Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


trout lilly Shiffendecker Farms Preserve, Town of Bethlehem This account appeared before on Rootdrinker's blog. I thought I'd post it here with some updates. The Shiffendecker Farms Preserve is one of five located in the Town of Bethlehem, NY held by Mohawk-Hudson Land Trust. The site remains undeveloped with conditions being such that an established trail system is needed. Lots of thorns, steep hills, run-off ditches, thick brush and a small stream at the bottom of the hollow which is too big to jump, filled with soft mud and too deep to wade. There are some tree covered hills and old roads that provide easy pleasant hiking. Some planning still needs to be done before the volunteer workcrews are asked to cut brush and shovel mud but as I found out on my April 2009 visit this site has a nice wild and protected environment. An area that can be seen when driving on Route 32 (The Delmar By-Pass) is interesting at all times of the year. When driving towards the east and the connect to 9-W you can look down into an inviting small valley with stream, shaped by mounds of steep-hilled terrain. During hunting season, I'll see trucks parked off the highway and I expect the deer walk a little more wary on their paths in and out of the brush. I've often thought I'd like to venture into those hollows to perhaps find an unknown spring or wildlife inhabitation in a sanctuary area created by geology more than by man. I wasn't sure where Shiffendecker Farms Preserve was exactly but I was hoping the property was within the Normanskill watershed. Those hunters (if they were such) will have to find others fields because, yes, the land I had looked at for so many years (thinking that land should be a park or something) is actually now Shiffendecker Farm Preserve held by the Mohawk Hudson Land Trust. I went on a hike on those lands today led by Dan Driscoll of the Land trust. "Wear boots" and be ready for rugged terrain was the advise given to those who had an interest in getting out into the fresh air. photo: mushroom colors photo: hike leader Dan Driscoll photo: beaver craved totem photo: thick and hilly terrain

Monday, February 15, 2010


Laura DeGaetano has passed on the link to the Normans Kill Corridor Study. (Please note I won't be separating the word Normanskill into two words except when it is officially presented as such. I guess either is correct but to me Normanskill is correct!) For anyone interested, the Normans Kill corridor study can now be viewed on the Office of Natural Resource Conservation's website. for information contact: Laura DeGaetano , Sr. Natural Resource Planner Albany County Office of Natural Resource Conservation 112 State St. Room 720 Albany, NY 12207 (518) 447-5670 Notes from Executive Summary of Normans Kill Corridor Study including recommended actions This study of a 1-km corridor on either side of the Normans Kill in Albany County was conducted in order to highlight the value of the stream and surrounding land as a buffer and habitat as well as to explore the opportunities for passive recreation both in the stream and on adjacent land. The resulting document is meant to serve as an overview of natural and recreational resources in the corridor and a basis for moving forward toward protecting habitat and enhancing recreational uses. *** An analysis of the information collected for this study revealed that there are many valuable environmental features along the Normans Kill corridor, a healthy diversity of plants and animals, as well as several opportunities to improve access to the stream and expand passive recreational uses in the corridor. Land use mapping indicated that there are over 11,000 acres of forest, oldfield, agricultural land, and other undeveloped land in the corridor, in addition to concentrated areas of residential development and several large residential subdivisions recently constructed and proposed along the stream. There is some concern about the impact that development will have on stream bank stability and water quality as the currently developed areas appear to be more impacted by erosion and sedimentation problems. Previous studies of the Normans Kill documented landslides and areas along the stream that are slippage-prone due to soil type and slope. While an analysis of current planning and zoning laws found that there are some protections provided to riparian areas and steep slopes, there may be room to enhance local plans and laws to further protect the Normans Kill and the adjacent land that buffers it. In order to preserve important habitat and species diversity; prevent erosion, landslides, and flooding; and protect water quality, it appears that the best use of the riparian corridor is for passive recreation such as kayaking/canoeing, hiking, fishing, and wildlife observation. Toward this end, recommendations for improved recreational access and use include the following: Explore the possibility of a footpath connection between Western Turnpike Golf Course in Guilderland and the Pine Bush Preserve trail network Connect trails at the Normans Kill Farm in the City of Albany to other proximate trail systems Look for ways to extend the City of Albany’s trail network beyond the municipal golf course into Bethlehem possibly using easements along the creek from new developments Work with the Department of Environmental Conservation to establish public fishing access points and easements. Establish formal canoe/kayak launch sites and consider developing a water trail Pursue possibilities for facilitating public use of the area currently limited by conflicts associated with the National Guard Rifle Range in the Town of Guilderland. Encourage and facilitate formation of a Normans Kill Watershed Council consisting of interested stakeholders including residents, government agencies, businesses, and private not-for-profits to examine the potential for trail connections, boating and fishing access, and habitat protection in the corridor.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


