Independent Projects: Exploring New Lands

Recently the college has been gifted several acres — Skidmore’s total acreage now reaching close to a thousand at this point. Some of these new swaths of land are considerably larger than our humble 155-acre North Woods. Jingling and I have had a lot of fun getting to see this new scenery and exploring it quite a bit.

Jingling and I have been walking through these new parcels identifying areas that need to be cleaned up, figuring out the most ideal spots for signage indicating the boundary lines, and understanding how to better encourage community members that visit this land to be more respectful of it. We have been taking apart some campsites, collecting litter, and enjoying the new landscape.

We have also been fortunate enough to go on several walks in these new lands with different people of varying aspects of expertise. On our walk with Drew Roginski, one of the lead members of Saratoga Mountain Bike Association (SMBA), we enjoyed getting to see and appreciate the impressive layout of their trails, some of best in the country, and very rigorous. They cross over onto our parcel from the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) land which the mountain bike trails are largely on. We enjoyed the all-around beauty of this parcel. On our walk with Kurt Smemo from Skidmore’s environmental department we were able see other parcels to the Northeast of campus. We learned about the wetlands and the flora and fauna that exist there. This parcel includes areas of large wetlands and very few trails, all of which are unmarked. On one of our walks we were even lucky enough to spot a deer munching leaves in the distant. We’ve also seen at least 50 red efts, one of my favorite critters in the area.

On campus the Skidmore Lands and Grounds Committee are the ones who are working towards creating more cohesive plans for land use and management. The group consists of faculty, staff and students that get together to discuss the future of these parcels and seek to collaborate with the Saratoga community. It’s very exciting to have these new lands, and more exciting still to consider how this land might be used in subsequent years.


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10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the Northwoods

  • The McGregor Fault line that is the visible drop on the blue trail is the reason why Saratoga Springs has natural springs and when the foliage along the highest point on the Blue Trail is gone you can see 42 miles out all the way to Stratton Mountain, VT.
  • In 1879 the Woodlawn estate, which mainly existed where the campus is now, was purchased by Judge Henry Hilton. In 1880, he built a series of mansions on land which also contained a beautiful pristine forest.
  • Having worked on the Central Park Commission, Henry Hilton was dissatisfied by Frederick Olmsted’s vision and would later go on to carry out his version of what Central Park in New York City should have been in the North Woods.
  • The reason the North Woods does not contain any old growth is because in the 1916 to 1919 the then owner of the property, businessman Charles Morse, hired Canadian woodcutters to chop it all down to sell for the war effort.
  • In 1916 Lucy Scribner wanted to purchase the property but for reasons that are unclear, Hilton’s relatives did not receive that request in time.
  • Just off of the orange trail there used to be small body of water called “Lover’s Lake” or the “Vly”. Some locals of Saratoga still remember having swam in the Vly. It once had a boathouse and got its romantic name from lover’s boating on the Vly while courting.
  • The 19th-century Glen Mitchell Hotel used to be located near the intersection of the orange and blue trail, and one can still come across the foundations of the old Hotel. If you’re lucky you might stumble on the old lamp posts, see the steps that led up to the dance pavilion, or the water pump in the stream.
  • The North Woods was once part of a Native American Saratoga-Montreal Trail and the trail extended down into New York City. There is actually a famed Indian Spring in the woods, that made this route so appealing. Travelers could fill up on potable water before continuing on their journey. In the 1930s the post master attempted to pin down its exact location.
  • In 1886 Hilton allowed the elite Saratoga Toboggan Club to build a massive toboggan slide. It was built up and shaped with blocks of ice cut from Saratoga lake. Measuring an impressive 40 feet height and 120 feet long, some say that speeds upwards of 60 miles could be reached. Industrialists from New York City would even come up on the weekends and the younger Hilton’s would host skating parties on the lake.
  • The North Woods is rich in limestone the result of an interesting geological history. 550 years ago the North Woods would have existed under the Iapetus ocean, during the existence of the Euramerica landmass. 6 million years ago there was an Ice Age, and 12,000 years ago the North Woods would have once again been submerged under Glacial Lake Albany. Notably, there is a large boulder on the purple trail, the only one of its kind, that was deposited after the glaciers disappeared, it’s known as “Whale Rock” as it looks like a whale breaching the surface.
  • Bonus Fact: The woods actually once had a ski lift but the college had to close it down in the 1970s for liability purposes. The foundational slabs of concrete and anchor can still be seen where the purple trail meets red.

A huge thanks to Robert Jones in the Economics Department. He is a history buff with a wealth of knowledge on the history of the North Woods and Saratoga Springs in general.

