For Lucy Grinvalsky of Saratoga County, environmental conservation is about pride in the community, saving the environment and getting the next generation involved in those goals.
Grinvalsky began volunteering with Saratoga PLAN’s – Saratoga Preserving Land and Nature – trail conservation efforts when she moved to the area six years ago. From there, she heard about PLAN’s Next Generation Committee, and was intrigued by the committee’s focus on reaching out to the public, helping get people involved. The committee, founded in the winter of 2019, has one of its first outreach events scheduled Saturday: an activity for kids centered around invasive species awareness week. Beginning at 10:30 a.m. outside the Galway Public Library, the event will include an introduction to invasive species, followed by an art project using fresh honeysuckle branches – an invasive species in the local area.
Grinvalsky led the planning of the event, and said she is proud of tying in the state’s “invasive species week” into a program to educate kids about the topic.
The committee has organized other conservation projects, such as a regular trash cleanup of the Saratoga Siege Trail in Schuylerville, but Saturday’s event is the first project to include children.
According to Alex Fylypovych, community engagement manager of Saratoga PLAN, the Next Generation Committee formed as an opportunity for “people in their 20s and 30s not necessarily in good enough financial standing to be supportive of philanthropic undertakings” to support environmental conservation, particularly because PLAN’s primary participants are older working class families, retirees, and outdoor enthusiasts.
The group’s first meeting attracted six or seven members and continued to grow from there, despite being forced to switch to Zoom sessions after three meetings. Fylypovych and a couple of other PLAN staff members attend monthly meetings, but the committee’s initiatives are directed by their 10+ volunteer members.
Maria Trabka, executive director of Saratoga PLAN, said the Next Generation Committee is exciting because it attracts people in their own age group, and organizes activities that ripple out into the community. “They are magnifying their own contributions to conservation,” she said.
Founded in 2003 by the merging of the Saratoga Springs Open Space Project and the Land Trust of the Saratoga Region, the mission of Saratoga PLAN is to “preserve the rural character, natural habitats, and scenic beauty of the Saratoga County region.”
As a private nonprofit organization, the group gets 48% of its funds from individual donors, and 32% from foundation grants. Because the Next Gen Committee is aimed at allowing young professionals to be environmental conservationists without requiring a financial commitment, Saratoga PLAN has been able to support the committee’s endeavors financially, Fylypovych said.
As the Next Generation Committee continues to expand its membership and influence, Fylpovych said she sees it as “an extension of Saratoga PLAN, representing us in what they do, and creating opportunities for people to get together outside.”