I once thought that I had a pretty good accumulation of knowledge about the woods of the Northeast. I certainly played in them as a child, and enjoyed hiking and occasionally camping in them as an adult.
But a few years ago, I was lucky enough to meet and link up with a venerable group of experts who call themselves the Thursday Naturalists (or TNs, for short). Ed Miller, who recently turned 92, still leads this group most Thursdays. Spending time in the outdoors with Ed and folks like Jackie Donnelly and her friend Sue is always a joy, as they are able to share so much collective knowledge. Ruth Schottman was not with us on this particular outing, but she is one of the founders of this group and a learned lady who has amassed decades of woodland knowledge.
Our outing this day was a woodland trail along the Ballston Creek. The trail starts at the back of a playground area in Malta's Shenantaha Creek Park, off Eastline Road, and runs roughly parallel to the Malta section of Saratoga County's Zim Smith Trail .
Along the creek, this tree was well-decorated for the season with turkey tail fungus.
The real surprise Thursday was finding this spotted salamander. Although they are supposedly common, I have never seen one in the woods before. We wondered why this one was out and about on this chilly morning. It was alive and moving, but we wondered why it wasn't hibernating. This one looked healthy; it was about six inches long. What disturbed it?
Native witch hazel was in bloom, as it should be at this time of year.
There is so much to appreciate and learn from a walk in the woods at any time of the year. I am so grateful to open space advocates who work to preserve such places for public use.
The Town of Malta is growing rapidly, which I guess was inevitable. First the Northway, Interstate Route 87, was built straight through it several decades ago. Then the powers-that-be brought in a computer chip plant. What did we think was going to happen here? Development is what happened, is STILL happening.
Two recent headlines in the Albany Business Review tell the continuing tale:
~ Apartment developer preparing to buy 16 acres in Malta
~ Real estate developer acquires 71 acres in Malta
I hope that elected officials and open space advocates at both the Saratoga County level and in the Town of Malta will start to recognize that creating more parks and trails and preserving open space through PDRs (purchase of development rights) is an urgent priority. I worry that we're quickly running out of time. And space.