Be sure to check out Robert’s new book on the history of the North Woods and stay tuned for updates on tours and other information



Whale Rock

Thec water pump in the creek by the Glenn Mitchell

One of the lamp posts, just bellow the steps of the dance pavilion

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An Afternoon of Reminiscing

 

Hello world! We’re your 2017 summer stewards, Jingling and Yesenia. We’re very excited to be in the woods exploring, mapping, removing invasives, and giving tours. That’s just to name a few things that the stewards do. We also work on independent projects, laying the foundation for future stewards and other college planning, as well as continuing the legacy of research and mapping on invasive species like Garlic Mustard, Burning Bush and Japanese Barberry as well as mapping rare/protected species such as Green Violet, Wild Ginger and Ginseng and Goldenseal. With the hope that in so doing we can ensure that the North Woods continue to be maintained and more welcoming to visitors like you. This summer we will also begin exploring new lands the college has recently acquired, which we are very excited about.

Speaking of visitors, just this past weekend Skidmore College held its annual Alumni Weekend, and we were fortunate enough to be able to give a tour of the woods to diverse group of class years, from 1962 to 2012. It was great getting share a bit of our knowledge on the history of the woods with people who got to explore it during different stages. A ‘97 graduate recalled how the trails were to be used for mountain biking and as a result were a wreck, covered in mud and overly trafficked (one of those cycling competitions actually led to the current rule of foot traffic only). She recalls her time mountain biking through the woods fondly, but also recognized that there was a marked improvement in the state of the North Woods, something we continue to strive for.

Our tour was just a little over an hour. Walking through the red trail, we were able to explore centuries of history and learn about the many figures who shaped the North Woods into the beloved woods we have now. Mostly however, we loved seeing alum talk among themselves, laugh, and reminisce on their college years.


 

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Fun with Camp Northwoods!

We’re just finishing up our last week here as summer stewards! Amazing how fast these past 10 weeks just flew by. Yesterday we had the wonderful opportunity to work with Camp Northwoods during the afternoon. We got to do quite a few things with the campers, from playing “Hawk is Watching!” (a variation of red light green light), to giving them a small tour and history of the red trail, they had a lot of questions about Angeline Tubbs AKA the Witch of Saratoga, we got to teach them a bit about invasive species and what a steward is and does, and mostly we got to let them have fun exploring the woods for a bit. They also built some pretty great fairy/elf houses, photos soon to come! They had a fun time building and we had a good time seeing the light-bulbs go off as they raced to make their perfect tiny elf homes and outrageous stories about them.

Cheers to another wonderful summer, and thank you for reading!

Yesenia and Sana

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North Woods Events Updates!

Hi All!

This week, Yesenia is out of town so burning bush removal has slowed down a bit. However, there is a tour scheduled for this evening at 7 starting at the Falstaff’s kiosk. Learn about the historic blue trail and its rich history. Next week, we will be meeting with Camp Northwoods for some light hearted fun with little explorers and we will also be having a focus group for middle school students. The focus group will meet to talk about bike signage concerning the potential bike path that will extend from N Broadway to the middle school. Stay tuned for updates!

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Events:

7/25/16: North Woods Tour 6:30-7 arrival time at Falstaff’s Kiosk

8/2/16: Middle School Focus Group (If you would like to participate please contact sustainability@skidmore.edu, or Sana at sbando@skidmore.edu)

8/4/16: Camp Northwoods activities

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Ridding The Trails of Burning Bush

Sana and I continue to work diligently in the woods. For the past 3 weeks or so we have really been focusing our attention on the Red and Blue trails. You might have even seen us working! We are trying our hardest to remove Japanese Burning Bush from this area. Burning Bush is an invasive species that is often used as an ornamental plant because it turns a beautiful red in the autumn. The North Woods are home to quite a couple of rare and endangered plants, including Green Violet which is found in no other part of Saratoga County aside from the North Woods. For this reason, among others it is imperative that we do our best to stem the spread of invasive species and maintain the rich and wonderful diversity of the North Woods.

This Saturday from 10-12pm we will be working
with the Urban Forestry Council to remove some more Burning Bush from the Red/Blue trails. We will meet in the Falstaff’s parking lot, anyone is welcome to join! Any and all help is greatly appreciated.

With that I leave you with a picture of Sana holding up and some huge branches of Burning Bush that she clipped.

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Happy Exploring!

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Strawberry Moon Walk and Last Week’s Updates

We would like to thank everyone who showed up to the Moonlit Walk this past Monday! To those that could not make it, last Monday was the Strawberry moon. Called such by the Algonquin tribe as it indicated the ripening of fruits and strawberries. In Europe where strawberries are not native it is called the Rose moon. It was also the first time in almost 70 years that the full moon and the summer solstice have lined up.
Speaking of strawberries, fresh picked strawberries from Skidmore’s Community Garden, and all of its other veggies, fruits and sometimes herbs, are sold to the dining hall throughout the year. The Community Garden, like the North Woods stewardship program is run by the Office of Sustainability. Ruth, a fellow Skidmore student, is our garden manager and does a great job of growing all sorts of delicious items that are then sold to the dining hall.
This past week has been full of activity! On Tuesday we also met a new member of the Sustainability team, Jen a recent graduate from University of Virginia, Sana and I are very excited to begin working with her. We would also like to give a huge thanks to Erika Schielke in the Biology department for meeting with us and giving us some very helpful pointers for our project on the mapping of invasive and protected species in the North Woods.

