Battenkill Conservancy preserves and enhances watershed

The Battenkill Runs Through It Festival takes place on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend each year.

The Battenkill Conservancy began as a grassroots organization in 1990. It is primarily an all-volunteer organization promoting clean water and open space by preserving and enhancing New York and Vermont’s Battenkill watershed and beyond through land conservation, education, advocacy and its River Watch water quality program.

The Battenkill watershed covers 450 square miles beginning in Vermont and ending where the Battenkill empties into the Hudson River in Saratoga, said part-time executive director Lorraine Merghart Ballard, who has been involved with the conservancy since 2011.

“Cambridge technically splits the watershed,” said Ballard. “We’re right on the cusp. We have a little office in Cambridge, but we’re all over the place.”

A focus of the conservancy’s work is creating public access to the Battenkill.

The conservancy was instrumental in creating the 525-acre Battenkill Forest, the 530-acre Eldridge Swamp Preserve and the State Line Route 313 Rest Area and Visitor Center. “When Hurricane Irene hit in 2011, Eldridge Swamp Preserve absorbed a lot of the overflow from the Battenkill,” Ballard said.

Three additional preserves held by the conservancy include the 17-acre Livingston Brook Heron Rookery in Greenwich, the 11-acre Schmidt Meadow Preserve in Jackson and the three-acre Rexleigh Marble Mill in Salem.

“A big part of our mission,” Ballard said, “is to help people recognize the 60 miles of shoreline as a key asset in the area. Most people haven’t been on the Battenkill or don’t know how to get on it.” A big focus of the conservancy’s work is creating access to the Battenkill and educating the public about “the places you can legally get on it, legally fish, legally jump in, legally put a kayak in.”

It also organizes adopt-a-stream programs, community paddles, river and roadside cleanups during the spring, summer and fall, a speaker series, a recent full-moon cross-country ski/snowshoe hike and bonfire, a summer trip/camp for middle school students to get out onto the river to fish and learn biology . . . “anything to make people aware of the connection between land management and clean water,” Ballard said. 

By working with groups, schools, colleges, local governments and the general public, the conservancy aims to build environmental literacy and instill an appreciation for the watershed that includes respect for the ecosystem, shared responsibility for its well-being and the experience of a special sense of place.

The Battenkill watershed covers 450 square miles straddling Vermont and New York.

“The Battenkill Runs Through It Festival is our signature event,” Ballard said. Taking place in the seven-acre Battenkill Riverside Park in Greenwich on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, the annual event “brings awareness to the park, which is located right on the Battenkill.”

“We want to make people aware of the watershed and to think about clean water in a way that isn’t just drinking water or swimming water but more about what’s involved in maintaining a clean watershed,” Ballard said. “And if people love the river, they’ll take care of it.”

To learn more about the Battenkill Conservancy, visit

NYVT Media
Author: NYVT Media

Moving? Looking to relocate and need to learn about the area. Trust the Community Guide Books to lead you in the right direction. We are the Guide that is in your reach, that is reaching out to you. Everything you need to know at your fingertips.