Skip to main content

Updates on Our Grounds

Renovation FAQS

Photo by Craig Peyton

If you happen to spot an evergreen and a flag on Cary Institute’s roof, here’s why:

February 1, 2021

Fir trees and flags are common symbols used to celebrate a tradition called Topping Out. Held when the last beam is placed during construction or, in the case of Cary Institute, a major renovation, Topping Out is an ancient ritual thought to bring good luck to the people working on the project and to all who enter the building once the work is completed. 

Today, Topping Out is held in celebration of the progress being made on a project, but the origins of these traditions likely stem from deep reverence for the trees needed to construct a building and concern for the harm that taking trees may have done to the forest and creatures that depend on healthy forests. Modern buildings use steel beams, so ironworkers take the lead in performing the rite. 

The team at Consigli Construction began their Topping Out traditions in 1989. They typically arrange for the beams to arrive on site about a week in advance of the date their ironworkers will place them. The crew often paints white a section that will not be visible when the project has been completed. While on the ground, the crew and project dignitaries sign the painted section of the beams, which are hoisted up by crane with an evergreen tree and a US flag on them. Ironworkers guide the beams from their posts near the top of the roof and secure them;in the case of our project, the beams will be bolted into place. When their work is done, they celebrate the milestone with a meal. This meal cements their fellowship with the other trades and the teamwork that will bring the project to completion. In these pandemic times, we modified the beam signing process to ensure social distancing and we did not host the traditional in-person meal. 

For centuries, projects have used cut trees in their Topping Out ceremonies. Cary Institute will be using a live, locally grown, potted white pine and plans to plant the tree on our grounds in gratitude to the forests on which so much of our research and our lives depend. The team at Consigli Construction will guide the tree safely down from the roof and will close out the ritual by carefully folding the US flag. Owing to the project’s focus on sustainability, the beams bear many signatures of Cary staff, supporters, and friends that are likely to remain in place for decades to come.

renovation topping-off
Raising the flag for Topping Out ceremony.

Rare spotting of moose on Cary's Hudson Valley campus

January 11, 2021

An unexpected visitor was sited on our campus this fall; learn more in a post from Cary's Michael Fargione.



Hiking trails & internal roads closing for season

October 28, 2020

Just a friendly reminder that Cary’s hiking trails and grounds close on October 31. Starting on November 1, we will be preparing our campus to accommodate ongoing research and field programs that we conduct each fall. 

We look forward to welcoming visitors back to our grounds in the spring. If weather permits, we will open early. However, safety is our top priority. Opening will depend on conditions when the time comes, and our crew’s ability to ensure that the trails and internal roadways are clear, ice-free, and safe for visitors. 

We are grateful for your cooperation and support.

Fall Barry Haydasz
Fall at Cary, Barry Haydasz

Temporary fence goes up

September 18, 2020

You may have noticed the temporary fence encircling our headquarters. Installed by Consigli, the fence is a safety precaution that will remain up for the duration of the renovation. This fall, our headquarters roof will be removed, and we will be on our way to restoring the historic sawtooth roofline. If the weather cooperates, we should have our ‘topping out’ ceremony in December. 

Our trails and grounds remain open through October 31, when we close for the season. Wondering what you might see when you visit? Check out our trail reports for insights on resident plant and animal life. You can also print out trail maps before you visit. Parking remains available at our headquarters, at Cary East .5mi north of our headquarters on Sharon Turnpike, and in the Lowlands off Route 82. 


Be Bear Aware

August 5, 2020

An update from Cary’s Mike Fargione, Manager of Cary’s Field Research & Outdoor Programs.

Bears move over large areas and travel on and off our property in their search for food. In early summer, adult females seek mates, and in preparation, expel yearlings from their family group. Young bears trying to figure out how to make a living on their own can get into mischief. Help keep them from learning bad habits and becoming problem bears by avoiding unnecessary close encounters with people, and by properly disposing of any food brought onto our campus.
Black bears are normally not aggressive toward people, and attacks are rare and unlikely. Regardless, make noise to let them know you are around while in the woods or on the trails. When you see a bear at a distance, change your route to avoid it. Don’t try to get closer for a “better photo”.  
If you surprise a bear at close range, stop, bring your group together, and wait for the bear to move off. Never run because the bear may run after you. Stay calm. If the bear refuses to leave, back away slowly while facing the animal. Black bears will sometimes “bluff charge” when cornered, threatened, or when attempting to steal food. Stand your ground and then slowly back away only once the bear stops its approach.  
People spending time in the woods should consider carrying bear spray and having it readily-available at all times. This is the most effective deterrent in the unlikely event of a close encounter.

be bear aware


Renovation & Safety Issues Require Tree Removal

August 6, 2020

Trees that pose a risk to our headquarters will be removed from the perimeter of our main building. Our site was landscaped 45 years ago, and some of the original plantings have grown too close to the building and/or are weakened by invasive forest pests. For safety reasons, these trees must be removed. Removal will focus on hemlocks infested with hemlock woolly adelgid, a sap-sucking insect that is killing hemlocks in our region. We will also be taking down some oaks that have grown too close to the building’s roofline. These trees will need to be removed in advance of a planned renovation of our headquarters. None of the trees in the circle rimmed by our entrance road will be affected.

Tree removal is slated for August, which comes in advance of Cary’s headquarters renovation plans. You can learn more in a virtual community update on August 21

hemlock woolly adelgid