Small Preserves Matter: A guest post by Robert Frederick

September 22, 2023

As a Stewardship Assistant for the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, I have theopportunity to enhance the trails on 22 preserves throughout the greater Capital Region.  This morning, I had the easy task of installing a directional sign post to remind people of a refurbished staircase that leads to a nice view of a tributary at the Ashford Glen Preserve in the eastern region of Schenectady.

This 11.5-acre preserve is nestled in a small neighborhood and offers a 0.25-mile trail that offers a quiet walk along a ravine that flows waters to the Mohawk River.  

I didn’t expect to see anyone on this weekday morning project, but as I was digging the hole for the post, a couple in their golden years stopped to see what I was doing.  The man spoke up about my use of a post hole digger which reminded him of his early years building fences.  I noticed his grey socks and the hiking type sandals he was wearing.  He was skinny, but looked like he had some previous hiking experience.  The woman, who was using hiking poles, asked about my job, and I shared information about the Conservancy and the other 21 preserves they may wish to explore.

We had a nice chat and the two wandered off for the short hike before them. I installed the post and took time to make the area where the post was installed look like it might have been done many years ago.  I think I wanted to impress the couple by showing them the care we take in making our preserves special.  As I had to make a couple trips to and from my vehicleto carry tools and materials, I was hoping to see the couple on their return trip.  Mostly to ask if the trail looked good so I didn’t have to inspect it myself for other maintenance issues.  

As I returned to pick up the final tools, I saw the couple nearby.  They were behind a tree and at first I thought he was taking a break.  But as they saw me, the couple emerged from behind the tree, and the woman asked for my assistance.  It was obvious that the man was wary from the walk and his wife was very concerned for his safety.  She asked me if I could help her husband the rest of the way back to the car. With tools in my hands, I offered my shoulder for him to hold as we walked along the trail.

With him between me and his wife, we chatted about our ailments.  He was dealing with cancer, and his wife and I discussed our bad knees.  While we developed a quick kinship due to our aging bodies, we were all supportive of one another’s process.  At the end of our walk together, sharing doctors and options, we shook hands and showed our appreciation for each other’s company.

This moment within one of our smallest preserves reminded me of the importance of small spaces and short walks in the woods.  Everyone needs an accessible space to be with nature and feel connected to the world they love.

Today was a good day.

Robert Frederick, Stewardship Assistant