Hikers can rejoice.
Two popular Schenectady County nature preserves that have been closed most of the time since late February will re-open for public use on Friday, county Director of Public Works Joe Landry announced.
The 632-acre Plotterkill Preserve in Rotterdam and 100-acre Indiankill Preserve in Glenville will give local residents two more places to get outdoors as they seek a break from COVID-19 quarantines. Social distancing guidelines apply when encountering other people in the preserves.
The two preserves contain a lot of steep terrain. Both were closed in late February because of icy late-winter conditions that made their use unsafe. Both briefly reopened in late March when the ice melted, but then were closed again in early April because of the spread of coronavirus.
At the time, there was fear of overcrowding on the trails and at trailhead parking lots, and also a concern that emergency responders, already overburdened at the height of the pandemic, could be put under further stress if they had to do searches and rescues in the preserves.
The concerns have lessened, and the county feels the trails can be re-opened, as long as people follow social distancing rules, said county spokeswoman Erin Roberts.
“There are signs put up saying that social distancing needs to be adhered to,” Roberts said. “Most of the state parks are open now, and the governor has said outdoor recreation should be allowed. Our thinking was that that includes hiking.”
The Plotterkill, in particular, has been the location of a number of incidents involving hiker injuries, rescues, and even deaths.
The preserve consists of steep terrain surrounding the Plotterkill, which drops over two significant waterfalls on its way from the Rotterdam highlands to the Mohawk River.
The preserve’s main trail is also part of the Long Path from New York City to Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondacks, conceived in 1931 by Vincent Schaefer, a General Electric chemist and well-known outdoorsman.
The Indiankill Preserve, while also a popular stocked fishing stream, is surrounded by trails up and down its sloping lands — and its location of Hetcheltown Road in suburban Glenville makes it easily accessible.
Reach staff writer Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.