Dear friends, neighbors, and outdoors lovers,

Oh, the things we have lost this year!

Loved ones.

Our traditional sense of community.

The varied textures of a life with unfettered travel and human experiences.

Yet we have gained, too.

An appreciation for what we have.

Time with those who are closest to us.

Connection with nature and the outdoors.

A certain sense of quiet that is rare in our lifetimes.

2020, inasmuch as it has been distressing, has been a year for us to recalibrate who we are. In that sense, our lives — at least for those of us who are lucky to remain — stand a chance to be better for what we have gone through.

The Mendon Foundation’s 2020 mirrors yours. It’s been different. Our properties, as well as the Lehigh Valley Trail Linear Park — by all accounts have enjoyed traffic that was a genuine order of magnitude — 10 times! — greater than they have ever seen before.

As I ran the Trail throughout the year, I had to admit to myself that I never thought I would see this level of use in my lifetime. Our 100% volunteer organization was  incredibly busy…mowing, cleaning, and removing debris at levels we have never seen before.

The windstorms we experienced this year brought down a seemingly record number of trees that required our volunteer teams to attend to in order to keep you all moving smoothly. Thanks to the alertness of our increasingly strong Facebook community, we were able to address these more promptly than we ever have before. Thank you so much to everyone who alerted us to trail obstacles throughout this year!

However, one fallen tree in particular brought more attention this year than any other: The Old Oak at the corner of Plains Road and Route 15A, adjacent to our Sibleyville Nature Reserve, which was significantly damaged by winds on Wednesday, October 7th. The damage to this 200+ year old tree broke the hearts of hundreds, if not thousands, of area residents, who looked to its towering strength and symmetrical beauty for inspiration over the decades. Over the 17 years since we acquired the Siblyeville Property, The Mendon Foundation paid an estimated $7,000 on her health and maintenance. But Mother Nature makes the final decisions in all matters, and she decided that it was time.

Our Board collaborated with New York State DOT to have the remains of the tree cut into large chunks that could be moved out of the right of way onto our property, and that work was completed in late November. Many thanks to Harding’s Towing Service for moving the main trunk onto our property, at a very reasonable cost of $495.

Our next steps are to work with a mill to process the wood into useful form for community projects. We have many ideas on the table, but all of them require money. Some of these ideas include benches for our Sibleyville property; historical cross sections for display; and even carving a sculpture out of the large trunk section.

Our Rochester Junction volunteer team, led by Rod Ham and John Farrell, has been working diligently and gradually on restoring our Lehigh Valley boxcar at Rochester Junction. This summer and fall saw them using epoxy resins to patch the many holes in the boxcar’s roof. But there is much more work to be done on the rest of the boxcar’s body and interior in order to bring it back to its former splendor.

Cindy Lau also worked diligently throughout the year to plant (and water!) several new flowerbeds at both Rochester Junction and Mendon Station Park. If you haven’t had a chance to walk by these growing gardens, please put that on your calendar for the sunny months of 2021. You will not be disappointed!

This year also saw a reinvigoration of our work with the Boy Scouts, with our first sponsored Eagle project in several years: a Bike Repair Station installed at Rochester Junction by Troop 105 Scout Preston Yates. A second Bike Repair Station installation is underway at Mendon Station Park, care of Troop 10 Scout Matthew Dobner. We are in the early stages of another Eagle project to install interpretive signage that will highlight the significance of the Sibleyville Nature Reserve and its surroundings to Native Americans. This project potentially involves using parts of The Old Oak — more details to come!

These Scouts all did a yeoman’s job raising funds for their projects. However, The Mendon Foundation often provides supplemental funds to help bring these ideas to life. This year, our primary source of funding — the Black Diamond Express Half Marathon & 5K — was switched to a “virtual” event like so many others. As a result, the net profit from the 2020 race was $2,572, down nearly 53% from 2019’s $4,894. Given what we have all faced in 2020, we felt lucky to make any money from the race at all. Of course, though, our expenses didn’t change. As an example, one of our largest annual expenses is our insurance bill, at $4,542 — and our race income typically covers that.

Beyond Scout projects, making use of The Old Oak, continuing garden growth, and boxcar restoration, we also wish in 2021 to continue working with Monroe County on trail improvements; keep our equipment (tractors, mowers, etc.) fueled and maintained; fight invasive swallowort that has had huge impact on wild berry picking on our Pittsford-Mendon Center Road  property; continue with improvements to the interior of the replica Freight House at Rochester Junction; and searching for a railcar to put on display at Mendon Station Park.

Donations from the community mean everything to us. Given the increased popularity of our properties and the Lehigh Valley Trail, you might suppose that we have seen donations from many hundreds or even thousands of individuals over our 27-year history, especially this year. Only 196 families who have contributed to us over the years, and only 59 of those families donated once again in 2019.

We need your support to stay in good shape in 2021! Will you once again help us by making a tax deductible charitable contribution? We are an IRS registered 501c(3) tax-exempt organization, so your donations are 100% tax-deductible. We are dependent upon community support, as we receive no funds from the towns or county.

There are two simple ways to donate online:

1) Visit our website at with a credit card or PayPal.

2) Visit us on Facebook at and use the “Donate” button near the top of the page to offer your donation.

Please know that your generosity and the timely sharing of your treasure helps enrich the lives of children, adults and families who are fortunate to call this place home. Please contact me personally at 585-281-0014 or if you wish to join our corps of volunteers. We are in need of marketing, legal services, and additions to our fresh air team! 

Together, we appreciate you, and we thank you.

Happy Trails 2021!

Drew Saur, President; Bud Grindle, Vice President; Fran Celona, Treasurer; Charles Woolever, Secretary; and Bonnie Coddington, Arlene Cluff, John Farrell, Rodney Ham, & Ryan Stoner, Directors

Categories: Annual Appeal