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  • Annie Jacobs

"We hope our grandchildren will someday bring THEIR grandchildren to the community forest"

Updated: Feb 17, 2022

January 24, 2022

Annie Jacobs

At the Forests Forever Gala in September, 2021, RPA’s Executive Director, Jim Bonesteel, told the story of Bill and Kay Valentino, an inspiring couple who will leave a legacy for their four grandchildren—and all future generations in the Capital Region. A Marine Captain who flew helicopters in Vietnam, Bill retired as the President of New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. He commanded the National Guard helicopter unit at Albany Airport and was an Adirondack Park Commissioner as well as a licensed Adirondack guide. Kay taught at Albany Academy and, after retiring, volunteered in an inner city after school reading program. Her father fled Nazi Germany and came to this country with nothing. By his efforts and example, he impressed upon his children to give back to the community. Bill and Kay split their time between their camp on Spring Lake on the Rensselaer Plateau and Chestertown, Maryland. They love the wildness of the plateau and how, in its own way, it is just as unique as the Adirondacks. They were inspired by a visit to Albert Family Community Forest in East Nassau and the story of Kevin and Mary Albert who donated that land. They wanted to help create a new community forest.

The Valentinos' gift to RPA, through the Forests Forever Campaign, has helped to allow the conservation of a truly special, and wild, place in Grafton. Bill told Jim, “we are not people of means, but we have saved over the years.”

Bill and Kay are giving back to the community and the forests they love. Their hope is that their grandchildren, who recently walked the conserved land, will someday bring their own grandchildren and tell them about that first hike.

Streams, waterfalls, and beaver ponds help make this forest a wildlife haven and an enticing destination for nature enthusiasts.

Streams, waterfalls, and beaver ponds help make this forest a wildlife haven and an enticing destination for nature enthusiasts.

A strategic connection

This new acquisition adds to an almost entirely connected 7-mile conserved corridor along the northwest escarpment of the Rensselaer Plateau, including sensitive wetlands, rocky outcroppings, deep forest, and spectacular views.

Connected forests like this are essential not only for wildlife, but also for healthy human communities across Rensselaer County.

Streams from other conserved lands on this northwestern escarpment flow into the Tomhannock Reservoir, the source of clean water for more than 135,000 Rensselaer County residents. Forests and wetlands hold streambanks in place during big storms, reducing the magnitude of flood damage.

“Our goal for this project is to engage a new community in this part of the plateau while at the same time conserving an extremely important piece of this special forested region,” said Jim Bonesteel, Executive Director. “We are really grateful to already have neighbors and residents of Grafton and Brunswick who are excited about this project."

The Valentino Family Community Forest volunteer committee has begun planning meetings, and two volunteer stewards, Chuck Porter and Dan O'Brien, are excited to get started. We hope to open the community forest to the public in Fall, 2022. Stay tuned for updates!

Possible routes for trails, to be determined by the community forest committee.

photos by Nate Simms


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