Scenic Hudson has acquired more than 500 acres along the Hudson River, mainly in Kingston. It’s the first step toward providing a public park for urban residents. More than a mile of the land will become part of the Empire State Trail.
The site had once been slated for a more than 1,600-unit mixed development, which the community opposed. Prior, it was the site of a cement mine and processing facility. Some 75 percent of the property lies in Kingston; the rest in the Town of Ulster. Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan.
“It’s a tremendous asset on the river, over a mile of waterfront, forested lands, wetlands, trails,” Sullivan says. “And it will be the site of the Empire State Trail in this area.”
The Empire State Trail portion will run 1.3 miles, entering the property at the Hutton Brickyards and then leading north through East Kingston to the Kingston-Rhinecliff Bridge. It is scheduled to open next fall. To be precise, the property contains 260 acres of woodlands, a cliff and ridgeline, and 37 acres of wetlands. Steve Rosenberg is Scenic Hudson Land Trust executive director.
“The property offers an amazing array of potential public use opportunities. If anything, there are so many that sorting them out and prioritizing them with the benefit, we hope, of solid community engagement is going to be a very exciting exercise, but a bit challenging,” Rosenberg says. “There are incredible overlooks. Nature is taking the property back in many places. There are a number of small lakes.”
Most of the lakes are former quarry pits and now contain fish.
“There’s also the complex of buildings from the former cement plant operation, including these very large concrete silos. And the imagination runs wild when you’re in the vicinity of those,” says Rosenberg. “And we’re very eager to identify potential uses there and possibly experiment with some low-cost pop-up opportunities that we can learn from before making other longer-term, larger capital investment there.”
For example, there are possibilities of pop-up art installations, or pop-up food venues. Kingston Land Trust Executive Director Julia Farr says the Land Trust is breathing a sigh of relief that this land will remain undeveloped as a natural resource for the community. Again, Sullivan.
“This is the largest property we’ve ever acquired in an urban setting, in a city. And we have protected critical parts of the Hudson Valley’s rural landscape — working farms for all to enjoy. And we’ve also restored brownfield sites along the Hudson, from Yonkers to Beacon, and on both sides of the river where previous industrial waterfronts, Peekskill is another example, having cleaned up collaboratively by us and the cities, but this is an extraordinarily large and complex and exciting opportunity in an urban area,” says Sullivan. “It’s going to bring tremendous recreationally, ecological, scientific and economic benefits to the city and town residents in Kingston and, really, the entire region. And it’s an opportunity to really transform an industrial site on the Hudson into a community asset.”
The property will remain closed to the public, as it has for years, until further notice so that Scenic Hudson can take immediate and necessary action to secure the site and ensure public safety. In the coming months, Scenic Hudson plans to reach out to various segments of the community to brief them on the acquisition and seek their input about potential uses for the property.