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New tech blossoms in old growth

Bilingual audio tour unveiled at Lisha Kill Preserve

Troy Weldy, director of Ecological Management for the Conservancy, leads an audio tour at the Lisha Kill Nature Preserve in Niskayuna.

Troy Weldy, director of Ecological Management for the Conservancy, leads an audio tour at the Lisha Kill Nature Preserve in Niskayuna. Submitted photo

— Troy Weldy, director of Ecological Management for the Conservancy, said the Lisha Kill isn’t a true old growth forest because the trees had been cut before. While it isn’t a “virgin forest,” he said it is considered an old growth forest because many trees haven’t been cut for 200 to 300 years.

Weldy said one of his favorite plants in the 140-acre preserve is the ostrich fern, which can grow to be 6 feet tall.

“It makes it seem like you are in a tropical forest or some type of ancient forest when you have these ferns that are towering above most people,” he said.

He added the audio tour could be a good way for the young and old to connect in nature.

“We are also hoping that this is an opportunity for grandparents to take their grandchildren out and get them interested in the environment,” he said.

Doing an audio tour, as opposed to reading an informational sign, has proved to be more cost effective, too.

“There is more that we are able to share through an audio guide than we can through any of our print media,” Weldy said. “Frankly, it is cheaper than producing a lot of signs and it is less intrusive on the environment.”

Tom Alworth, deputy commissioner of Natural Resources for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, said the state unfortunately doesn’t have the ability to staff naturalists at the preserves, but the audio tour is the next best thing.

“There is no substitute for that kind of personal instruction, however, new technologies are an absolute must,” Alworth said in a statement. “The Nature Conservancy has jumped out in front on this. We are looking at how we can harness the power of this technology for environmental education at parks throughout New York State.”

Niskayuna Supervisor Joe Landry also praised the audio tour addition.

“I’m all for anything that gets our children and adults active and getting them out on the trail,” Landry said. “Not only now can you enjoy nature, but you can be educated as you do it.”

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