BY Molly Congdon
CLIFTON PARK — Go ahead; brave the great outdoors!
Here’s part six in this summer’s exploration of public natural places in the Clifton Park/Halfmoon area.
If you think you’ve seen it all after these past few weeks of exploring in Clifton Park, you’ll be happy to know that the adventure isn’t over quite yet.
We’re off to Veterans Memorial Park and Mooney Carrese Forest.
Location: 697 Mac Elroy Road, Clifton Park.
Description: This treasure is 216 acres of recreation land and natural area. It’s the place to go if you’re in the northern end of town, just outside of Jonesville. The town acquired Veterans Memorial Park back in the 1990s, and — more recently — added on about 79 acres to the south of the existing park in 2013, as the Mooney Carrese Forest feature. So you can start a walk through a meadow habitat and then proceed across a few tiny streams and everything transforms into a mature forested area.
Wildlife to see: You will find the typical assortment of critters and crawlers here, but this is also an ideal spot to do some people watching. (Don’t roll your eyes, we’ve all been guilty of it at some point!)
Sights to see: There are hiking trails that start right by the large picnic pavilion (you can’t miss it). Don’t worry, there is a large trail map to take a gander at — you’d have to work pretty hard to get lost. There are also some other neat aspects to keep your eyes alert for: Eagle Scout Robert Roback created a few benches along the meadow trail loop in addition to the trailhead kiosk.
Level of difficulty: The meadow trails are quite leisurely. However, the trail further south into the Mooney Carrese Forest is more rugged and hilly. It is about a mile until you reach the forest and thus a round trip is about 2 miles.
Unique touch: A former timber logging road provides the backbone for the town’s trail route through the Mooney Carrese Forest. Currently it is an out-and-back trail route, while the town contemplates a greater trail loop through some rich wetlands areas.
Pack a lunch: As Yogi Bear would say: “Bring your pic-a-nic basket!” As you travel into the park along the long gravel driveway, on your left you will find the meadow habitat with trails as well as a large picnic pavilion with a few grills, which can be reserved through the Parks and Recreation Department at Town Hall. As an added bonus, there is also two softball fields, which can get quite busy, but just check with the town to see about availability. Throw, catch and consume!
Must bring: If you venture past the meadows towards the forest, or northerly towards open wetland meadow, consider mud boots or galoshes for some wetter trail spots. Otherwise your sneaks and toes with be soaked.