Susan Antenen, Manager of Rockefeller State Park Preserve for the last five years, retired on January 1. “She breathed energy into the state park through an inspiring conservation vision for native species and natural habitats,” says Linda Cooper, Taconic Regional Director for New York State’s Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, the agency which owns and manages the Preserve.
Antenen, a conservation ecologist, initiated an ambitious land stewardship program. She hired natural resource staff who work with an ever-increasing number of interns and volunteers to protect and plant native trees and wildflowers, cut invasive vines, and control invasive non-native weeds in key locations.
She also recruited and inspired volunteer citizen scientists who monitor nesting wood thrush, bobolinks, and bluebirds, conserve Monarch butterflies, and have photo-documented over 120 species of wild bees. Anne Swaim, Director of Saw Mill River Audubon, stated “Susan’s science-based approach to assessing and managing the Preserve’s biodiversity and forest health is the best-practice model for other parks.”
Antenen led the Preserve during pivotal years as the State prepared to accept 346 acres from David Rockefeller’s estate, which occurred this December. During her tenure, the State rehabilitated several carriage roads and established an in-house maintenance program when the Greenrock Corporation shut down after Mr. David Rockefeller’s death in 2016.
In anticipation of Mr. Rockefeller’s bequest of his Hudson Pines Farm fields to the State, Antenen worked with Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture to develop a Conservation Action Plan as a framework for collaboration. Stone Barns is now grazing sheep, goats, poultry, and cattle to increase wildflowers and enhance soil and habitat health.
“The Preserve is very important for native plants and wildlife, from its forest with magnificent oak trees to streams with native crayfish and salamanders,” said Antenen, “One of the pleasures of the job has been to share what we find and observe through walks, talks, symposia, interpretive signs, natural history exhibits, and social media.”
“I encourage Park visitors to stop, look, and listen. The clop of horse hoofs, the crazy call of the pileated woodpecker, cacophony of breeding frogs in the spring, and the whisper of the breeze draws you into the spirit of the Preserve. The more you look, the more you see.”