John DeSanto of the Times-Herald Record joined the Orange County Land Trust for a tour of Moonbeams Preserve. Read the article online, click here.
Only 15 minutes from Middletown by car, with more than 150 beautiful acres of fields, flowers, forest and hiking trails, is Moonbeams Preserve in the Town of Wallkill, a great place for a fall hike.
“This is my favorite preserve because it’s easily the most enjoyable,” says Jeremy Schneider, Outreach and Program Coordinator for the Orange County Land Trust. “From the parking area it’s only a 10-minute walk to the Shawangunk Kill and in those 10 minutes you can see a variety of butterflies, other pollinating insects and ground-nesting birds.”
Peg Moon willed this property to the Nature Conservancy in 1971 in memory of her parents Truman J. Moon and Lena C. Moon. Her dad was a long-time chemistry and biology teacher, and later vice principal, at Middletown H.S., and held in such high regard they named an elementary school for him.
“What’s most unique about this place is you’re going through old fields that used to be dairy farms,” Jeremy says. “And, in a matter of feet, it transitions from open field to northern hemlock hardwood forest. It’s pretty amazing.”
The preserve is now owned and managed by the Orange County Land Trust as an open space and wildlife habitat for nature lovers to enjoy. It’s open to the public for hiking, birding, photography and nature study. It has parking in a field with a kiosk that depicts the trails, wildlife, plants and history.
And boy, does this place have history: Nathaniel Tuthill and his family first settled along this fertile stretch of the Shawangunk Kill in the 1700′s and for a long time this spot on Prosperous Valley Road was where Orange County agricultural and transportation businesses intersected.
Sold, re-sold and consolidated several times, it remained a family farm over the years.
In 1865, the tracks of the Middletown Division of the New York and Oswego Midland Railroad were laid across the property and in 1880, following bankruptcy, those tracks were taken over by the New York Ontario and Western Railway, which shipped milk from local dairy farmers to New York City.
Lockwood’s Crossing, located here, was a main dairy transfer station, and the remains of an abandoned trestle can still be found on site down near the river.
“There is a great variety of plant life but not a lot of elevation gain – that’s why it was selected by the railroad,” Jeremy says. “Some people want a chance to experience nature but they don’t want a lot of difficult hiking. This place fits the bill.”
Jeremy points out various plants as we hike down along and, at one point, he stops, reaches out and grabs tuffs of milkweed in his hand.
“You can see the wildlife and the history at the same time,” he says. “Just follow the mowed paths that we maintain.”
Moonbeams Preserve is one of seven that the OCLT administers. Next to the parking field, there is a house and barn that are not a part of the preserve. Because of ground-nesting birds, dogs are not permitted here. To find out more, go to: https://www.oclt.org
John DeSanto is a freelance photojournalist. Find more of his 845LIFE stories, photos and videos at recordonline.com. Reach John at email@example.com