Editor, The Spotlight:
Preserving open land and protecting streams around the Five Rivers Environmental Education Center has been a continuing labor of love in the face of intense and inevitable development in the towns of Bethlehem and New Scotland. It has demanded close collaboration on the part of the town planning boards, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the Open Space Institute, the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy and others. It calls on the largesse, public spirit and love of the natural world of land owners and developers. It calls for vigilance on the part of citizens’ groups like the Friends of Five Rivers. DEC’s Five Rivers has a history of land acquisition and land donations that represents hard work, a willingness to overcome obstacles, and great generosity on the part of local landowners.
As evidenced by the intended development of Phillipin Kill Manor (Albany Times Union “Builder offers new housing plan for Slingerlands site,” Feb 16 2016), the preservation work continues. The current proposal before the Town of Bethlehem and the DEC represents an improvement over an earlier plan, but one with elements still in need of review by the DEC. Our collective attention is also demanded by development in the Town of New Scotland. The “creeks” in the proposed Creekside development are the Vlomankill and the Phillipinkill, whose waters flow through Five Rivers. The Vlomankill serves as the basis for stream-based habitat instruction in the environmental education programs at Five Rivers. The sensitive life in these streams is threatened by construction and residential run-off. Imagine school children and families trolling the streams for specimens and coming up with nothing.
We of the Friends of Five Rivers are worried and watchful of the prospect of even more development projects bordering this natural treasure and the effect they will have on its educational mission. We will continue to raise public awareness concerning projects in the approval process and to participate in public hearings in the hope that the impact of these projects can be mitigated. We can join with the DEC and others to encourage preservation with tools such as the incorporation of buffer zones and conservation easements, but ultimately it is public awareness and the generosity of land owners that will make the difference.
Maggie Moehringer, President
Friends of Five Rivers
[The views and opinions expressed in this letter are those of the Friends of Five Rivers and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.]