Residents look out to the pond at the Hollyhock Hollow Sanctuary, a new preserve that offers a natural respite from the outside world. Diego Cagara / Spotlight News
SELKIRK — The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy unveiled its newly-acquired 19th preserve, the 138-acre Hollyhock Hollow Sanctuary, on Wednesday, June 3.
Located at 46 Rarick Road in Selkirk, it includes 3.5 miles of hiking trails through the woodlands and along the Onesquethaw Creek. People can explore the deciduous forest, view a shallow pond that attracts numerous bird species like the Belted Kingfisher and Great Blue Heron, and appreciate the area’s limestone geology. The pond and Onesquethaw Creek are fed by water through a series of inaccessible underground caves that run north to south along the preserve.
“The limestone also really promotes the growth of plants here and the soil acidity is just right that a lot of species do really well here,” said MHLC executive director Mark King during a private tour of the preserve. “This preserve provides a great habitat for many species of birds and animals, and it’s great to have an intact natural system.”
King also noted that since the COVID-19 pandemic reached the Capital District in the spring, MHLC has observed that people have used its trails more to appreciate nature and temporarily remove themselves from what is happening in the world. “So we’re pleased to offer another preserve for the community to enjoy the benefits of nature,” he said.
King said that the Hollyhock Hollow Sanctuary will likely not have additional signs or informational kiosks throughout because introducing and maintaining them are costly; MHLC wants to maintain its natural state.
The preserve is the former estate of University at Albany professor Robert Rienow and his wife, Leona Train Rienow, who was a writer. It included a residential house, a farm and a rock quarry. According to King, when Robert died from smoke inhalation in 1988 after the house caught on fire, his will had the estate bequeathed to Audubon International — a Troy-based non-profit environmental education organization which now works to introduce sustainable natural resource management practices in golf courses, developments and resorts.
Audubon International then used the property as a public preserve and its headquarters through 2013. King said that as the organization shifted its focus onto golf courses in recent years, it decided to donate and transfer ownership of the property to MHLC in January 2020 at no cost. The COVID-19 pandemic did not affect the acquisition process and MHLC staff and volunteers worked through June to rebrand and improve the preserve’s existing trails and facilities.
However, King said MHLC normally would have held a big opening celebration to mark the preserve’s unveiling. Due to COVID-19, a soft opening took place instead, with just about a dozen residents arriving to explore the property and trails.
As with some of its other preserves, MHLC created an interactive online map of the Hollyhock Hollow Sanctuary with its Mohawk Hudson Maps app. According to MHLC’s website, the interactive map can be used offline after the app is downloaded and saved on your smartphone’s home screen. The map can pinpoint a user’s location at the preserve, provide GPS navigation, explore its trails and measure distances between set points.
To learn more, visit mohawkhudsonmaps.org or mohawkhudson.org/map-your-visit.
As the pandemic remains ongoing, King said he hopes the public will enjoy and appreciate what the Hollyhock Hollow Sanctuary offers. “We’ve gotten emails from people constantly thanking us for having the preserves so they can go out,” he said. “We have preserves across Albany, Schenectady and Montgomery counties.”
For more information, visit mohawkhudson.org.
Photos by Diego Cagara / Spotlight News