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DEC's Five Rivers Center Adds 35 Acres

Thirty-five acres of open space is now protected from development in suburban Albany County. The land abuts a popular outdoor education center.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Five Rivers Environmental Education Center is 35 acres larger today. Officials cut the ribbon on a parcel at the corner of Route 85 and Fisher Boulevard.

The land in the towns of Bethlehem and New Scotland is owned by the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy and is now protected under conservation easement.

The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy launched a community fundraising campaign for the property in June. If you passed by, you may have noticed the red signs posted along the property.

Mark King from the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy said the lot was once slated for development.

“At one point there was an idea that maybe 35 houses would go here. But instead we have this success,” said King. “I do have to mention a downside: there is a development going in next door. So we can’t win everything. But I think this makes a really valuable addition to Five Rivers.”

Five Rivers hosts public programs, workshops, and kids activities. A network of trails crisscrosses its 450 acres and a new visitor center was completed last year.

DEC Region 4 Director Keith Goertz said the Department will find ways to incorporate the new acreage with Five Rivers.

“Five Rivers Center staff, under the guidance of Director Gina Jack, will work with the Friends of Five Rivers and MHLC to incorporate current center program and activities into the plans for this parcel,” said Goertz. “It has taken us this long to secure the 35 acres and we will take the necessary time to ensure we have a well-planned and viable vision for this parcel.”

AmeriCorps volunteers through the Student Conservation Association and hosted at Five Rivers will work with DEC to plan a new trail on the parcel. Work on the trail will begin in October to hopefully connect the new parcel with the existing Five Rivers property.

Officials hope the acreage will provide outdoor recreation and educational opportunities for kids and adults, as well has have a positive effect on property values.

Bethlehem Town Supervisor David VanLuven said moving forward, landowners must be given options other than selling property to developers.

“This property is a huge accomplishment. It’s something that we are going to treasure for generations. Let’s make it the first of many positive partnerships with interested landowners as we work to keep farms and undeveloped lands a crucial part of the Town of Bethlehem. Thank you, everyone,” said VanLuven.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.
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