More updates to come, stay tuned!

Happy exploring,

Yesenia and Sana

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From Garlic Mustard to Japanese Barberry

This week, we started removing Japanese barberry from the North Woods! Barberry or Berberis thunbergii is an invasive shrub species in the woods. It is native to Japan and was introduced to the United States in the late 1800s as an ornamental Barberry_1plant. Walking through the North Woods, Yesenia and I often run into visitors who have said that they too have barberry growing in their yards for ornamental purposes. Barberry tolerates a wide range of soils and grows in both full sun and shade. In the North Woods, it is often found in shaded areas along the edges of the woods as well as the edges of trails. The removal period of barberry is late spring early summer.

Managing the spread of barberry has proven to be challenging. The stems of the plant are leathery and the root systems grow both horizontally and vertically into the soil, making it difficult to pull out a single plant. It is impossible to remove barberry without digging around the plant and using a pitchfork for leverage. Clippers can be used to cut down long stems as they have short needles that can prick you.

Barberry_3The removal of barberry from the North Woods is a long-term initiative taken on by the North Woods stewards. Every year, stewards go out and manage, map, and prevent the spread of invasive species in the North Woods. We are working very hard to tackle the barberry that we come across in the next two weeks!

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Hello from the 2016 North Woods Stewards!

Greetings! Sana and I have started our positions as the North Woods stewards. For the next 10 weeks we will be doing a lot of work in our beloved North Woods. We will be maintaining trails/updating kiosks, removing invasive species, working with GIS/GPS systems to aid in mapping, community outreach and some independent projects of our own. Since our start we have already had some wonderful opportunities for learning about the North Woods, and have met and walked through the woods with some local and very knowledgeable individuals like Jackie Donnelly, a local naturalist and plant expert and Kurt Smemo, Assistant Professor at Skidmore. This past Wednesday we a very fun and informative walk with Bob Jones, Associate Professor, who has a wealth of knowledge on the history of the woods and other woodland properties owned by the college. We look forward to learning, exploring and helping to keep the North Woods a place where people can enjoy and admire nature.

Be sure to check back oo stay up to date on our efforts and events in the North Woods, please feel free to email Sana or myself if you have any questions about the North Woods this summer,

Happy exploring!

Yesenia (Class of 2018) & Sana (Class of 2017)

yolivare@skidmore.edu
sbando@skidmore.edu
Join us on Facebook at “Friends of the North Woods

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Staying on the Trail

Throughout the summer, the North Woods Stewards are responsible for maintaining the health of the North Woods. This includes, but is not limited to trail maintenance, invasive species management, community outreach, and independent projects of our choosing. One day, when Facilities Services was aiding us in removing fallen trees from the trail, we noticed a significant patch of the blue trail was very muddy, and that a cut-around path had started to develop. This concerned us because in order to continue to protect the woods, we need to prevent habitat destruction, erosion and further fragmentation of the woods.

We decided to build a boardwalk on this area of the blue trail, not far from where the red and blue trails meet, near the North Woods apartments.  Two years ago, Matthew Folts, and Dean Phillips, both Project Managers in Facilities services, provided incredible support for boardwalk projects, and agreed to the same again for this one. Dean and Matt, built every frame of the almost 200-foot boardwalk, and we gathered volunteers to get them in, working a little at a time every week. Once all the frames were in the woods, volunteers helped bolt the frames together, and level the boardwalk. Hammering in the planks was by far the most fun part of this project, and also drew in more volunteers! Paul Lundberg, Assistant Director of Construction Services, spent a Friday afternoon teaching us the right way of setting the boards onto the planks, and hammering in the nails without hurting our fingers. This project took over a month to finish, but once the last nail was in, we were very proud of everyone’s hard work.

Many parts of the trails in the North Woods, such as the red and blue trails, are very wide, as they were originally carriage trails created in 1879. Over time, people created smaller paths to see and explore more of the natural beauty the woods, while inadvertently cutting into natural habitats. This is the on-going challenge for those working to manage lands, balancing recreation with conservation. Many Skidmore community members, including professors, staff, students and stewards have tried closing these auxiliary trails using braches and natural objects to promote use of the already established main trails.  Our hope is that Skidmore students, faculty, staff and Saratoga community members will continue to help us in our efforts to protect the woods. The boardwalk will hopefully be an indication to all those who wish to enjoy the woods in the future that staying on the trails is a vital part of this protection process.

We made a short video that showcases the project and hopefully inspire others to get out there, and help look after our woods. To check out this video and others about the North woods, or just to stay updated click here.

Urvi Kalra ’18, North Woods Steward

boardwalk1  boardwalk3boardwalk2

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