As part of the State of the State address he’ll deliver Wednesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo aims to preserve 4,000 acres in the mid-Hudson Valley.
The land acquisitions would add buffers and trails to seven state parks as well as conserve ecological corridors.
“These are really true recreational and ecological gems in our region,” Sullivan says.
One of the seven state parks is Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve, which spans Dutchess and Putnam Counties, and where Cuomo wants to preserve 965 acres, including the 945-acre Scofield Ridge. Ned Sullivan is president of Poughkeepsie-based Scenic Hudson.
“It is a property that Scenic Hudson acquired in 2018 in the heart of the state park that will provide critical trail links along the ridge overlooking the Hudson River, connecting to Mount Beacon, which has a fire tower that is fun to climb on top, and Breakneck Ridge, which is considered the most popular day hike in America,” Sullivan says.
“It will also connect to over 2,000 acres of land Scenic Hudson protected years ago and transferred to the state along Fishkill Ridge, which is the land towering above the City of Beacon, and it also protects critical drinking water supplies in the area," says Sullivan.
Michelle Smith is executive director of Hudson Highlands Land Trust. She says providing connectivity and buffers is important.
“Another example that we worked on was an expansion to Fahnestock, which provides connectivity between Fahnestock State Park and the neighboring Boy Scout Reservation.” Smith says. “And we would hope, over time, that we could even further expand those connections to other parkland in the area.”
The proposal would acquire this land in Fahnestock State Park, in Putnam Valley, through a partnership with the Hudson Highlands Land Trust.
“Another area that was preserved was an area between Schunnemunk State Park on the west side of the [Hudson] river between Schunnemunk State Park and the Storm King Art Center,” says Smith. “So yet another connection that is really important both for recreational purposes but also for our wildlife to have these connected corridors to move over time. And that’s actually really important also for climate change and climate change adaption strategies.”
The Democratic governor’s proposal includes 808 acres of preservation in Schunnemunk State Park, to permanently protect open space that had been targeted for residential development. The plan would also extend a significant conservation corridor between Black Rock Forest and Schunnemunk Mountain. Democratic New York state Senator James Skoufis’s 39th District includes some of the land targeted for preservation.
“And so this builds on an announcement from a number of years ago that preserved a tremendous amount of acreage in Black Rock Forest in Orange County. And so, look, people look around in the Hudson Valley and they see their farmland, their open space very quickly disappearing before their eyes,” Skoufis says. “And so any and all efforts that we can take as a state, whether it’s supporting local land trusts or ourselves providing funding as a state to preserve the dwindling open space we have is something that I 1,000 percent support.”
The acquisitions in Cuomo’s proposal represent an investment of $20.6 million in state funding from the Environmental Protection Fund and the federal Hudson Highlands Conservation Act. Again, Smith:
“With all this conservation not only for the wildlife and the recreational experience, but we’ve also got to remember that it’s really important for water as well as for preserving our water resources like our surface water and our groundwater,” Smith says. “This addition to protected lands is really going to help sustain our water supplies into the future and obviously has a role not only in keeping our quantity of water sustainable but also our quality of water.”
Other areas of preservation include 633 acres in Minnewaska State Park Preserve in Ulster County; 112 acres in Sterling Forest State Park; and one acre in Rockefeller State Park Preserve, as an entry to Rockwood Hall.