DEC Announces Restoration of Accessible Trail at Stony Kill Farm Environmental Education Center
November 9, 2021 – Trail Improves Access to Hudson Valley’s Natural Resources and Provides New Educational Opportunities for Visitors
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today the completed restoration and improvement of an accessible trail at Stony Kill Farm Environmental Education Center in Wappingers Falls, Dutchess County. The half-mile Woodland Trail was destroyed by a microburst in May 2018, and repaired and improved thanks to a collaborative effort to make the trail more accessible to people of all abilities.
“The restored Woodland Trail is proof of New York State’s sustained commitment to ensuring the outdoors are open for everyone,” Commissioner Seggos said. “The hard work of the Excelsior Conservation Corps and our regional operations staff made this trail accessible to people of all abilities, and I expect many visitors to enjoy it in the years to come. I commend the young people who restored this trail. They performed a meaningful public service and helped to safeguard the State’s natural resources and bolster its economic well-being.”
The Woodland Trail was wheelchair accessible prior to a microburst that blew down trees and made the trail unusable. DEC Operations staff helped clear some of the trees, but the trail was no longer safe for those in a wheelchair or with limited mobility. DEC supplied the materials, equipment, staff guidance, and reviews by DEC’s Accessibility Coordinator needed to complete the project, and the Excelsior Conservation Corps (ECC) spent the past summer restoring the trail to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. Located off the parking lot next to the Manor House, the trail is packed stone dust with an open area for lessons.
“We are so grateful for the Excelsior Conservation Corps’ work reviving the Woodland Trail and bringing it back to being accessible for people with mobility challenges,” said Stony Kill Foundation Executive Director Erik Fyfe. “Stony Kill is such an outstanding destination, and improvements like this one help make the farm and forests more accessible for everyone to enjoy!”
“The Stony Kill Farm crew of six SCA Excelsior Conservation Corps members completed more than 2,400 service hours on the Stony Kill ADA trail over the course of 10 weeks in the hottest and most humid part of the year,” Zach Belis, ECC Program Manager said. “This crew started in May, a group of complete strangers from three different states. They learned how to communicate and work as a group in order to complete a trail that they know will provide access to the outdoors for thousands of New Yorkers.”
“Taconic Resources for Independence would like to acknowledge the DEC for their efforts in restoring the accessible trail at the Stony Kill Environmental Education Center to increase recreational activities for persons with disabilities in Dutchess County,” Lisa Tarricone, Executive Director of Taconic Resources for Independence said. “We are excited to have this wonderful accessible outdoor resource in the county and look forward to using it and spreading the word!”
“VA Hudson Valley Health Care is lucky to call one of the most beautiful places on earth home, and projects like this ensure people of all abilities can enjoy the beauty this area has to offer,” Dawn Schaal Medical Center Director, VA Hudson Valley Health Care System said. “I applaud the DEC for restoring the accessible trail at the Stony Kill Environmental Education Center and thank them for sharing it with our community. I have no doubt the restored trail will be a significant resource for some of our most vulnerable Veterans living right around the corner at our Castle Point Campus.”
ECC member Andrea Cavaliere said, “Bringing the Woodland Trail up to ADA and accessible trail standards was a challenge. We are proud that our work will improve the community’s access to its outdoor spaces.”
The improvements announced today complete the first phase of the project, with $2,800 provided by the State’s Environmental Protection Fund. The second phase of the project, planned for 2022, includes installing interpretive signage and benches.
The ECC is an AmeriCorps program that completes stewardship projects on DEC and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation lands and facilities open for public use. The Student Conservation Association (SCA) manages the ECC, which currently operates three crews with members ages 18 to 26 under the supervision of a crew leader. The 16 crew members received training in Game of Logging 1 & 2, Wilderness First Aid, Conservation Work Skills, Leave No Trace™ sustainable recreation principles, and basic carpentry.
In addition to working at Stony Kill Farm Environmental Education Center, corps members completed projects at DEC’s Camp DeBruce, Sugar Hill State Forest, Honeoye Inlet Wildlife Management Area, and State Parks in the Palisades and Finger Lakes regions. Crews have created new trails, maintained and improved existing trails, removed invasive species, restored cabins, repaired a lean-to, installed trail bridges and culverts, and surveyed public lands.
