Photo Credit: Jerry Monkman

Your Environment Podcast

On this week’s Your Environment podcast, Terrence Nolan talks about a race in the Gunks. Stream and listen to Your Environment on the Mid-Hudson News website: www.midhudsonnews.com

Terrance Nolan Your Environment Podcast

June 24, 2015 — Wednesday night, I completed the Summer Solstice 14K, a beautiful 8-mile run commemorating the first day of summer and the longest day of the year. Over 200 runners turned out for a course that wound around the Gunks’ incredible cliffs, circled pristine glacial lakes, and took us through blooming mountain laurel.

It was obvious from the smiles and high-fives how much fun everyone had. The event held another special meaning for me: my job is preserving land for the Open Space Institute, a land conservation organization that has protected some 26,000 acres in the ‘Gunks. Some of the very places we ran through were ones the Open Space Institute and our partners have worked hard to protect. And, the race itself reminded me of the sometimes long process of completing a land conservation deal. Like the terrain I moved through, conserving land can be hilly  and long, but in the end the scenery was worth every step.

I admit, I wasn’t thinking such uplifting thoughts at the start of Wednesday’s race. All I felt was pre-race butterflies. As a long-time runner, I know the beginning of a race is  the hardest and sure enough, it was.

We runners started on a gradual, 3 mile uphill climb and then sprinted over the graceful, historic carriage roads of Hamilton Point, originally built to serve 19th-century horse-drawn buggies. Just a few years ago, many of these paths were crumbling down the hillside. In a series of deals and fundraising initiatives, the Open Space Institute has been working to restore these historic paths to their former glory.

After pushing through five miles, I headed towards the scenic and rugged Awosting Reserve. Awosting had been the site of a proposed 351-unit housing development, with devastating effects on the eastern side of the Shawangunk Ridge, until the Open Space Institute stepped in to save it. I can still remember how close we came to losing it and seeing it the other day in all its beauty made me happy.

All along the course, my eyes darted from mossy rock to trickling stream. These little reminders brought me back to why I’m in land conservation—how as a child I’d turn over rocks like these, looking for critters underneath. Every summer my family escaped to a small lake house not far from the Hudson Valley  from the sprawling traffic of  Long Island, just as many from the New York metro area still come to relax in Minnewaska today. A recent survey of visitors to Minnewaska found that about 35 percent traveled in from the New York City metropolitan area.

The course stretched on and on, funneling me over dips and peaks atop the Shawangunks. And then, just like that, I could see the finish line. I sprinted across. At first all I felt were my burning lungs, but then the endorphins kicked in. I’d done it!  

Every year, tens of thousands of visitors like me come to the Shawangunk Ridge to enjoy the natural beauty of the region and to go running, rock climbing, hiking and biking. These benefits don’t just stay on top of the Ridge: a recent study found the three main recreational areas in the region—the Mohonk Preserve, Minnewaska State Park Preserve and Sam’s Point Preserve, now a part of Minnewaska—have a combined economic impact on the local area of about $12.3 million and support more than 350 local jobs.

If you want to get out to the ‘Gunks this summer for your own runner’s high, check out shawangunkrunners.com. There are races of all distances taking you through blueberry fields, up carriage roads and through rail trails.

Think about it: in this connected age, we see pictures of nature everywhere: on computer screensavers, or to pretty up Internet websites. But when was the last time you got out and experienced nature?

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