Initially, this 35-acre lot off of Fisher Boulevard was going to be a multi-home development, however, the landownder offered to donate the land in the interest of preserving open space. Michael Hallisey / Spotlight News
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SLINGERLANDS — A joint effort between Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy and the New York State Department of Conservation helped preserve 35 acres of open space.
Bethlehem Town Supervisor David VanLuven said it was one of the last remaining pockets of open land remaining in a hamlet bustling with housing developments all around it. Now, he could assure those who gathered at last week’s press conference, this patch of green won’t “grow houses.”
VanLuven, who has voiced his support for finding ways to preserve open space throughout town, spoke before roughly 40 people on a patch of tall grass along Fisher Boulevard in Slingerlands. The grass was patted down to accommodate the meeting. It was still in stark contrast to the well manicured lawns of the residential homes that surrounded them. With a thick patch of forest behind him, he asked those in attendance to look around.
“Look at the open space around town,” said VanLuven. “It may not happen this year, or in five years. Maybe not in fifty years, but it will be developed if it is not protected.”
The newly acquired land, donated by an anonymous land owner, is located on the corner of Fisher Boulevard and Route 85. The 35 acres span across the border of Bethlehem and New Scotland and abut the property occupied by the Five Rivers Environmental Education Center.
The process to obtain the land took more than a decade, said Mark King, executive director of MHLC. It was once slated for a 35-home development. Ultimately, the property owner offered to donate the land in the interest of preserving the open space. Even with such intentions, it took several entities to secure it. At one time, King said there were six lawyers on task. Earlier this year, MHLC reached out to the community to raise $20,000 to cover cost of resources.
“The overwhelming response of our community to the Fisher Boulevard project has been inspiring,” said King. “Starting with a significant leading contribution from the board of directors of the Friends of Five Rivers citizens’ support group, we quickly met and surpassed our fundraising goal through a rush of support from the community. The grassroots movement of our neighbors has been heartening, and we are grateful for their dedication to preserving this idyllic property.”
In the midst of a developed landscape, these 35 acres are a refuge for wildlife living on the suburban fringe.
The vernal pools provide an important habitat for amphibians in the area, and the open fields are critical nesting and hunting grounds for birds and many other species of wildlife.
Small, seasonal streams on the property form the headwaters of the Phillipin Kill; by saving the land, water quality has also been protected.
“This land will add to protected open space in a rapidly developing area,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “This acquisition is consistent with our State Open Space Conservation Plan, and a great partnership project between the generous landowner, the Mohawk-Hudson Land Conservancy and DEC that will immensely benefit the public.”
The newly acquired land will be added to the 450-acre footprint of the Five Rivers Environmental Education Center.
Plans to plot a new trail that links to existing maze of trails in the center of the property have been discussed. However, that will have to wait until a bridge is installed.
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.