The Bender Melon Farm Preserve is an approximately 175 acre parcel, located in the Town of New Scotland and just outside the Village of Voorheesville. It is currently a mix of forest, fields and wetland areas. The property is divided by the Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail, which connects Albany to Voorheesville. An old steel bridge spans the two portions of the parcel across the rail trail.
At the turn of the twentieth century, the 175-acre Bender Melon Farm Preserve was renowned for the “Bender’s Surprise” melon. Charles Bender developed and cultivated the prized cantaloupe variety on the property and farmed the land for four decades. With no heirs to inherit his legacy, he sold the property to a Glenmont-based dairy farmer in 1939. The farm fell into disarray after it was sold again in the mid-1970s, and the era of farming Bender melons ended.
Plans to develop the property in 2008 drew huge public opposition. The public upset resulted in a rezoning of the land that prevented a large-scale commercial build, but the property remained for sale and was still vulnerable to development. In the fall of 2020, after two years of extensive fundraising efforts, the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy purchased the property. saving it from large scale development.
The Bender Melon Farm Preserve contains various habitat types that are important to our region and provide habitat for a variety of wildlife species. The wetlands dotting the fields are the beginnings of the Phillipin Kill. Wetlands serve as essential filters for surface runoff and help to retain floodwaters.
The fields surrounding these wetlands provide vital habitat for grassland nesting birds. Bobolink, meadowlark, and grasshopper sparrow are examples of birds that require extensive grasslands for their life cycles. As farmland continues to be lost to development, birds that nest in these types of fields are lost as well. Bender Melon Farm remains one of the last large spaces between Slingerlands and Voorheesville where these bird species will thrive.
Habitat restoration and trail development are among the top priorities for the land as MHLC works to create an open space for all to enjoy. David’s Trail, the first nature trail at Bender Melon Farm Preserve, was dedicated in 2021 by the Iselin Family of Delmar in memory of their son. David’s Trail marks the first of many trails the Conservancy anticipates creating on the property.
MHLC looks forward to working with the community to create an asset for people and the environment for generations to come. MHLC’s Bender Melon Farm Preserve Committee completed a public survey about the future use of the property; results can be viewed here.
READ OUR DEC. 6, 2022 PROJECT UPDATE!