ALBANY — The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission has acquired two new properties totaling 28 acres to continue its goal of eventually protecting 5,380 acres of land.
The Albany Pine Bush Preserve, a nature preserve on 195 New Karner Road, is one of the world’s lasting inland pitch-pine scrub oak barrens, and its ecosystem is home to around 80 species. It contains rolling sand dunes, more than 20 miles of trails and recreational opportunities like hunting, fishing, canoeing and biking. The Commission, a public-private partnership developed by the state Legislature in 1988 to protect and manage the preserve as well as offer public educational and recreational opportunities, now protects 3,350 acres, including the two new properties.
The first property, located on 4222 Albany St. in Colonie, measures 7.2 acres and was owned by the Cirillo family for many years. They donated it first to the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, which often collaborates with APBPC on land acquisition matters, and it then donated it to the state Department of Environmental Conservation before it was dedicated to APBP. This property marked the first time an individual donated to the preserve for permanent habitat protection.
Chris Hawver, APBPC’s executive director, said this deal closed around a year and a half ago. Mark King, MHLC’s executive director, said it “was a fairly straightforward process for us because we do this regularly. We know how the process works and can help the landowner through it. We try to do it in a relatively short timeframe since usually, the landowner isn’t willing to wait around to see it get done.”
The second property, located on 1017 Kings Road in Schenectady, measures 20.9 acres, was purchased for $50,000 and the deal closed four weeks ago. “The property was on the market and we approached the realtor. I wrote a letter to the owner who’s retired that if their contract falls through or has any issues, they could sell it to us instead,” Hawver said. “After a few months, the realtor called us to say the contract fell through.”
The acquired properties were the result of APBP’s 2017 Management Plan Update, which is reviewed every five years and had set the goal of protecting 5,380 acres of land overall. “The management plan identifies areas that we’d like to see protected and we’d determine how to control it with native species restoration which is identified with our Discovery Center.”
The plan update is available on APBCP’s website.
Hawver said that it is “unlikely” that APBCP would incorporate recreational trails in the two new properties though and its main purpose is to be protected forever for the public to enjoy.
When asked about their reactions to the two properties being acquired, both men offered positive commentary. Hawver said, “It’s encouraging and exciting and I’ve been here for over 27 years now. The preserve has grown since then and I remember we just had 1,700 acres back in 1993. It ties directly to our mission.”
King said he continues to enjoy MHLC’s partnership with APBP which began around five years ago via a signed agreement although he stressed that his organization is not always involved in every land acquisition by APBPC. He added that since MHLC has a strong expertise in real estate acquisition, it helps APBPC whenever it can and can sometimes act as an advisor to keep land acquisition processes smooth.
“The Albany Pine Bush Preserve is really something special in this area and in my mind, it hasn’t always gotten the attention it deserves,” King said. “It’s very wildly underappreciated that there’s this great, vast thing in the Capital District that I think not many people recognize. It’s a fantastic contrast to the Albany NanoTech Complex and cutting-edge technology around here. But then again, this is cutting-edge environmental management.”
Looking ahead, another potential land acquisition deal is in the works which concerns a property measuring just south of four acres, according to Hawver. He concluded that APBPC’s work is significant because “for the people living here in Albany, it’s part of their community and they take pride in having this open space resource surrounded by suburbia. In days where people can’t get along on many issues, one thing they get along on is agreeing that the Pine Bush and protecting it are important.”
For more information, visit APBPC’s new website at albanypinebush.org.