Bit by bit, an ancient pathway where Native Americans once trod is being sheltered from development.
The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy has helped to arrange conservation easements on more than 250 acres in proximity to the Wolf Hollow ravine in West Glenville, an area of rich cultural and geological significance.
A 117-acre conservation easement — the most recent one in the Wolf Hollow area — was finalized Feb. 8.
Easements on additional parcels of nearby land are being sought and a fundraising effort is under way to defer some of the expenses involved.
A conservation easement restricts development on a piece of property. Ownership rights are retained, including the right to sell, but the development restriction remains with the land no matter who owns it.
The Wolf Hollow area is a mixture of farmland and stunning geologic features.
Wolf Hollow Road, presently closed to cars but open to bike and foot traffic, winds through a dramatic ravine created by erosion at the site of Hoffman’s Fault — a rock fracture that resulted in significant shifting.
“You can see the effects of [the fault] just standing along the road, and geology classes from the whole area have come there,” said Nancy Slack, a conservancy member who led an educational outing at Wolf Hollow last fall.
The hollow is home to rare plants, including the walking fern, she noted.
“There are different kinds of plants on both sides of the fault because one has limestone rock and one has Schenectady Sandstone, which is a more acid kind of rock,” she said.
Native Americans once used the hollow as a cut-through to the north. According to legend, Mohawk Indian maiden Kateri Tekakwitha, now recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church, traveled through Wolf Hollow in 1667 while on her way to Canada.
Two years later, the hollow was the site of a bloody battle between the Algonquins and the Mohawks.
Important archeological sites are scattered throughout the area.
Three Wolf Hollow landowners have donated conservation easements on their property, according to conservancy member Hank Stebbins, who has been assisting with the conservation effort.
“It’s sort of a mosaic of properties that we hopefully will tie together with other donated easements that would then protect the integrity of the Wolf Hollow ravine and protect the graphic beauty of Hoffman’s Fault itself,” he said.
Conservation easements are being sought farther along the fault line as well, he noted.
Although visitors are free to admire the area’s scenic beauty from Wolf Hollow Road, the properties where conservation easements have been obtained won’t likely be turned into parks, said Jill Knapp, executive director of the conservancy.
“When we write an easement, generally they do not allow any public access, but it does protect the land so that people don’t look at housing developments, so there’s still a really significant public benefit to the neighbors,” she said.
When landowners allow a conservation easement to be put on their property, even if they do it as a donation, there are fees involved — for surveys, filing fees, and to continuously monitor and protect the land.
Surveys can easily cost between $10,000 and $15,000, a bill that would-be donors can’t often afford, Knapp said. To offset such expenses, the conservancy has launched a fundraising effort. Donations can be made by sending a check and a note indicating the intent of the gift to the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy at P.O. Box 567, Slingerlands, NY, 12159.
More willing property owners are being sought as well.
“Our hope is that we will find other landowners in the area that will value their property as much as these three landowners did, and would like to see it permanently protected from significant development so that we can really help keep the area essentially the way it is — a very rural, beautiful, scenic part of the Mohawk Valley,” Knapp said.