December 6, 2022
There’s been a lot going on behind the scenes at Bender Melon Farm Preserve as we work to bring your vision for this community asset to life. Here’s the latest happenings at Bender Melon Farm Preserve:
During the last year, MHLC staff has worked with consultants, agencies, and conservation groups to gain as much information aswe can about the property. We have engaged professional trail planners to complete a comprehensive trail plan for the property. This plan will show the best trail connections to make one cohesive system for the public, so that hikers,walkers, runners, and bikers can all enjoy the land. We are still working on the larger trail plan, but we hope to share some preliminary trail openings with you in the near future to keep you connected to this special place!
Forest Trails and Mountain Biking
MHLC has been working with Tahawus Trails and Peduzzi Trailsto develop muti-use trails through the woods on the 45-acres north of the Rail Trail. Our vision is to create a larger carriage road style trail with smaller mountain bike specific trails running throughout the inner woods so everyone can enjoy the diverse terrain on the trails. The trails have already been mapped and our trail building schedule will be posted soon.
The old rusted rail bridge that stretches over the Helderberg-Hudson has become a key landmark for Bender Melon Farm Preserve. During 2022, MHLC worked with Albany County officials to complete a bridge inspection to determine if refurbishing the bridge is possible. The bridge needs substantial updates to make it safe for crossing, but we will move forward as planned. Stay tuned—plans will be announced in the New Year!
85A Front Fields
This fall, you may have noticed that the front fields along Route 85A were brush hogged. Annual brush hogging can reduce woody debris and encourage healthy grass growth to support wildlife and birds. After two years of rest, we are gearing up to start additional management of the lands to restore the tired soil. MHLC plans to use this site to demonstrate management techniques that landowners can complete at home.
MHLC continues to work partner organizations (including Natural Resource Conservation Service staff, the Albany Pine Bush, the Ruffed Grouse Society and the Albany County Soil and Water Conservation District) to explore various types of land management techniques that are light on the land, reduce chemical use, and compliment the soil types on the property.
You might remember that the existing buildings on the property had been abandoned and were falling down. Buildings in this condition pose a safety threat, especially to curious folks who may be tempted to search through the rubble. To reduce the risk, we worked with a local contractor this fall to remove the buildings. Metal, roofs, cars, and other debris were separated from the wood and taken to the scrap yard for recycling. Wood debris will be burned on site to reduce landfill waste and costs for project clean-up.
Once this area is completely cleared and deemed safe, a parking area will be created to facilitate public access to the future trail system. At this time, access to the preserve is limited to David’s Trail. If you haven’t visited Bender Melon Farm Preserve, we encourage you to walk this popular 0.58-mile loop!
Habitat Restoration Area
To date, the back lands along the Rail Trail have been allowed to rest from years of row cropping. White-tailed deer and flocks of wild turkey have dotted the hillsides, providing great habitat for wildlife in this growing area of development. MHLC has reached out to Ducks Unlimited and NRCS to explore wetland restoration initiatives for this area, which could be the last step in our restoration work. Wetland banking, mitigation, and other programs could provide future funding to support this effort. In the meantime, we will enjoy the space we have given back to the area’s wildlife.
We hope you enjoy the progress we have made to date and look forward to seeing you on the trails soon!