To The Max!

Interview with Maxanne Resnick: Executive Director of the Woodstock Land Conservancy

Maxanne Resnick was appointed as the Executive Director of the Woodstock Land Conservancy late last year. Woodstock, clearly one of the more well-known towns in Ulster County, couldn’t have a more competent leader at the helm of this important organization. Maxanne is a great source of inspiration to us all here at the Kingston Land Trust as she juggles many responsibilities. She’s long-time Ulster Co resident, a mother of two, a die-hard fan of Phoenicia and so much more.

How did you initially get involved with the Woodstock Land Conservancy (WLC)?
Several years ago I met some of the key Woodstock Land Conservancy (WLC) board members. I remained in touch with them, so when my predecessor, Marita Lopez-Mena, decided to step down, a chance encounter with Board President, Patty Goodwin at the 2015 Ulster County Active Transportation Conference proved serendipitous! I’ve been a Catskills area resident for 22 years, mostly in the Phoenicia area, and recently moved to West Hurley. I was appointed Executive Director in January 2016, after having done a 4-month stint with the organization in fundraising. I’ve long admired WLC’s mission of conserving open lands, natural resources, habitat, historic value, with the added lens of climate change and sustainability. The educational programs are inspiring and I was familiar with several of their gorgeous public preserves.

What are your main duties as the WLC Executive Director?
As Executive Director I am chief cook, bottle washer etc. Though we work virtually, with no central office, I have one staff person and a tremendously active and accomplished 8-person Board of Directors. I’m responsible in helping the organization achieve conservation in all facets; stewardship of our existing properties and easements; insuring that we have a vibrant educational program which is well-publicized; applying and administering grants that further our mission; serve as one of the public faces of the organization; raising monies to support our work; and building our connection to the community so that it is both aware of our work and inspired to benefit from it.

What would you like to accomplish in your term as Executive Director?
For me the year ahead brings interesting possibilities. Our land trust is seeking national accreditation with the Land Trust Alliance (LTA) – a designation that would acknowledge our full compliance with national standards and best practices, giving confidence to our organization’s supporters, landowners and the communities we serve of our commitment and organizational capacity to carry out our mission, both now and in perpetuity. Our staff and board are all involved in this effort, for which they have been laying the groundwork over the past ten years. The National Land Trust community, along with the LTA New York Chapter, is an invaluable source of information; support and collaboration in helping us succeed.

WLC stewards the lands that we either own, or “hold” conservation easements on. And securing the significant additional organizational funding to provide for this stewardship is paramount. For example, WLC recently received a donation of 123 acres of undeveloped forest with stream and wetland habitat in Town of Ulster near the NYSDEC Bluestone Wild Forest. Our donor felt strongly that her land should never be developed, and through this act hopes she will further inspire others to do the same. A New York State Conservation Partnership Program Grant was recently awarded to us to help realize the opening of this fantastic forest to the public. Initially we will be able to create the parking area; establish boundary signage and install a visitor’s kiosk. Trail planning and build out will follow, while concurrently raising permanent stewardship endowment monies.

Our Saturdays on the Trail monthly program offers a wide-range of topics such as birding, animal tracking, an Esopus paddle and much more.  And, June 10th and 11th is our 2nd annual BioBlitz, which pairs citizens with scientists to collect data on the habitat of the Thorn Preserve. The findings are then analyzed and inform the management plan for this preserve. Further information on this event is available at BioBlitz2016.com

And, then there are the fun social events that happen to be fundraisers. We recently hosted an evening of comedy with Colin Quinn – which was hilarious, and also had our annual Vernal Fling at the resplendent Onteora Mountain House while honoring Mary Frank and Karl Beard in their visionary work connecting and inspiring all of us to engage further in nature.

In recent years, WLC has inevitably become involved in advocating on local issues where environmental and conservation concerns loom large. When the Niagara Bottling Co. identified Cooper Lake, City of Kingston’s public water supply as its main water source for a bottled water in Town of Ulster, WLC helped build a broad-based advocacy coalition with groups in Woodstock, Kingston, other Ulster and Dutchess County communities, as well as regional organizations like Riverkeeper. This coalition ensured that the full range of potential economic, environmental and community impacts associated with the proposal were identified and included in the NYS SEQRA review. WLC raised funds from some of its donors to fund this preliminary report, commissioned by Riverkeeper. It identified potential environmental impacts from the proposal helping successfully ensure that the Town of Ulster, lead agency for SEQR review, issued a Declaration of Positive Environmental Impacts (POS DEC) for the project, requiring full review. Fortunately, not only was our coalition work successful, when Niagara chose to withdraw their proposal rather than undergo the full review, new and lasting and beneficial associations were made, and a new, expanded WLC focus on watershed and water supply protection issues was born.