The ECC is funded through the federal AmeriCorps program and the Environmental Protection Fund. Members are provided housing and live and work in teams of up to six. They serve from May to early December at worksites throughout New York State. At the end of their service, members are eligible for an education award that can be used to reduce existing student loans or to pay for future studies. Email ECCrecruiting@thesca.org to find out more about the ECC.
Stony Kill Farm Environmental Education Center is operated by Stony Kill Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to educate the public and cultivate environmental stewardship through interpretation of the rich historical, environmental, and agricultural heritage of Stony Kill Farm. The Foundation’s education and community programs include class field trips, homeschool and scout programs, workshops, guided outings, and special events. Each year, more than 19,000 people connect with hands-on experiences in nature and sustainable agriculture at Stony Kill. As a working farm, the Foundation is helping to restore heritage brands of cattle, sheep, chickens, and turkeys. The Farm is home to a Learning Center, mid-1700s tenant farmhouse, 1842 Italianate Manor House, and an 1800s barn. The grounds and seven trails are open from dawn to dusk, 365 days a year. For more information about the farm and education programs, visit the Stony Kill Foundation website
DEC Announces Winners of Inaugural Stewardship Appreciation Awards – Awardees Recognized for Extraordinary Service to Improve DEC Facilities and Enhance New York’s Natural Resources (Excerpts)
April 19, 2021 – New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the first recipients of the inaugural Stewardship Appreciation Awards. The award recognizes outstanding contributions of volunteers and partner organizations in stewardship, promotion, and maintenance of state lands, waters, and DEC facilities.
The announcement was made during the Department of Environmental Conservation’s week-long celebration of Earth Day 2021.
DEC Commissioner Seggos said, “With nearly five million acres of land and hundreds of buildings and facilities, DEC works hand-in-hand with our dedicated partners and volunteers to keep these special places welcoming and accessible for the visitors who enjoy them each year. Whether New Yorkers are hiking, paddling, fishing, birdwatching, or just appreciating our natural resources, more often than not there’s a partner or a volunteer helping to make that experience more meaningful. As New Yorkers continue to seek refuge on our public lands during the COVID-19 pandemic, our partners are more important than ever. My sincere thanks and congratulations to all of the winners of DEC’s first-ever Stewardship Appreciation Awards.”
The Stewardship Appreciation Awards were launched in 2020 to recognize not-for-profit organizations, individuals, educational institutions, and municipalities that have formal agreements with DEC. This year’s winners were chosen for their commitment to stewardship, promotion of environmental education, and creativity in programming. The 2020 winners are:
Stony Kill Foundation – Public Engagement Award: In 2017, Stony Kill Foundation launched a new collaboration with San Miguel Academy of Newburgh that bridges the Foundation’s hands-on farming and environmental education programs with San Miguel Academy’s mission to educate and inspire City of Newburgh youth, so they may break the cycle of poverty and achieve new potential. Every two weeks, San Miguel students spend time at Stony Kill Farm with the Foundation’s educators, helping raise lambs, tapping maple trees, incubating chickens, and participating in a wide range of immersive projects that encourage students’ curiosity and confidence and foster a closer connection to the working farm, its fields, and forests.
“I love this program,” said Stony Kill Foundation Program Director, Stacey Lynch Adnams, “The students always arrive talking about our last session’s activity and excited to launch into whatever project we have in store for them when they get here.”
“My experience at Stony Kill Farm was really good because I got to see stuff that I’ve never seen before like seeing a baby lamb be born and taking care of the animals.” – Steve, San Miguel Student
To see the full list of awardees and DEC’s complete press release click here
For more info about San Miguel Academy click here
Stony Kill Foundation’s Comments on the Danskammer Energy Fracked-Gas Power Plant
March 31, 2021 – Two miles from Stony Kill Farm, Danskammer Energy has proposed construction of a new, continuously-burning, 600 Megawatt, fracked-gas power plant on the Hudson River. We are very concerned about the project for several reasons. Among these, the new power plant could worsen air quality for neighboring communities and for Stony Kill Farm, where more than 10,000 people spend time enjoying the outdoors each year.
