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Volunteers enhance Mashomack’s space, making nature more accessible

This past spring, the team at Mashomack Preserve, especially Education Coordinator Cindy Belt, was thrilled to see the installation of a new, accessible teaching pavilion.

Part of the pavilion project included the assembly of 16 new accessible benches. The benches can remain single-sided (as seen in the picture) or can be paired to form eight full picnic tables. It was a big project requiring a heavy lift from volunteers. Volunteers Bob and Barb Vandenberg volunteered 28 hours assembling all 16 of the benches.

The Nature Conservancy and the team at Mashomack are grateful for Bob and Barb and thank them for their time. While there are still more improvements to the Visitor Center area to come, the pavilion is open for use. When not being used for educational programs, the public is invited to use the pavilion and enjoy the new benches.

Welcoming over 30,000 visitors a year, Mashomack is a flagship nature preserve stewarded by The Nature Conservancy in New York. During the pandemic, visitation at The Nature Conservancy’s preserves across New York soared by 300%.

Yet this spike in turnout magnified old patterns: those who historically had less access to nature before the pandemic continued to have less access. As more and more people turn to nature to seek peace and rejuvenation, the need to create a more equitable outdoors at our preserves has never been greater. 

Connecting people with nature and providing equitable access to nature is a priority for The Nature Conservancy. Whether it’s new or widened trails, extended preserve hours, or the four electric vehicle charging stations recently installed at the preserve, the Mashomack team is always looking for ways to improve the visitor experience.

Bob and Barb are not the only volunteers at Mashomack building benches. Routinely we get feedback from visitors that our trails, while beautiful and well maintained, need more places to sit and rest.

Volunteer Jack Larson has been hard at work crafting wooden benches to place around the trails. At last count, Jack has made 15 benches. These benches will be placed around Mashomack’s trails allowing hikers a safe place to sit, rest, drink some water, and take in a nice view.

This was Jack’s second summer volunteering his time at Mashomack. Last summer, he volunteered his time and carpentry skills to upgrade benches along our accessible boardwalk at the Visitor Center. We are so grateful to Jack for his craftsmanship and generosity.

Volunteers and the support of the community overall are vital to Mashomack. Mashomack’s volunteers participate in all types of projects and include people of all ages and abilities.

Conservation and Stewardship Manager Cody-Marie Miller says, “If you are willing to volunteer your time, we will find a project for you. We will never turn down volunteer service.”

Interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities at Mashomack? Have questions about other projects around the preserve? Contact our team at [email protected].