Storm Over the Mountains

by John Wolcott

This will be but the latest of several Overview Hikes SPB has sponsored over the years, to points around the rim of the Albany Inner Lowland Basin. We will view the Pine Bush from various points in and near Thacher Park. The hike is free and the public is cordially invited

Most of them have been to High Point, Thacher Park and Pinnacle Mountain. We see no reason to discontinue these events now in spite of State policy, uncertainties, concerning the Park and the newly established Bird Preserve. Neither we, nor others have never needed much if anything by way of “services” and staff for these events. This is especially true of the “Wild Side” i.e. the area north of the recent boundary limits of Park. Besides this area is mostly looked after by volunteers of “Path North” which courses through the park here. Personally I’ve been using this area, off and on, for hiking with friends since about 1950. Those days were much like the do it yourself eco-aesthete tourism of the 19th century in the same area. There was superior public transportation to the Helderberghs in the 1940’s and 50’s We would sometimes take the Altamont Bus which ran in both mornings and evenings, to Altamont then hike up an old user path to High Point in the 1960’s. This was before local governments forgot that user rights applied to this foot path and the to the Old Mine Road further south along the escarpment. Our other favorite route was to take the West Berne Bus to Thacher Park in the morning. Then we would walk into the Wild Side from there along the cliff up to High Point and back to Albany in the evening by the bus. The lands, hunting and hiking paths weren’t posted then.

When Save the Pine Bush started our occasional hikes, decades later, to this area we would always get permission from a succession of owners through SPB member Heather Linendoll, and her parents, from Altamont. Former owners. Ah yes! Now that’s a good question and perhaps even a legal one. I don’t know, for sure, how Jeff Thomas, or Bill Boyce who sold for the Bird Preserve addition, feel about this close down. However, for the whole park, for all time, it was spelled out, signed and sealed in advance by Mrs.Emma Treadwell Thacher and her lawyers in 1914. Mrs. Thacher in cooperation with the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society, gave the land to start Thacher Park to the State of New York in 1914 . She did this out of a sincere desire to preserve nature, to promote science and to benefit the public and as a memorial to her late husband.

Emma was the widow of John Boyd Thacher, a former Mayor of Albany, State Senator, historian and author of works on the history of the Hudson Valley and North America focusing or early explorations. Mr. Thacher was also a very successful business man and philanthropist who shared his wealth for the public good and with the less fortunate. To quote from Governor Martin Glynn’s 1914 Memorandum to the Legislature concerning this gift of land, “the true worth of the late John Boyd Thacher would be misunderstood, were it tested merely by his success in business, literature and statesmanship. The true measure of him as a man was known to the exceedingly large number of those of his fellows less fortunately situated than himself, who partook of his philanthropy. Modest and unassuming and even secretive in his many charities, the great aim and philosophy of his life was to uplift and give assistance to those around him. His widow imbued with the same kindly spirit, is permitting the State to devote this property to the benefit and uplift of the people.”

I will conclude with the following from a statement by the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society in their Nineteenth Annual Report 1914,”This magnificent park … was given to the State in March 1914 by Mrs. John Boyd Thacher of Albany in memory of her husband, and placed in the custody of the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society. It is given upon condition that it “shall be forever dedicated to and used exclusively for the purpose of a public park and atural scenic reservation and for no other purpose

Published in the March/April 2010 Newsletter