Schenectady Pine Bush sees Preservation boost

SCHENECTADY — The Woodlawn Preserve is getting closer and closer to full protection.

After years of negotiations, the City Council finally adopted a management plan for the preserve last week. The plan will help keep the remnants of Pine Bush ecology that remain in the badly deteriorated preserve, and lays out the steps to restore the flora and fauna that are trademarks of the area.

Even if the city had the money to begin full restoration immediately, it would still take years to create a safe habitat for the Karner Blue butterfly, which can only live in Pine Bush areas.

But there are some free steps the city can take now, the most basic of which is to simply give the preserve a legal designation that would prevent any future City Council from selling the land.

On maps, the Woodlawn Preserve looks promising; it’s at the edge of the city, near the Niskayuna suburb, and has a grid of streets laid out on paper to be created by the first developer to build there.

It appears to be prime land, vacant and waiting for development. Developers have come to the city repeatedly seeking to buy the land. The City Council has often been tempted to sell.

City workers want to ensure that doesn’t happen again.

“The next time, there will be different people working here who don’t remember the history,” Zoning Officer Steve Strichman said. “It’s so we can put this to bed, once and for all. What we’ve seen, time and again, developers keep looking at that and making proposals.”

He wants to get rid of the paper streets — a street configuration that exists only on city planning maps.

“I want it to look like Central Park on the maps,” he said.

The City Council also plans to officially designate the preserve as an area that can never be developed. The law department is still working to determine exactly how that designation should be worded.

“It’s to make it clear that this is the will of the people that this will be forever wild,” Strichman said.

Simply saying it should be set aside “for public purposes” is not enough. The city once accidentally sold Pine Bush land on what is now Chadwick Road that had been designated that way, he said.

While city officials work, some residents near the preserve are already preparing to haul out some of the invasive trees and plants that are killing the Pine Bush flora. A group has been working on that occasionally for years.

One of their biggest supporters is City Historian Don Rittner, who wrote the management plan. He’s hoping to completely restore the preserve, but he warned it will take years to accomplish.

Published in Janury/February, 2012 Save the Pine Bush Newsletter