For several years we have helped lead a coalition of local organizations, which includes KLT, in supporting Ulster County’s vision for the “Catskill Mountain Rail Trail,” from Kingston to Highmount on portions of the former U&D corridor. As part of the Friends of the Catskill Mountain Rail Trail committee, (co-sponsored with Catskill Mountainkeeper), our board and staff have spent countless hours working on realizing this vision. We were so grateful to the UC Legislature in its unanimous passage in December, 2015 of a compromise policy for the 38.6 mile corridor. This designated an expansion of the current tourist train rides in both Kingston and in the Phoenicia/Boiceville area; and also delineated the rail trail portions, including the Kingston Midtown Linear Park, the key Midtown-Uptown connection of the KLT developed Kingston Greenline; as well as the proposed 11.5 mile Ashokan Rail Trail, which will open to the public the spectacular northern shore of the Ashokan Reservoir, without permit or fee, for the first time in 100 years. Many parties with different and strongly held points of view worked tirelessly over the past 3 years to study the issues and reach this hard-wrought compromise. We are pleased that the County is now able to move forward at the Ashokan having received approval for the Planning and Design work on May 17th by the UC Legislature. This contract is funded entirely with monies already received from NYCDEP for this purpose.

The plan offers exciting opportunities for all of us – bringing an exciting park to Midtown Kingston, and which-as part of the Kingston Greenline “rail trail hub” will extend out to the gorgeous countryside that surrounds it – via several rail trails, including the Marbletown O&W, the Walkill Valley Rail Trail, the much-anticipated U&D Corridor to the Ashokan, and ultimately via the Hudson Valley Rail Trail, to the Walkway Over the Hudson, and the Dutchess County Trail System. Many area land trusts have joined together to make this network a reality. NYS and LTA have been strong supporters of NYS rail trail projects because of the combined benefits for economic development, urban revitalization and fostering social-environmental justice, health, public open space conservation, transportation pathways, etc.

To support these opportunities, WLC is continuing in 2016 our financial support of urban bike programs in Kingston through Cornell Cooperative Extension and the YMCA of Ulster County. This has made possible an afterschool program that teaches Kingston teens about bicycling – how to ride safely, and encouraging them to see and experience biking as a healthy, lifelong activity and will connect them to the trails network that will soon crisscross and connect their City to the amazing natural resources of Ulster County.

Could you briefly describe the WLC landholdings?
They are gorgeous and range from scenic meadows, to verdant forests, as well as lovely mountain ridges.  Vernal pools, streams and bluestone quarries are part of our landscape. And their conservation offers further mitigation from climate change affects. We offer free public access to a number of them, with further details available on our website. Over the past 28 years we have helped conserve over 1,000 acres in Woodstock and the Eastern Catskills.

How do WLC and KLT work together already, and how do you think the two organizations will work together in the future?
KLT has been one of WLC’s closest and most rewarding partnerships over recent years because of their inspired and visionary work in developing the Kingston Greenline and planning the connections to the County-wide Rail Trail Network. There remain many areas of rich opportunities where that collaboration proves beneficial to all. We share the interest in conserving land, and providing the important connections to nature which enrich all of us, while offering residents essential healthful opportunities. Our sharing of the same watershed knits our interests together, as well as the regional planning and environmental issues we confront – such as the Ulster County Rail Trail, the Pilgrim Pipeline; or the Oil Trains passing through the heart of Kingston and Towns of Ulster and Saugerties along the eastern edge of WLC’s service area. It also speaks to the value of community, enjoying all of the pluses that each of our communities has to offer to one another, as well as helping to understand and address, where we can, the distinct challenges facing our communities. The nature of our area, as a regional one, also means that frequently people have personal connections to one another extending throughout the Catskills and the Hudson Valley. Those connections have helped engender an excitement in the region that has uplifted all of us to dream of larger and greater visions that improve our quality of life and strengthen the vitality of our communities – and to work together in the realization of them. Future collaborations can include issues around land, water, sustainable food systems, trail networks and climate change. Connecting people to the land through valuable educational programs for all of us, including children, and advocating for strong conservation policies in Ulster County serves all of us well.

How can people get informed or involved with the WLC?
We welcome everyone’s interest and participation. Folks can learn more about WLC, our Saturdays on the Trails events and our public preserves on our site. One can sign up for our email blasts on our website and follow us on Facebook, and for our rail trail work, visit catskillmountainrailtrail.org and Friends of the Catskill Mountain Rail Trail. Through the year there are volunteer opportunities which range from trail work; event production, and orchestration of great environmental projects, including BioBlitz2016.

What’s your fave outdoor space in Ulster County?
For my part, I can’t say there is a singular place. There is so much natural beauty here. I love the vistas at the Ashokan Reservoir; the view from the top of Overlook Mountain; the spectacular quarry at Snake Rocks Preserve and the view to Overlook Mountain from both Zena Cornfield and the Thorn Preserve. But there is so much more in all other directions. People should explore. They will not be disappointed.

Okay Max, it’s time for the… SPEED ROUND:
Fave Color:  No one particular. So many.
Fave Movie: Pride & Prejudice starring Colin Firth
Fave Band: Earth Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder AND…
Fave Food: Are you kidding? – all food. Just, well made and preferably local ingredients.
Fave Book: “Crossing to Safety” by Wallace Stegner

Leave a Reply

 

 

 

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>