1,300 acres along the Shawangunk Ridge protected (NY)

Wawarsing and Mamakating, NY: Acting on behalf of the State of New York, the Open Space Institute and the Trust for Public Land, two non-profit land conservation organizations, purchased in April a 1,300-acre parcel along the Shawangunk Ridge in the towns of Mamakating and Wawarsing in Sullivan and Ulster Counties. The land was purchased from the Lands and Forest Corporation for just over $1 million. The Open Space Institute will own the land until the State’s purchase, which will use funds from the Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act.

“The ‘Gunks’ hold a special place in the minds of hikers, rock climbers and nature lovers,” said Governor Pataki in a statement. “This remarkable landscape supports outstanding biodiversity, including eight rare natural communities, 27 rare plant and seven rare animal species. It also provides outstanding recreational opportunities for the 500,000 New Yorkers and visitors to the area each year. This acquisition furthers our efforts to secure the integrity of the entire Ridge for public benefit, natural resource protection and tourism.”

“Governor Pataki has taken yet another step to ensure that the precious resources of the Shawangunk region are protected and accessible to future generations of New Yorkers,” said Dene Lee, Project Manager for the Trust for Public Land. “Through the purchase of this property, a three-mile stretch of the Long Path, including a link to the Shawangunk Ridge Trail will be protected ensuring hikers and outdoor enthusiasts critical access to the Shawangunks.”

“The protection of the 1,300-acre Lands and Forests tract places another link in a growing chain of public lands along the Shawangunk Ridge,” said Joe Martens, President of the Open Space Institute. “Governor Pataki has given the people of New York a wonderful and lasting gift with the State’s purchase of this stunning natural resource.”

The parcel contains an extensive dwarf pitch pine forest community, one of only two such examples of this forest community in the world. It also contains a three-mile stretch of the Long Path, a 328-mile regional hiking trail. On the property, the Long Path also links up with the 30-mile Shawangunk Ridge Trail, a hiking trail that traverses the geologically unique Shawangunk Ridge, linking public lands at the southeast base at the Bashakill Wildlife Management Area to Minnewaska State Park and the Mohonk Preserve on the northeast corner of the Ridge, providing several good viewpoints.

The land itself crests at an elevation of almost 1,800 feet, and provides expansive vistas of the valley and rolling hills. From the crest, the elevation falls off in a series of rugged steps nearly to the valley floor itself, providing challenging hiking. An old state highway, the remnants of the relocated Route 52, and a former town road, Old Mountain Road, allow a more sedate ramble from ridge top to the valley.

The land will be acquired as State forest and will be open for a wide variety of passive public uses, such as hiking, hunting, camping and bird watching. The State will pay local taxes on the property. A management plan will be developed by the State Department of Environmental Conservation to guide the long-term management of the property. “We want to ensure that we protect the many rare species of plants and animals that inhabit the Ridge, and at the same time provide the public with enhanced recreational opportunities in this spectacular area,” said State Environmental Conservation Commissioner John P. Cahill.

The Shawangunk Ridge/Minnewaska State Park area is one of 131 priority conservation projects identified in the State Open Space Conservation Plan. The protection of the Shawangunk Ridge has long been a top conservation objective in the region for the State, as well as OSI and TPL. Thousands of climbers trek to the area for its outstanding and difficult rock climbing routes, while thousands of others enjoy the beautiful trail systems at both Minnewaska State Park and the adjacent Mohonk Preserve, with its famed Mohonk Mountain House.

The Open Space Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting land in New York State, and supporting the efforts of citizen activists working to protect environmental quality in their communities. In less than two decades, OSI has protected over 70,000 acres for the benefit of the public, creating and adding to parks and preserves throughout New York.

The Trust for Public Land, founded in 1972, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiation, public finance, and law to protect land for public use and enjoyment. To date, TPL has helped protect more than a million acres nationwide, valued at more than $1.8 billion. TPL has helped protect more than 55,000 acres in New York State since 1981.