Save the Pine Bush, You can fight City Hall and win!

Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission Begins an Updated Plan for Pine Bush Preservation

Colonie, NY &emdash; The Town of Colonie Community Center was the site of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission's Scoping Session Hearing on the Commission's updated plan for Pine Bush Preservation. By law, the Commission must update its management plan every five years. The first step in the process is a "scoping session" where the Commission listens to comments from the public about topics that should be included in the updated plan. Though few people attended (even though Acting Commission Director Chris Hawver noted that he sent out 2,000 postcards in addition to publishing notices in the paper), the one-hour hearing was worth the trip.

Acting Director Chris Hawver began by presenting topics the Commission would like to examine in the updated plan. First, he noted that the current plan is two documents, the 1993 Management Plan and the 1996 Implementation Guidelines. The Commission now wants to consolidate these plans. Hawver did not mention that the reason there are two documents is that Save the Pine Bush sued the Commission over the 1993 Management Plan because it did not address the issue of how much Pine Bush needed to be preserved in order for the Pine Bush ecosystem to survive. Rather than have the case go to court, Save the Pine Bush and the Commission agreed to settle the case by having the Commission draft the Implementation Guidelines that analyzed all of the parcels in the study area, and drafting a vision for Pine Bush preservation.

Next, Hawver noted that some parcels recommended for full protection in the Implementation Guidelines have now been developed, and that alternate lands providing comparable environmental benefit should be identified. Additional information has been gained regarding natural resource management, including fire management, re-establishment of native plant species and control of invasive species, impacts from herbivores, expansion of Karner Blue habitat, benefits of native landscaping and restoration of previously developed areas and should be included in the updated plan. Prescribed fire management, public use, education, finances, and updating maps also should be examined, according to Hawver.

Speakers at the meeting uniformly suggested that the study area of the Commission be expanded to include the entire Pine Bush ecosystem. Suggestions were made abolish the full protection/partial protection designations, reduce traffic in the Pine Bush, and how to have more controlled burns.

At the hearing, one of the Commission's hand-outs was a large, color postcard for their proposed "Pine Bush Discovery Center." The proposed Discovery Center is to be located at 1250 Kings Road in the Pine Bush. On this site was a historic farmhouse, which the Commission had torn down during Earth Week several years ago with no notice or public input that Save the Pine Bush was made aware of. The Pine Bush Discovery Center postcard shows a drawing of an incredibly ugly, typical suburban style building &emdash; the type of building where you can't figure out where the front door is, and has a large, window-less wall.

The Pine Bush deserves better. First, the Commission is proposing to build this Discovery Center in a full protection area of the Pine Bush. If the Commission can't stop itself from building in a full protection area, how can it expect to stop office complex and housing developers from destroying full protection areas? Next, this location is across the street from a warehouse complex that was recently approved by the Town of Colonie. The road is narrow, and curves at this point. Tracker trailers will be driving in and out of the warehouse complex all day long. Mixing school buses with children visiting the Discovery Center and tracker trailers on this narrow curving road is a recipe for disaster.

In addition, this Discovery Center is totally inaccessible by public transportation. The Commission will have to build a large parking lot to accommodate visitors as the location dictates that it is auto-dependant. Yhe Commission is violating almost all principles of good, environmental development, such as: reuse (there are lots of buildings the Commission could renovate); reduce (build it on a bus-line to reduce the number of cars); and encourage alternate forms of transportation by connecting the Discovery Center with bike and walking paths. Lastly, the Commission is doing itself a dis-favor by building on Kings Road because it is not a high-visibility spot. One way for the Commission to get the word out on the Pine Bush is to build the Discovery Center on a major transportation route, such as Western Avenue, Central Avenue, Fuller Road, or even Route 155 where many people would see it.

Save the Pine Bush believes the idea behind the Discovery Center is excellent. However, the Discovery Center should not be built in either a full or partial protection area. Preferably, it should be a renovated building on a bus line, with bike and walking access. The Pine Bush Discovery Center should not contribute to suburban sprawl by constructing a building that is only accessible by car.

published October/November 2000 Newsletter
Last Updated 10/16/00


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