Conservation Initiative for Westchester, NY

Westchester County, NY: The Trust for Public Land (TPL) today voiced strong support for County Executive Andrew Spano’s plan to double Westchester County’s spending on land conservation and parks over the next five years. The “Westchester Legacy” initiative to be announced in Spano’s State of the County Address on Thursday would commit $50 million in County funding over the next five years to preserve open space, protect water quality and improve recreational opportunities county wide.

“This is a bold step, and it makes Westchester a clear leader in funding parks and open space protection,” said Chris Wells, TPL’s Conservation Finance Manager. “We applaud County Executive Spano for his vision in proposing such a significant funding package, and for expanding the County’s commitment to water quality and providing recreational opportunities for the people of Westchester County.”

The County Executive’s proposal should resonate with County residents. A poll commissioned last year by TPL found that a majority of voters in Westchester County strongly supported an expanded land conservation effort in the County, especially to protect water quality and increase recreational opportunities. Eighty-nine percent of respondents said they supported public spending for land conservation to protect drinking water sources. Eighty-eight percent said they supported protecting land along the County’s rivers and streams, and eighty-five percent supported protecting land along the Hudson River and Long Island Sound.

Protecting land for recreation was also strongly supported by county voters in the TPL poll. Seventy-one percent of respondents said they supported public spending on creating and expanding trails for walking, biking and cross-country skiing. The same percentage said they were more likely to support public spending to expand and improve existing town and city parks.

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 1.2 million acres nationwide, valued at more than $1.9 billion, including more than 55,000 acres in New York.

TPL has long been involved in land conservation initiatives in Westchester and has a strong investment in the county. On April 24, the group transferred a conservation easement on 50 acres along the Hudson River in Cortland to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, adding to the adjacent 50-acre area known as Harbor Landing that was protected last summer. In 1999, TPL protected the 120-acre Gaisman Estate in Hartsdale. The group also helped protect more than a mile of riverfront in Croton and provided a 20-acre addition to Yonkers’ Untermyer Park.

Through its Conservation Finance program, TPL helps expand public funding for land conservation. In the past 5 years, TPL has helped generate more than $27 billion nationwide to protect parks, greenways, recreation areas, historic landmarks, forests, watersheds, and wilderness. In Westchester County, TPL last year provided advice and technical assistance to citizens groups and government officials in the seven Westchester towns that passed local ballot questions on open space funding.