The idea of forming a Mid-Hudson Chapter was sparked by Ed Nixon, familiar with ADK goals and philosophy. Ed Nixon was a native of Canton, Ohio where he studied at Miami and Oxford Universities. Ed had come to Hyde Park in the early 1940’s as supervising archivist for the Roosevelt Library and had a close relationship with the President; he eventually became Acting Director of the Library. He was also acquainted with Roosevelt’s cousin, Margaret Suckley who lived at Wilderstein in Rhinebeck. Ed was a man of many talents. At the time the chapter was organized, he was ADK Club President; later, he was Adirondack Magazine Editor for six years.
On Sunday, Oct. 26, 1947, a nucleus of people, mostly Vassar College faculty members and close friends known as the Dutchess County Trail Club met at the Nixon home in Hyde Park. They had organized informally for the purpose of enjoying weekend walks and tea hikes. Ed began with an introductory explanation of the purpose of ADK. Before the evening concluded, John Gardner became Chairman pro tem and Madelene Pierce became Secretary. The group selected “Mid-Hudson” as its name. Upon application to the ADK Board of Governors the chapter was officially chartered on Nov. 15, 1947. The 17 charter members signed the petition:
Olin Dows; John R. Miller; Madelene Pierce; Verna Spicer; Gladys Freeman; Abba Newton; Dorothy Plum; Margaret Suckley; John Gardner; Edgar Nixon; George Roach; Everett Sweet; Margaret Gardner; Wilma Nixon; Carl Spicer; Dorothy Sweet; G. Russell Lozier
With Ed Nixon as the continuing moving force, elections were subsequently held with John Gardner as Chairman; Dorothy Plum as Secretary-Treasurer; G. Russell Lozier as Conservation Committee Chairman; and Madelene Pierce as Outing Committee Chair.
In its beginning, the Chapter was a small, closed one. The hikes were vigorous; the group thought nothing of hiking in the Adirondacks even in the dead of winter! Dorothy Plum kept nine colorful yearbooks from 1947 to 1958 delineating the group’s activities. Favorite areas that were hiked and enjoyed in those early years were: Lake Minnewaska, Mohonk Mt. House, Winter Clove, as well as Palm Sunday services at St. John’s in the Wilderness in Harriman Park. The group was highly social and would often have tea (refreshments) after a hike. In addition, there were covered dish suppers, Memorial Day picnics, and for many years, a traditional New Year’s Day party.
Browsing through those early yearbooks revealed some fascinating information. By 1948 the group doubled in size. At that time it was suggested that drivers be reimbursed at the rate of one cent per mile to defray transportation expenses! Eleanor Roosevelt was a great sympathizer and supporter of ADK’s goals, and an Honorary Member of the Mid-Hudson Chapter. Meetings were sometimes held in the Roosevelt Home at Hyde Park.
In the year 1949 the chapter’s favorite mountain was Blackhead. The hikers enjoyed being enticed to stop and pick strawberries before the ascent. Occasionally, following these hikes, a special supper of international variety (such as Polynesian, Chinese, or special American) would be planned at someone’s home. These were also the days of the “three-decker” hikes, where walks, terrace dancing, suppers and “digestive” walks following the meal were regularly planned. The get-togethers often included swimming or a picnic, singing, slide shows and covered dish suppers. Annual Chapter Meetings were frequently held at the Beekman Arms in Rhinebeck, the Nelson House in Poughkeepsie, and the Vassar Alumnae House on the Vassar Campus; they usually included guest speakers.
Madelene Pierce, 93, former Vassar College faculty member, is the only charter member still living. She led many walks and hikes and enlightened participants of all ages with her knowledge of plants and wildlife along woodland paths. She helped young children enjoy the wonders of nature and inspired teenagers to pursue their interests in the natural world. Mid-Hudson Chapter honored her for her part in establishing the chapter and supporting it for so many years at the Holiday Party two years ago with an original sketch of an Adirondack loon.
An offshoot of the Mid-Hudson Chapter was the formation of the Catskill 3500 Club in 1962. Brad Whiting, chapter chair at the time suggested to Hike Chair Bill Spangenberger that it would be interesting to get a group together to hike all the peaks over 3,500 feet in the Catskills. To this suggestion Bill replied, “An excellent thought but not a new one. Kay and I have already done it!”. Elinore and Bill Leavitt, Dorothy and Brad Whiting, and Betty and Jerry Hurd followed Bill Spangenberger’s lead and formed the 3500 Club. Many Mid-Hudson members have since qualified for membership in the Catskill 3500 Club, along with many other avid Catskill Mts. hikers.
