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October 24, 2013

Glencliff community comes together for trail project kick-off

The Red Pine Trail is just the beginning...

Glencliff students and neighbors can once again enjoy the Red Pine Trail, thanks to a crew of 50 volunteers that came together last Saturday morning to clear the path, construct bridges and start to bring a vision for the trail system around the school to life.

The volunteers included a cross-section of the Glencliff community - Principal Shelley Baldwin-Nye, teachers and their families, neighbors, alumni, parents, students, and siblings. The 1-mile Red Pine Trail is part of the John F. Youngblood Wildlife Sanctuary, several acres of forested land on the school's grounds that were dedicated in the early 1960s to the president of the Board of Education at the time the district centralized a decade earlier.

In recent years, the trail had become overgrown and the old footbridges deteriorated to the point that they could no longer be safely used. A year ago, the Glencliff Shared Decision Making Committee identified refurbishing the trail for both school and community enjoyment and its potentially vast connections to the curriculum as a priority.

Saturday's work to clear the overgrown Red Pine Trail, which runs adjacent to the school's pond, and install three new footbridges represented the first step of the committee's plan. Future projects are expected to include similar work on the more extensive Buttonwood trail, which also runs through the Youngblood Sanctuary, trail markers and signs identifying the various flora and fauna that can be found on the site.

The Red Pine Trail project benefitted from the involvement of Eagle Scout candidate Tommy Stevenson, who took responsibility for an entire section of the trail for his Eagle Scout project. Jim Dean, who supervises the district's facilities with the Aramark Corp., also contributed his Saturday morning and his expertise to the project.

Last year, project organizers secured a $2,500 grant for the work from the Niskayuna Community Foundation. The grant has been matched by contributions from a Glencliff alumni family, Curtis Lumber, and the PTO.

"This project represents our Glencliff spirit of collaboration and community involvement to make something great happen for students," Dr. Baldwin-Nye said. "I look forward to seeing our students enjoy this trail, as well as what we will accomplish here in the future."

Glencliff art teacher Sherri Komp is working with high school students to develop a map of the school's trail system, which will debut this coming spring. The committee's plans also include developing an outdoor classroom and writing center within the sanctuary. Dr. Baldwin-Nye said they have also discussed one day building an observation deck at the school's pond, which often hosts fifth grade students from around the district during their pond life unit.

The school hopes to develop similar connections to the curriculum in science and other subjects through greater use of the trails and the wildlife sanctuary, Dr. Baldwin-Nye said.

"Our Glencliff natural resources are shared with our Glencliff neighbors and community," the principal wrote in the Niskayuna Community Foundation grant application. "We must work collectively and conscientiously to protect and preserve them, while teaching our youngest learners an appreciation for their wonders."