It won't be long before the spring flowers are blooming off Cranes Hollow Road in Amsterdam.
At the Strawberry Fields Farm Preserve, you'll see bloodroot, trout lily, marsh marigold, trillium and mayapple.
In July, tiny wild strawberries, the preserve's namesake plants, will pop up all over the fields.
“If people see them on the trail, they are welcome to them," says Jeff Leon, owner of the 118 acres.
On May 20, Strawberry Fields will become the 19th nature preserve of the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy.
“I’ve had it open unofficially to the public for the last 10 years. Now we are going to do it officially and promote it,” says Leon, a former MHLC board member.
“We’re hoping to reach out more in Schenectady and Montgomery counties, so we’re really excited about this preserve,” says Daron Blake, MHLC communications and outreach coordinator.Visitors are welcome to enjoy the plants, birds and geologic formations along a two-mile trail that passes through fields and forest on the perimeter of the property. The rest of the land is private and off-limits.
“There are tons of things to see here, and I think it’s good thing to share that with other people,” says Leon, a retired New York City businessman who built the trails on the preserve and lives on the property with "a net zero carbon footprint" by generating his own electricity and geothermal power.
"There’s interesting geology to see here. There are views of the Mohawk Valley,” he says.
Over the last 15 years, naturalists and scientists have identified 300 species of vascular plants and 100 species of birds.
“In the summertime, there’s all sorts of wildflowers in the fields,” Leon says.
His favorite plant is the "beautiful deep blue" fringed gentian that blooms from late September to early November and peaks in early October.
“Lots of people come to see that here.”
“At same time, the gentian is blooming," he adds, "there are eight different kinds of asters and eight different kinds of goldenrod blooming in the fields.”
The bird life is another attraction.
“We’ve got a lot of raptors. We had a osprey here last fall.”
A northern harrier has been sighted as well as bobolinks, meadowlarks and American woodcocks.
Leon's father bought the property in 1968, and when Leon moved there, he decided to create a preserve to keep it from overdevelopment.
“The core reason had to do with the environment, something I was really concerned about since I was young in the 1970s,” Leon says.
“I love nature. I want to protect it."