Sterling Forest Capstone Protected (NY)

Warwick, NY, 11/28/2006:Governor George E. Pataki today announced the acquisition of 575 acres to expand Sterling Forest State Park in Orange County. The new property increases the size of Sterling Forest to more than 18,200 acres of forests, lakes, streams, and other sensitive natural resources, one of the largest state parks in New York. The Trust for Public Land negotiated the $13.5 million purchase from Sterling Forest LLC. Prior plans for the property included the development of a golf course and more than 100 luxury homes.

“This latest acquisition represents the last piece in the puzzle for protecting the full array of natural resources and wildlife habitats at Sterling Forest State Park from the threat of development,” said Governor Pataki. “With this purchase, we are not only increasing the outdoor opportunities for the public at this incredible scenic property, but we are furthering our commitment to safeguarding open space in the New York/New Jersey Highlands and throughout the Palisades. Once again, the Environmental Protection Fund has helped us secure a critical parcel that will now become public parkland, ensuring its stewardship for the future.”

“Sterling Forest—in its entirety—is now closed for good to development and open forever to the public,” said Rose Harvey, senior vice president for The Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit land conservation that negotiated the purchase. “This was a big vision, with big results, with big benefit for millions of people, a lasting land legacy for Governor Pataki.”

The property, known as the Sterling Forge parcel, consists of an irregularly shaped 575-acre parcel with extensive frontage along both the southeast and northwest sides of County Route 84, Long Meadow Road. The site’s topography varies from level/rolling land to steeply sloping and the southern section of the property features a 36-acre pond. There is also a 15-acre wetland area at the easternmost section of the property and various other wetlands, totaling approximately 25 acres, scattered throughout.

Sterling Forest State Park is centrally located in the New York/New Jersey Highlands, a 1.1 million-acre stretch of contiguous habitat from the Hudson River to the Delaware River. The tract links Abram S. Hewitt State Park in New Jersey with Harriman State Park in New York, and protects the corridor around the Appalachian Trail, which traverses the northern portion of Sterling Forest, and the full length of the Sterling Ridge Trail. The park is part of the New York State Parks system and administered by the Palisades Interstate Park Commission.

In 1998, Governor Pataki announced the acquisition of the first 15,280 acres that created Sterling Forest. The Trust for Public Land and the Open Space Institute negotiated the purchase. The groups worked with New York and New Jersey, the federal government, and private interests to raise $55 million to purchase Sterling Forest and preserve it as open space. The property protects a major source of drinking water for New Jersey and was the last large, privately held open space in the New York City metropolitan region. Since the initial announcement, another 3,000 acres including this latest acquisition have been added to the park by TPL and other groups working with the state.

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Bernadette Castro said, “This purchase is another valuable step in Governor Pataki’s steadfast efforts to preserve the precious outdoor resources found at Sterling Forest and the New York/New Jersey Highlands. By closing the door to the danger of development at this magnificent property, we are helping ensure the lasting protection of region’s rich natural heritage for years ahead.”

In 2003, the governor and U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey opened the U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg Visitor Center at Sterling Forest State Park. The Visitor Center offers patron amenities as well as interpretive programming highlighting the natural and cultural resource protection in the vast Palisades property. Senator Lautenberg contributed $1.75 million toward the construction of the 7,500 square foot facility which is located on the south shore of Sterling Lake in the town of Warwick and provides direct access and views of the lake.

In addition to serving as a watershed for millions of residents in New Jersey and New York, Sterling Forest is vital for the survival of many resident and migratory species, including black bear and a variety of hawks and songbirds, as well as many rare invertebrates and plants. The governor also designated a 16,833-acre portion of the park as a Bird Conservation Area (BCA) in an effort to protect the habitat of various bird species living in the area.

The Sterling Forge acquisition furthers the longstanding environmental and preservation goals set by the governor that have made New York a national leader in open space protection and natural resource stewardship.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. TPL has protected more than 2.2 million acres of land nationwide, including more than 75,000 acres throughout the state of New York.