New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says more than 260 acres of open space in the Hudson Valley have been added to three state parks.
The new parklands are in Putnam, Orange and Westchester Counties. In Putnam, the state is adding 150 acres to Fahnestock State Park. The land was acquired in partnership with the Hudson Highlands Land Trust. Executive Director Michelle Smith says the parcel is adjacent to the Agatha Durland Boy Scout Camp in Putnam Valley, which has a public access easement owned by state Parks.
“And the parcel that we purchased from the Rosenbaum family and then now transferring to state Parks is adjacent to the Boy Scout camp. So therefore, because of the trail easement, you could access through that Rosenbaum property, walk through the Boy Scout camp and then get to Fahnestock,” says Smith. “So we’re envisioning a much more invigorated trail system and also access to Fahnestock.”
She says there is little access in eastern Putnam Valley and, where there are access points, there are few parking spots. Like many others, Smith says this latest transaction is important for water resources.
“This parcel also lies within the, the Peekskill Hollow Brook watershed and, therefore, is part of the City of Peekskill’s reliance on the watershed for the drinking water for the City of Peekskill,” Smith says. "So that’s, that’s very important as well, and we’re always very focused on especially city water impacts, so we’re pleased about that.”
She says the land trust is working on other transactions with the state to protect drinking water supplies and expand access.
In Westchester County, Rockefeller State Park Preserve will be one acre larger. The parcel will remedy the longstanding lack of a formal entry to Rockwood Hall, a historic riverside section of the nearly 1,800-acre preserve, allowing for signage and parking.
Matt Decker is director of Conservation and Stewardship with the Orange County Land Trust, which acquired 112 acres for Sterling Forest State Park in partnership with the state. It’s one of a series of three projects to add land to Sterling Forest.
“On this particular project, yes, it was one single landowner who actually initially got in touch with us because she was looking for a forester because she wanted to do a timber harvest on the property to help defray the taxes, to help pay the taxes,” says Decker. “So that started a conversation, and, where responsible, timber harvesting is, can be good, and so we’re not completely against timber harvesting, but that just happened to open a conversation and we built the relationship with this landowner and ended up working with her on the purchase of the majority of her property.”
This land will help maintain and enhance the biodiversity of the area and create access to the 22,000-acre Sterling Forest State Park and to the Appalachian Trail from the western side of the park.
“It would be easy to use COVID as an excuse not to continue to invest in buffering out our amazing state park system, but I’m so glad that state Parks, Palisades Interstate Park Commission and the governor have continued to show that this is a priority for us,” Decker says.
The acquisitions represent an investment of $1.14 million in state funding from the Environmental Protection Fund and Hudson Highlands Conservation Act.