House and what are now Mohonk Preserve lands.

From this early monitoring began a rich legacy of peregrine falcon research and an environmental success story in wildlife conservation. Dan Smiley continued to observe peregrines throughout his lifetime and noticed a slow decline in peregrines over the decades, particularly in the 1940s and 1950s when DDT and other pesticides wreaked havoc on bird populations, interfering with egg production and shell strength.

By 1968, there were no known peregrines breeding east of the Mississippi River, where previously 400 pairs had been recorded. In 1974, Dr. Heinz Meng, a SUNY New Paltz professor, began raising peregrines in captivity and reintroducing them into the Gunks.

Finally in 1998, after an absence of over 40 years, peregrines returned to the Gunks and have been nesting almost every year since then. Preserve staff and volunteers have recorded the peregrines’ favorite perches and their eyrie (cliff nest) locations. As a New York State Endangered Species, peregrine falcons are protected, and the Preserve cooperates with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to ensure the continued recovery of the species.

Each year, peregrines are monitored by Preserve staff and community science volunteers as part of the Preserve’s Peregrine Watch program. This program runs from early February through August. Participants monitor and observe peregrine behavior and breeding activity to identify eyrie sites and record observations of their activities – egg laying, incubation, prey exchanges, presence of chicks, chick feeding, chick fledging, and young in flight. Participants also contribute to public outreach and interpretation of the importance of peregrine conservation.

In 2022, after extensive research into peregrine conservation efforts nationwide, the Preserve introduced a responsive management approach to our temporary cliff closures at the beginning of the breeding season to provide the best chance for successful eyrie selection. Once an eyrie is established, the closures are adjusted based on its location.

Peregrines are exceptional parents who typically mate for life and tend to return to the same territory each year to raise their young. Female peregrines lay one to four eggs annually and incubate them for about a month before they hatch. The young stay in the eyrie for over 40 days and continue to be dependent on their parents over the next two or more months as they learn to hunt and survive in the wild. As a result, the loss of even one young peregrine can have substantial effects on the population.

Last year, the Preserve was excited to announce the first successful peregrine fledgling in the Trapps since 2018, which took to the skies in August. This year, thanks to the Preserve’s Patrol Rangers team, we launched our first Preserve Peregrine Cam, which captures videos of peregrines in action. Click here to follow Peregrine Watch updates and view videos.

The Preserve has worked collaboratively with the climbing community for decades to help protect peregrine falcons and we appreciate their support of our conservation mission and patience as they wait for their favorite climbs and boulders to re-open once the peregrines successfully fledge. We also thank the dozens of Peregrine Watch volunteers, many of whom are climbers, who have generously donated their time and energy to help this magnificent bird.

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Rock The Ridge Runners by Tom Weiner

Racing To Support Mohonk Preserve

With spring on the horizon, Mohonk Preserve is excited to present a great lineup of on-land races for trail runners and hikers. Whether you’re up for a 5-mile run or a 50-mile challenge, the Preserve has something for everyone. The Preserve’s 70-plus miles of carriage roads and trails provide a great surface for runners as they travel through magnificent mountain cliffs, forests, fields and other beautiful places. Best of all, you’ll be running for a great cause – these events are both 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 Saturday, April 13, 2024. This popular race attracts a dedicated group of 300 or more 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 Runners Club and sponsorship support from outdoor gear experts Rock and Snow and featuring the famous Bruderhof Community pies and annual Preserve memberships as prizes for top finishers, this race is a favorite of local and regional runners.

“We would like to thank Rock and Snow for their sponsorship of Bridge 2 Bridge and the Shawangunk Runners for their help in producing this event,” said Mohonk Preserve Special Events Manager and Race Director Tom Leader. “Their assistance with planning and on race day is invaluable.”

Registration for Bridge 2 Bridge is open now, so sign up today!

For runners up for an epic challenge, registration is also open for Rock The Ridge 50-mile Challenge on Saturday, May 4, 2024. Participants choose between completing the full 50-mile course or participating 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 along the way. 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.

“If 50 miles seems daunting, there’s always the relay option,” Tom noted. “Grab three friends and create a team with each person running or hiking between 10–13 miles of the course. It’s a fantastic day on the ridge whether you’re doing the full 50 or a shorter distance.”

With over 500 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 11th 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. One participant in 2023 called it “the best race on planet Earth!” and another said, “Rock The Ridge changed my life!” Since 2013, Ridge Rockers have helped raise more than $2 million to support the Preserve’s Conservation & Community Education, Stewardship and Visitor Experience programs. Click here to watch a video about Rock The Ridge.

Make 2024 the year you get into nature by participating in one of our amazing races. For more information on running at Mohonk Preserve, click here.

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Bonticou Crag by Kate Schoonmaker

In Appreciation

Click here to go to our listing of Preserver and Premium Memberships, Donations, Business Memberships, Sponsorships and Funders, and Memorial and Honorary Gifts received October 1 through December 31, 2023, and a listing of current Legacy Society Members.

Seasonal Photo Gallery

View seasonal photographs by our volunteer photographers below!

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

Seasonal Updates

Get Into Nature: See a full list of upcoming programs here including Kids’ Day in the Sugar Bush and Older Wiser Learners (OWLs) – Likin’ Lichen Workshop.

Art Show at Mohonk Preserve: The Gunks as I See Them, a photography exhibit and sale by Hardie Truesdale, will be on display at the Mohonk Preserve Visitor Center Gallery during the month of March. Join us for an opening reception on Saturday, March 2nd from 3-5 p.m. at the Mohonk Preserve Visitor Center!

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.

Bloomin’ 4 Good: Throughout March, for each specially marked bouquet sold at the Hannaford’s at 2066 Route 32, Modena NY, $1 will be donated to the Preserve. Buy some flowers for your loved ones and help protect the Shawangunk Ridge!

Check out our upcoming exciting events:


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


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