76 Year-Old "Rock" Star Climbs For Kids


Bio Reserve Right In Albany’s Back Yard

Part II

Glenmont’s BioReserve should be emulated by every town in The United States according to seventy-six year old Dennis O’Leary whose 68-acre parcel on the former Corning Estate is home to elaborate trails, an Old Forest, thousands of plant and wild life species, a working laboratory and a 28-foot yurt - the circular Asian version of a teepee.

“Parks are good,” he says, “but communities need open areas like this.”

The BioReserve (thebioreserve.org) sits directly across the street from Cumberland Farms on Rt. 9W and Corning Hill Road and that is within a quarter mile of the City of Albany.

A microscopist by trade, O’Leary is used to the tiny. Yet, he has a big vision for accessible bio reserves that can offer teachers a nearby resource and reach and instruct inner city children, homeschoolers and students of all kinds.

“When the kids come here,” he says, “their reactions can range from the ‘wow-effect’ for the urban children who are used to tall buildings to a sense of the familiar for home-schoolers who tend to come from rural settings.”

Students have access to macroscopes and microscopes in the lab where they can explore rocks, leaves, bugs, and single-cell organisms while not missing out on basket weaving, tanning deer hides or simply staying overnight and looking at the stars.

Although there are no steep cliffs on the reserve, O’Leary has drawn from his vast experience in rock climbing to build a 43-foot high tree-platform that allows visitors to repel, shed some fear of heights and prepare them for some of the aspects of rock climbing. (See Part I to learn about O’Leary’s one-of-a-kind indoor rock gym.)

The BioReserve is on the verge of adding _____ acres that include an Old Forest that has trees dating back further than the founding of Albany.

A quick peak into one of Albany County’s few yurts reveals ample space for living, cooking and sleeping while being economical to heat in a cold-weather climate.

O’Leary’s knowledge of nature and biology is matched only by his creativity. In the same way he designed his indoor caves and rock climbing walls, he is engineering a complex series of trails that are actually similar to a giant labyrinth.

“Why have long and straight paths through a preserve, when you can bend and wind them to highlight the vast amounts of trees, shrubs and wildlife while getting you to slow down?” he asks rhetorically.

What gets O’Leary up in the morning are not just the responsibilities and daily chores of such a complex-but-simple vision. It’s a forward-thinking idea that these students will be the world’s future leaders and they will have a greater sense of how much life is dependent upon nature.

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