Read our Executive Director’s statement to the New York Public Service Commission on 3/31/21 about Danskammer’s proposal:
“Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak. My name is Erik Fyfe, and like most of the commenters today, I would like to express strong opposition to Danskammer Energy’s proposal to repower its generating facility. I am speaking today as a resident of the Village of Wappingers Falls, where I live with my family and as a representative of Stony Kill Foundation, an organization for whom I serve as the Executive Director.
Stony Kill Foundation oversees farming operations and community programming at Stony Kill Farm in Dutchess County, located little more than two miles from the proposed power plant. Thousands of people visit the farm each year to enjoy our programs and the one thousand acres of property here. Last Year, this included over 19,000 visitors, the vast majority of whom came to experience the farm and our programming outdoors.
Stony Kill Foundation is greatly concerned about the air quality impacts of the proposed project. Air quality in Dutchess County is already given the grade of D by the American Lung Association on a consistent annual basis. This poor rating is the result of high levels of ground level ozone, known to damage the lining of our lungs and particularly harmful to children, the elderly, and other vulnerable populations. Danskammer’s proposed project is expected to increase air pollution and particularly ground level ozone in our communities by nature of the plant’s high level of Nitrogen Oxide emissions, one of the primary precursors to ozone formation.
As an organization based on bringing people outdoors and connecting them with nature and agriculture, Stony Kill Foundation is strongly opposed to this project because it could endanger the people we serve. Increased air pollution from Danskammer will threaten our summer campers, scouts, 4H-ers, homeschoolers, field-trip students, community gardeners, hikers, birdwatchers, retirees, volunteers, staff members, and the thousands of people who love to visit our farm every year.
Finally, as a parent of two toddlers, I would like to express my concern about this project on a personal level. My home and the school that my daughters attend, and where my wife is a teacher is also located just over two miles from the plant. My daughters and the other students and teachers at their school spend almost their entire day outside, year-round. The proposed project would directly endanger the health of my family and my neighbors in a very real way.
Please do what is best for the communities that neighbor Danskammer and for all Hudson Valley communities and reject a repowered Danskammer. Thank you.”
Anyone concerned about the proposed power plant, please submit your comments to the Public Service Commission by visiting the comment page for this proposal here or call 1-800-335-2120. Your comments are more important than you might think.
Additional background on the project can be found at Stoptheplant.org/info-center
Stony Kill Names Fyfe First Executive Director
By Kristine Coulter, Southern Dutchess News
November 18, 2020 – Wappingers Falls – The Stony Kill Foundation announced the recent addition of its new executive director Erik Fyfe. Fyfe will be the first executive director for Stony Kill, the more than 1000 acres of property off of Route 9 in the towns of Fishkill and Wappinger. Asked what it was that made him want to take the position at Stony Kill, Fyfe replied, “Most of all, I was impressed with the community of people who are engaged with Stony Kill and with everything that they have been able to accomplish here over the years. It was clear to me that Stony Kill Foundation was a very strong organization and that the Foundation was excited about continuing to grow and innovate to better serve its mission.”
Fyfe began earlier this year at Stony Kill. He was recently introduced during the Stony Kill Foundation Harvest Social, which was held for volunteers and Stony Kill members last month. The State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the Department of Environmental Conservation, and the advocacy group Parks & Trails New York awarded grants to support not-for-profit organizations involved with stewardship of 29 State Parks, historic sites and public lands. Stony Kill was one of those 29 organizations which received a grant. The grant allowed for the addition of the executive director. “We recognize investing in a full-time Executive Director will ensure Stony Kill Farm will remain a viable centerpiece of our community well into the future. Erik has demonstrated a deep-rooted commitment and understanding the environment and is well suited to advocate for the farm,” said Tim Stanley, President of the Stony Kill Foundation.