The Tri-Village Greenway Committee of the Mohawk-Hudson Land Trust hosted members of our fledgling Normanskill Roundtable at their February 9, 2010 meeting. As Chaired by Dan Lewis and attended by MHLC Executive Director Jill Knapp and a fair number of Land Trust members the meeting was an opportunity to inform and learn about mutual interests and activities. There was a general understanding of the concept of watershed associations and an appreciation of the small steps the Normanskill Roundtable and the other organizations associated with us have accomplished in developing a "voice for the Normanskill". Laura DeGaetano, Tim Lake and Dan Driscoll were present to contribute their knowledge and insight into the need and possibility of watershed management and planning. The Town of Bethlehem is home to five Land Trust Preserves including Normanskill East and Normanskill West. There was discussion on trail links especially the lower river using the proposed rail trail, Graceland Cemetary, Albany's Normanskill park, the MHLC Preserves, and the Albany Public Golf course. After the meeting Laura DeGaetano mentioned to me there was a linked trail potential in the Town of Guiderland for the Normanskill's path through Tawasentha Park crossing Route 146 towards (and perhaps along) the Watervliet Reservoir. Canoe access and use of the Normanskill was also discussed with downstream trips starting at Krumkill Road or State Farm Road bridges, depending on waterlevels and pulling out at park near the first Route 85 round-about where there is a launch point. It would be a good task to collect water recreational access information from those with the experience to tell the tale. Other news from the meeting includes the June 5, 2010 Trails Day to be sponsored by the Tri-village Committee. Also the Stormwater Coalition of Albany County has a meeting on the Normanskill Watershed on February 25, 2010, 7 pm at Five Rivers Environmental Education Center, 56 Game Farm Rd. Delmar and on Krum Kill Watershed, February 18, 2010, 7pm at Holiday Inn Express, 1442 Western Ave. Guilderland. Thanks to this meeting the voice of the Normanskill got a little louder. THE NEXT NORMANSKILL ROUNDTABLE Open to all with an interest in the Normanskill Watershed TOPIC: Vital Signs of the Normanskill Watershed DATE: Tuesday, April 13, 2010 PLACE: Pine Hollow Arboretum, 16 Maple Avenue, Slingerlands, NY TIME: 5:30 pm for Arboretum Tour led by John Abbuhl 7:00 pm Roundtable Begins Contact Alan Casline at ACASLINE@AOL.COM Please comment insection below.


The Normanskill watershed is a near perfect example of how political boundaries divide and obscure natural systems. While it doesn’t appear to me these divisions are insurmountable, they do leave watershed concerns without an obvious policy structure or forum with which to focus attention. In some parts of the world, there are river systems shared by different countries. There are also rivers that serve as boundaries or move water from one country or state to another. The Normanskill does neither. The Normanskill is found entirely in New York State. As a major tributary, the watershed receives recognition as important to advocates and friends of the Hudson River. Not crossing national or state boundaries is an advantage to political management and a few less layers of government hopefully simplifies land-use planning and the watershed protector’s landscape. There are still global and bio-regional concerns which should be on the Normanskill watch list but these concerns reflect local problems and solutions with the harm and benefits to be derived locally as well. The political divisions of Counties, Towns, City and Villages are the divisions that largely remove the bio-regional view of this 170 square mile territory from the local population’s concerns and the local planning agency’s priorities. Which is not to say there are not concerned citizens, workers, and officials with a green environmental, open space, natural resource awareness, smart planning perspective; who recognize the importance of understanding and sustaining the whole living system they live in. I see two major divides of this river system. One is the Watervliet Reservoir. The watershed above the dam has interested parties concerned with water quality and by extension development, drainage, and pollution control. A second major biological divide is the estuary at the river’s confluence with the Hudson River near the Port of Albany. The landscape there is industrialized and like much of the Albany shore filled, dredged, and drowned to the point that its natural and human history is difficult to discern. Castle Island is no more, now you have a fill enlarged peninsula with obscured historical boundaries. From the Watervielt Reservoir downstream through Towns of Guilderland and Bethlehem the Normanskill and tributaries drain a mixed urban and suburbanized area. Maybe because my own property drains off onto this part of the watershed, I here find more permutations and interesting areas to still explore—from the recognized uniqueness of the Pine Bush Barrens; the availability of a surprising amount of green space due mostly to steep banked riversides, the Hunger Kill and the other small urban streams that move through the City of Albany and on to major malls and the campus of SUNY Albany. I see this portion of the river as our “European Watershed.” Common sense says over a hundred years of industrializations, denser human habitation, and major levels of pollution have made the health of this part of the river irretrievable. That is unless the cultural and societal change of the next hundred years decides differently. What is my proposed agenda for the Normanskill Watershed? First I would say to celebrate what we already have. A resource guide should be developed, eco-tourism encouraged, a sense of place, nature, seasonal activities; all to be encouraged. The publication NORMANSKILL can continue to be an anthology that networks and explores the depth of our bio-regional identity. Next would be preservation, eco-system enhancement, renewable “green”industries, increased food production, sustainable forestry, locally marketed locally produced products and crafts. No new ideas here but as a friend said recently, “We don’t need ideas. We need action.” I think there is a lot going on in these areas already. We need a catalog for access to what is available, perhaps included in the larger resource guide. On the political and planning level getting away from the “Big Pipe” mentality and seriously implementing water quality conscious decisions that involve different (and proven) technologies. Unless you live on a mountain peak, everyone is downstream from someone else. Alan Casline

foot bridge at French's Hollow