if yer not forest,
yer against us
PHOTO DYarrow 1/14/02
Paul Schaefer's Home
Reist Wildlife Sanctuary
Niskayuna, New York

Reist
Wildlife Sanctuary
St. David's Avenue
Niskayuna, New York

Latitude: 43 xx xx N
Longitude: 76 xx xx W
Elevation: xx to xx feet
USGS Topographic Quad: Niskayuna
NYSGIS tile: Niskayuna_NW1

Reist Wildlife Sanctuary is a 108-acre preserve on the Schenectady-Niskayuna border. Part of the Sanctuary is owned by the Association for the Preservation of the Adirondacks (AftPA); another section by the Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club. In 2002, the entire property was consolidated into The Center for the Forest Preserve, and the original Paul Schaeffer stone residence is being expanded as library and headquarters of AftPA.
Aerial Photo
Reist Wildlife Sanctuary
Niskayuna, New York
click to enlarge

PHOTO www.nysgis.state.ny.us

The property can be accessed from several sides, and is now entirely surrounded by expensive suburban-style housing developments, and a shopping plaza on the southwest. The Sanctuary hiking trails are very popular with neighborhood residents.

History

In the 1800's, the Sanctuary was part of the farm of the Pearse family, one of the founding families of Niskayuna. Originally, the south end was cleared for pasture. In the late 1920s, H.G. Reist, head of General Electric's alternating current equipment design department, acquired the Pearse lands.

In 1934, Reist contracted with local builder and environmental pioneer Paul Schaefer to restore the still-standing Pearse homestead on St. David's Lane. In exchange, Paul received three acres in the northeast corner of the farm, on which he built a stone house for himself. Today, Schaefer's home is headquarters of the Center for the Forest Preserve of the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks, which has its extensive library there, and plans to expand the building as an environmental educational facility with a focus on youth.
Paul Schaefer
Niskayuna, New York

The site's geology is underlain by a clay bed. This is covered by coarse glacial sand that has gathered into dunes and swells. Consequently, the site is quite wet in the spring, with vernal pools in the low areas. But the high ground quickly drains, carrying nutrients away, leaving, dry, nutrient poor soil. In the south end, the property becomes rather swampy, with cattails and other water-loving plants. Thus, vegetation on the site varies greatly from the soggy lowland to the dry high ground. Since the coarse sandy soils are rather poor, trees and other vegetation tends to grow slowly and remain small in size.


Scouting Visit
January 14, 2002

Scout: David Yarrow Guide: Carl George

January 14, 2002 Carl George, professor emeritus of Ecology at Union College, took David Yarrow, director of the New York Champion Tree Project, on a scouting survey of the Sanctuary. Immediately behind and southwest of the Schaefer home are many large trees that are likely older than 150 years. This area was likely maintained as woodland, and selectively cut for firewood and occasional timber. A reasonable diversity of trees populate this area, including hemlock, white pine, pitch pine, red oak, white oak, black oak, and maples.
Reist Wildlife Sanctuary

PHOTO DYarrow 1/14/02

Winter snow and cold restricted the extent of this scouting survey. But clearly, the north 15 to 20 acres of the property has a significant number of trees at least 150 years old, with a mixture of other aged trees. Most likely, however, the site has experienced significant human disturbances in the past, and was clear cut 200 or more years ago during early settlement. However, there are few trees over 100 years old in the south end of the Sanctuary.
Henry Gerber Reist

Dr. Henry Gerber Reist was born May 27, 1862, in Mount Joy, Pennsylvania. An outstanding student, he earned a mechanical engineering degree at Lehigh University in 1886. Lehigh awarded him an honorary doctoral degree in 1922. In 1908, he married Margaret Breed of Lynn, Massachusetts.

After several earlier positions, Dr. Reist joined General Electric in Schenectady in 1894, in charge of designing alternating current machinery. He headed this GE department until his retirement in 1931, and oversaw design of many of the world's most important, prestigious power generators: Conowingo in Maryland, Keokuk & Cedar Rapids on the Mississippi in Iowa, and Niagara Falls in western New York.

Dr. Reist was a botanist, horticulturist, painter, photographer, Union College faculty member, Schenectady Park Board member and officer, member of various honorary and professional societies. He held many patents in electrical engineering (especially fabricated castings), widely published engineering studies, and authored an important family genealogy. He traveled widely, with several trips to Japan and China.

Dr. and Mrs. Reist lived in Schenectady's Realty Plot until his death July 5, 1942, at age 80. Mrs. Reist assigned 109 acres to the Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club on Nov. 17, 1965, with expressed limitations:

"...the premises herein conveyed shall forever be held as a bird sanctuary and nature preserve for scientific, educational, and esthetic purposes, and shall be maintained as far as practical in their natural state, and managed in accordance with sound conservation practices, including undertaking scientific research projects, maintenance of fences and foot trails, and provided that a nature center and/or club headquarters may be constructed thereon".



First Survey Team Visit
June 30, 2002

Team Leader: Fred Breglia Assistant: David Yarrow
Data Sheet: Reist Sanctuary-ds01

January 14, 2002 Carl George, professor emeritus of Ecology at Union College, took David Yarrow, director of the New York Champion Tree Project, on a scouting survey of the Sanctuary. Immediately behind and southwest of the Schaefer home are many large trees that are likely older than 150 years. This area was likely maintained as woodland, and selectively cut for firewood and occasional timber. A reasonable diversity of trees populate this area, including hemlock, white pine, pitch pine, red oak, white oak, black oak, and maples.


Scouting Visit
July 15, 2002

Scout: David Yarrow Assistant: Paul Scott
Reist Wildlife Sanctuary
Niskayuna, New York
PHOTO DYarrow 1/14/02

January 14, 2002 Carl George, professor emeritus of Ecology at Union College, took David Yarrow, director of the New York Champion Tree Project, on a scouting survey of the Sanctuary. Immediately behind and southwest of the Schaefer home are many large trees that are likely older than 150 years. This area was likely maintained as woodland, and selectively cut for firewood and occasional timber. A reasonable diversity of trees populate this area, including hemlock, white pine, pitch pine, red oak, white oak, black oak, and maples.


Scouting Visit
July 22, 2002

Scout: David Yarrow Assistant: Paul Scott

July 22, 2002 Paul and I wandered through the eastern old growth section identifying tree species. We were stumped as soon as we left the parking area by three medium sized trees with long compound leaves with pinnate leaflets. After minutes flippping pages in tree guides, we concluded this was a non-native species called "Tree of Heaven" in its Chinese homeland, Ailanthus by botanists, and "the ghetto tree" by urban foresters.



TERRA: The Earth Restoration and Renewal Alliance www.championtrees.org updated 4/14/2003