“My time as the newest member of the Stony Kill Foundation team has been fantastic. It has been a joy to come to work at such a beautiful place every morning and to work with such a talented and caring group of people who are so committed to the property and our programs. Fyfe said he has been “lucky” to have worked in numerous roles with a variety of environmental and community organizations during the past fourteen years. “During that time, I have been able to work with some really fantastic people and develop skills in management, fundraising, program development, and collaboration that all relate to my role here at Stony Kill Foundation,” remarked Fyfe.
Though the organization’s programs have been affected due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Fyfe said he is “really proud of the ways the Foundation has adapted our programs to still be able to safely serve the community and connect people to experiences at the farm.” “We have been able to continue opening our animal barn to visitors on the weekends by instituting various safety measures. We established a new Farm Pod program that is giving students whose schools are closed a safe way to engage in hands-on, outdoor education and to interact with their peers. And of course, the farm and our trails continue to be haven for visitors to go for a walk, work in the community garden, and take a break from some of this year’s stresses. That said, we do of course look forward to being able to host more in-person events and activities like our Summer Camp and annual Butterfly Festival again once the pandemic is over,” stated the new executive director.
Fyfe was asked why it is important to keep Stony Kill as part of the community. He answered, “Stony Kill Farm is an incredibly important place for so many reasons. Beyond the education programming and events that we organize throughout the year, the farm is host to a wide range of activities. Hikers explore the trails. Cyclists pause on the farm road and visit the cows. Artists capture the bucolic scenery with paints and cameras. Beekeepers care for the hives. Families picnic and play. The farm is a local treasure, open for all to enjoy and it is both historically and ecologically significant.”
“Under the leadership of Erik, Stony Kill will build upon its already great youth based programs that tie into our environmental, agricultural and historical mission. We hope to expand the farm’s reach to engage a broader audience including more adult and family education programs. The outdoors is a great way to engage people in hands on learning especially during the COVID pandemic,” remarked Stanley.
Fyfe mentioned the hundreds of volunteers who keep Stony Kill running. “Stony Kill would not be what it is today without the hundreds of people who have put their time and energy into preserving this place and creating opportunities for people to connect to the farm and the surrounding environment. I feel very lucky to be able to help continue that legacy, and I would encourage anyone who wants to learn more or who wants to help keep this special place going to visit the farm, become a supporting member, or get in touch with us,” remarked Fyfe.
First Harvest Social at Stony Kill Farm Celebrates “Good News”
October 24, 2020 – Wappingers Falls – The Stony Kill Foundation, a nonprofit organization supporting work of the DEC (NYS Department of Environmental Conservation), hosted its first Harvest Festival on Saturday, October 24, on the sprawling front lawn of the Verplanck Manor House.
“Throughout this time of Covid-19, the Stony Kill farm has been a safe social platform for families to enjoy the outdoors by walking trails, interacting with livestock, fishing in the ponds or gardening in the Community Garden Plots,” said Board President Tim Stanley. “Today we have even more good news to celebrate.”
The event was broken into two afternoon sessions designed to spotlight accomplishments of the past year. In each session, Stanley introduced the Foundation’s first Executive Director, Erik Fyfe, whose position was made possible by a grant from the Environmental Protection Fund’s NY Park and Trails Partnership.
“I just started on Monday,” said Fyfe, “and every day this week has reinforced my excitement about being here. As I walked around, I have seen vignettes of many communities brought together by this place…a child learning to ride a bike, a group of picnickers enjoying a sunset together, beekeepers, families tending plots in the gardens, barn visitors, and the work being done by Common Ground Farm. In my interview for this job, one of the Board members said that Stony Kill Foundation is ‘like a rocket taking off’. I am grateful to be part of this.”
Fyfe, who lives in Wappingers Falls with his wife and two daughters, is tasked with cultivating strong relationships within the community, promoting Stony Kill’s innovative education programs, and “developing diverse sources of revenue to keep Stony Kill relevant in a changing world,” said Stanley.
First session good news included the unveiling of a recently minted Stony Kill Farm historic marker from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation. Its markers demand exacting historical fact checking to acquire, but the Pomeroy Foundation strongly believes that historic markers play an important role in local historic preservation by serving a dual purpose — to educate the public and foster historic tourism, which in turn can provide much needed economic benefits to the towns and villages where the markers are placed. The marker will stand roadside by the entrance to the farm.