As the successor of the Vassar College hiking group, the Chapter continued to meet every Sunday afternoon at College and Raymond Avenues in Poughkeepsie. Most participants were connected with Vassar College so this was a logical meeting place. From here the group car-pooled to the outing location. In the mid-fifties, to accommodate hikers who lived further away from Vassar College, hiking groups began meeting at locations further afield. A more varied program of activities also developed, including backpacking, camping, canoe trips and Catskill 3500 hikes. The Chapter gradually broadened its base of operations.
Besides hiking in the Taconics, Hudson Highlands, Harriman St. Park, the Catskills, Hudson River estates and state parks, they continued to explore the Shawangunk Mts. Most land in this area was private property. The Mohonk and Minnewaska resorts who permitted public entrance were popular destinations for outings. Both locations constituted a century-long tradition of private land stewardship of a vast semi-wilderness. The Lake Mohonk resort was established in 1869 on 300 acres and Minnewaska started ten years later with an initial tract of 2,500 acres. Hotels were built to give people the opportunity to vacation in these beautiful mountains. The owners developed carriage roads and trails for the enjoyment of their hotel guests and visitors while preserving the fragile environment.
However, to maintain their status in the resort business a hundred years later (1969), the owners of both resorts had to update their facilities and allow the public to use some of their lands in order to remain financially solvent. Mohonk established a trust to preserve 7500 acres for public recreation, conservation, and nature appreciation. Minnewaska owners were interested in selling the Lake Awosting area to the State of New York for a public park. They also planned to remain competitive in the resort business by selling property around the lake to private developers for vacation home sites. It was at this time that conservation minded groups such as ADK became aware that the owners could deny public access to the Lake Minnewaska area in the near future. They were also very concerned about ability of the area to withstand the type of development being proposed. After protracted litigation the 600 critical acres of land were sold to the State of New York and added to the previously purchased parcels completing the protection of this section of the ridge.
The next step was to decide what type of State Park would be developed in the Minnewaska area. It took nearly 10 years and three different proposals to arrive at the decision that Minnewaska State Park should be designated a Park Preserve compatible with its fragile environment. Several members of our chapter were active in writing letters, going to meetings and expressing their viewpoints at hearings to influence the decision. Today, some changes are still being made, but always with the fragile ecology of the area kept in mind.
Over the years conservation activities included cleanups and maintenance of our section of the Appalachian Trail and the South Taconic Trail. Jane Geisler, our Trails Chair, is responsible for scheduling work parties to do any necessary work on our section. The outhouse at the Wiley Shelter recently received a much-needed new roof.
Several Chapter members have been maintaining trails in the Park through the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference.
The most recent project, headed by Frank Dogil, was building a shelter and outhouse on Balsam Lake Mountain in the Catskills in cooperation with the DEC. Several chapter members have assisted in the work to get both the lean-to and outhouse completed before winter. The group worked very hard and did a great job!
Mid-Hudson Chapter has a tradition of sponsoring young people at the DEC environmental camps during the summer. During the summers of 1994, 95, 96 camp scholarships were awarded to one camper each season. This year the chapter sponsored two campers. They have attended Camp De Bruce in Sullivan County, Camp Colby near Saranac Lake, and Rushford in western NY. Judging from the reports of the campers, it has been a good investment.
The chapter participated in the development of the Hyde Park Trail. Adrianne Wiese was active in its development and continues to act as our representative on the Trail committee.
1947 John Gardner
1948 William Taylor
1949 Madelene Pierce
1950-52 Edgar Nixon
1953 Homer Pearson
1954 Dr. Abraham Ettinger
1955-57 Ruth Ellis
1958 John Tieder
1959-60 Dorothy Plum
1961 Jane Geisler
1962-63 Bradford Whiting
1964 John Mitchell
1965-67 Dr. Steven Dobo
1968-70 Phil LoPresti
1971-73 Mark Morgan
1974-76 Adrienne Wiese
1977-78 Randall Pete Libolt
1979-80 Robert Werner
1981 Ronald Hahn
1982 Eleanor Bramley
1983-84 Arthur Schneier
1985-86 Louis E. Endsley
1987-88 Dave Merriell
1989-92 Jack Economu
1993-94 William Strugatz
1995 Henry Jenkins
1996-98 Jenny Roberts
1999-2002 William V. Beehler
2003-2004 Michele VanHoesen
2005-2012 Lalita Malik