The gloomy, overcast skies along with the cold, misting rain were no match to the enthusiasm of New Paltz bikers, bourbon fans and conservationists alike.
On Sunday, Oct. 6, the Wallkill Valley Land Trust (WVLT) hosted their annual conservation celebration. This year, the theme was “Bike, Bourbon & Brunch.”
Perhaps more perfect than this alliterative lineup was the setting for this event: the Coppersea Distillery. Tucked away on Springtown Road, Coppersea Distillery’s location provided a beautiful backdrop of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail and the Bonticou Crag mountain.
Attendees of the event were treated to a catered brunch by Harvest Real Food. Partnered with live music by Payne’s Grey Sky, this celebration seemed more like a festival than a conservation event.
This year’s celebration also featured e-bike demonstrations by TRT Bicycles in Rosendale.
“Ninety-percent of our rentals are from people who just use the rail trail, so it’s becoming a really popular activity,” said TRT Bicycles’ Christian Favata.
Last but certainly not least, Coppersea offered tours of their distillery as well as a five-spirit tasting flight. A heritage methods farm-to-glass distillery, Coppersea only uses heirloom varieties of rye, corn and barley from their own and select Hudson Valley farms. They offer a variety of fine spirits including Excelsior Bourbon, which is the only 100% New York Bourbon, Bonticou Crag Straight Single Malt Rye and Big Angus Green Malt, among others.
“We purposefully chose to hold the event here today because we wanted to work with businesses that are aligned in the mission we are trying to do,” said President of WVLT Beth Bengtson. “We are not here just because I like bourbon…though that did have a little bit of play in it,” Bengtson joked.
But this occasion was not merely an all-adult affair. Children attending the event with their parents were able to get their face painted and partake in yard games like corn hole, ladder golf and croquet.
“Bike, Bourbon & Brunch” was made possible through the tireless efforts of the WVLT’s Deputy Executive Director, Melissa Brunette. Bengtston also tipped her hat to WVLT’s Executive Director, Christie DeBoer, who is celebrating her 10th anniversary being with WVLT this year.
This event also ushered in the fresh and new rebranding of the WVLT. Recently, the 32-year-old organization absorbed the Rail Trail Association and decided it was time to spruce up the brand and its visuals. Now, the WVLT wears the tagline “Protecting Nature for Life.”
“Not only [do we conserve] over 3,000 acres, but this land trust that we all love and support also encompasses four farms, three nature preserves, one mountain and the rail trail that these people are coming off of right now,” Bengtston said, gesturing towards a group of bikers gliding down the rail trail.
The WVLT’s mission is “to enhance the quality of life in Ulster County by conserving lands of scenic, agricultural, ecological, recreational and cultural significance.”
Apart from the 22-mile linear park we all know as the rail trail, the WVLT cares for Huguenot Street, Old Fold, Phillies Bridge, Taliaferro, Nyquist Harcourt Wildlife Sanctuary, Millbrook Preserve, Endangered Eastern Box Turtitle Habitat and the Joppenbergh Mountain in Rosendale.
“This organization has always been a quiet, behind the scenes [operation], and we are at a time right now where conservation needs to become more in the forefront and not quietly happening behind the scenes,” Bengtson claimed.
The money raised from ticket admission, basket raffles and the secret auction goes towards the running of the WVLT and its staff.
“One of the other big challenges is people think that the rail trail is free, which it is, in theory. But there is a lot of time, effort and people that are involved,” Bengtson explained. “Every time a tree goes down, I always joke saying that people think that the magic Keebler elves come out and keep this open, but it’s this organization that’s doing that so people’s donations are supporting keeping these assets for us all to use.”
Even though “Bike, Bourbon & Brunch” has concluded, the WVLT remains active in the organization of events. On Saturday, Oct. 26, WVLT’s own Lynn Bowdery will guide children to explore lichens on Joppenbergh Mountain. For more information on what the WVLT does for our community, visit https://wallkillvalleylt.org.