Featured in the second session was a symbolic ribbon cutting for the technologically upgraded and completely refurbished Learning Center, which had been closed since 2010. For the cutting ceremony, Board President Stanley was joined by DEC’s Department of Education Bureau Chief Anne Harrison, who applauded the Board for its vision and dedication.
“We are using it now to help educate children who are not in school during the pandemic. When the world stops spinning backwards, we will be ready with the latest technology and resources to serve both children and adults with our educational programs,” said Board Vice President Ed Cigna. The money for the project came from a $13,000 grant from the Open Space Institute.
Stanley applauded the over 150 volunteers and members, including youth, that have kept Stony Kill open and operational throughout the current pandemic. He presented certificates of appreciation to Darren Horton for his Eagle Scout project of building and installing a new picket fence around the Verplanck Perennial Garden, and Brianna Vivace for her Girl Scout Silver Award project of building a new compost bin from recycled materials.
As other good news, Stanley pointed to the Verplanck Tenant House, the oldest structure on the property, undergoing exterior repairs including new windows and doors, exterior stonework and new cedar roof.
Each session was followed by a cider making demonstration and carefully prepared harvest-themed refreshments for the guests. Live music was provided by flutist Helen Zeller.
The Stony Kill Foundation’s mission is to educate the public and cultivate environmental stewardship through interpretation of the rich historical, environmental and agricultural heritage of Stony Kill Farm. The Foundation raises private funds to provide educational programming, operate the working farm, and promote public use of the DEC’s Stony Kill Farm Environmental Education Center. More information can be found at www.stonykill.org.
Stony Kill Foundation Receives Grant to Hire Executive Director
July 31, 2020– Wappingers Falls – The Stony Kill Foundation, a nonprofit organization supporting work of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), has been awarded a $90,000 matching grant from the Environmental Protection Fund’s Park and Trail Partnership Grants program to hire an Executive Director.
As a Friends group, the Stony Kill Foundation raises private funds to provide educational programming, operate the working farm, and promote public use of the DEC’s Stony Kill Farm Environmental Education Center. The work of the Foundation includes hosting public events and stewarding the historic site with its animals, fields and gardens, iconic barn and many trails.
The Park and Trail Partnership Grants are administered by Parks & Trails New York, a statewide non- profit organization, in partnership with the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.
This grant is one of 29 awards totaling $900,000 for organizations dedicated to the stewardship and promotion of New York’s State parks and historic sites, trails and public lands. The grants will be matched by over $300,000 in private and local funding and will support projects to strengthen Friends groups and enhance public access and recreational opportunities.
“It’s inspiring to see the transformational effect of the Park and Trail Partnership Grants and how they are enhancing the ability of Friends groups to make an even greater contribution to the stewardship of New York’s great outdoor spaces,” said Parks & Trails New York Executive Director Robin Dropkin. “These grant funds will enable groups to leverage more private and federal funding, marshal more volunteer power, and augment the state’s historic investment in parks, trails and other public outdoor places.”
Since 2010 the Stony Kill Foundation has taken the lead role in operating the farm and the daily programs and events that serve the community. Over the past decade, this has been done with part- time staff and a dedicated group of volunteers. The Foundation recognized an Executive Director was needed to lead the organization forward so that the Stony Kill Foundation can continue to grow and expand to better serve the Lower Hudson Valley.
Stony Kill Foundation President Tim Stanley said, “The Stony Kill Foundation is honored to be the recipient of this grant. As the Foundation continues to expand its educational programming and farm stewardship practices, an Executive Director will further strengthen our ability to ensure this community resource and state-wide gem continues to prosper well into the future.”
The Stony Kill Foundation’s mission is to educate the public and cultivate environmental stewardship through interpretation of the rich historical, environmental and agricultural heritage of Stony Kill Farm. In line with this mission, the Foundation conducts programs for school groups, some of whom make weekly visits, manages community garden plots, and hosts public events – such as its celebrated Butterfly Festival – that reach thousands of people annually. More information can be found at stonykill.org.
More information on Park and Trail Partnership Grants can be found at www.ptny.org or by calling 518-434-1583