There are 3,200 acres of gently rolling sand dunes in Albany County providing a thriving home for a globally rare ecosystem. The recreational opportunities are rather extensive, too.
This year’s Lupine Fest, hosted by the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission, is aiming to connect people to the unique landscape by highlighting active ways to enjoy the preserve. The theme for the eighth annual event is “‘Dune’ It All — Recreation In The Pine Bush.” A wide variety of programming is planned to include presentations, demonstrations, guided hikes, pony rides, crafts, live music, snacks and other activities.
The event will be held rain or shine on Saturday, May 17, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center located at 195 New Karner Road in Albany. There will also be a pre-event dog walk at 9 a.m.
“Visitors will get the chance to explore many of the different types of recreation that are possible in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve,” Education Program Director Erin Kinal said in a statement. “The day will feature something for all ages, including music by the Whippersnappers, a ‘Storywalk,’ kayaking lessons with L.L.Bean, fishing, nature photography, orienteering lessons, a native plant gardening workshop and more.”
Discovery Center Director Jeffrey Folmer said “hundreds of people” come to the annual event featuring the “rich and truly amazing natural and cultural history” of the preserve.
Wendy Craney, spokeswoman for the preserve commission, said each year the event takes on a different theme, with last year focusing on the preserve’s history. Craney said the commission wanted to let the community know the preserve, while protecting an important habit, offers many recreational opportunities.
“I have people all the time saying ‘I didn’t even know there are trails,’” Craney said. “It is important to show that we are a community resource and to help build public awareness about the Pine Bush. … It is someplace they can get outside and enjoy the outdoors.”
There are 20 miles of trails in the preserve, Craney said, with most recreational opportunities allowed. Motorized vehicles are not allowed on trails, but horseback riding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and hunting are allowed. There will be information during the event on allowed hunting activities.
If someone is reluctant to hit the trails for the first time, Craney said there are various guided hikes offered to familiarize people with the trails.
The “Storywalk” activity at Lupine Fest will also offer a different way to experience the trails.
During a “Storywalk” a book is taken apart and the pages are posted along the trail. At the event, an educator will be leading the walk and reading each page. The book during the event will focus on why cutting down trees can be a good thing.
Craney said the Discovery Center has done the Storywalk before and it was “really popular.”
“We are offering more and more programs every year, and actually we have grown in that we are offering programs for a greater age range,” Carney said. “Now, there are programs for little kids … all the way up to adults.”
One event adults might enjoy is a gardening program on plants native to the preserve.
“We try to encourage people, especially who live around the Pine Bush, to plant things in their garden that are native to the area or at least not invasive,” Craney said.
The Pine Bush was created during the last ice age. There was a “giant glacier,” Craney said, possibly around a mile tall, which formed a large lake after it receded. As the lake drained over time, all of its deposits were left in the Pine Bush area, forming the sand dunes.
Christopher Hawver, executive director of the preserve commission, said the Pine Bush is one of the few such landscapes remaining, with it considered to be one of the “best remaining examples” worldwide.
“The Commission manages the preserve with a focus on restoring and preserving this unique ecosystem, but it’s important to celebrate how recreation helps to bring people closer to nature and offers a better understanding of why it’s worthy of protection,” Hawver said.
Visit www.AlbanyPineBush.org for information on the event, preserve and Discovery Center, or call 456-0655.