A land deal in Ulster County will afford new recreational opportunities while protecting views and preserving wetlands. It’s one of Scenic Hudson’s larger acquisitions.
Land Conservation Director Seth McKee says Scenic Hudson was interested in the 303-acre property for four main reasons.
“One is its proximity immediately adjacent to the Empire State Trail and the Hudson Valley Rail Trail, which, in itself, that offers spur trail opportunities for people to… if you’re cycling on the Empire State Trail, you could stop off and take a walk on this really interesting landscape,” McKee says. “Another reason is Scenic Hudson has been working for many years on the creation of what we call the John Burroughs Black Creek Trail corridor, which is about an 8-mile long stretch of Black Creek that has different types of public uses.”
He says those uses include a planned 11-mile hiking, biking and paddling route stretching from Scenic Hudson’s Black Creek Preserve in Esopus to Illinois Mountain.
“Another reason is for its climate resiliency. This property has a varied landscape. It’s got extensive wetlands and upland forests, and it’s also very close to Illinois Mountain, and that whole area is highly resilient, which means that it will enable critters to basically move around in response to climate change,” McKee says. “So we’re trying to create a resilient region here in the Hudson Valley that allows for fauna to adapt to the changing climate, and this property is part of a network that’s highly resilient.”
The property includes 40 acres of open and forested wetlands. McKee says there’s yet another beneficial aspect to conserving the property.
“It has over 1 mile of frontage on Black Creek, which is a significant tributary to the Hudson River,” McKee says. “And the more frontage you can protect along streams like that, it’s better for the stream health and the fish and wildlife that depend on it.”
He says Black Creek is an important nursery and spawning ground for American eels and herring. Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan:
“Scenic Hudson has been a great partner to Ulster County, to the region,” says Ryan.
Ryan commends the latest deal. The Democrat hopes it will feed off the Hudson Valley Rail Trail, a driver of the region’s outdoor recreation economy, especially with trying to bounce back from COVID-19’s negative economic impact.
“We’re always excited, I’m always excited to see them continue to invest in the community," Ryan says. "This recent deal in Lloyd will add to what’s been a great set of initiatives in that area in order to create more recreation opportunities, more ways for families to get out and be healthy, especially during this pandemic. We need all those opportunities we can get.”
“COVID has taught us a lot of lessons, but one of the key lessons for our region is how incredibly important our open spaces are for people’s physical and mental and emotional health,” says McKee.
The pandemic has underscored the need to continue to look for ways to sustainably provide more outdoor recreational opportunities. McKee says the newly acquired property is highly accessible.
“This property is about a mile from the Thruway entrance in New Paltz, and it’s only a couple miles from the Mid-Hudson Bridge,” says McKee. “So it’s a landscape that, certainly there could have been development that would have undermined its open space value, so, and we think given its location right on the Empire State Trail, it’s a real win for the Hudson Valley and for the Town of Lloyd.”
Before improvements for public access get under way, some portions are already accessible.
“Well, the property has great bones, as we like to say. There’s kind of a network of existing paths on the property that would lend themselves to recreational use," says McKee. "We, Scenic Hudson would very much like to work with partners to create formal public access here. The Town of Lloyd has been super supportive and they, the town supervisor’s interested in working with us on this, but we don’t have a definite timetable for making improvements. But the property is, it’s available there right off the rail trail. There’s no marked trails or anything like that, but it’s conserved and available for the public to explore with a caveat that there are no marked trails as this point.”
For those who may want some more guidance about how to get to the already accessible portions, McKee has a tip.
“If you’re familiar with Lowe’s, the Lowe’s store on 299, and there’s a little trailhead for the Empire State Trail just across the street, if you just go a couple hundred yards to the east, like you’re heading towards Poughkeepsie, there’s a For Sale sign there that says Sold now, that’s the property, and you could park right there and there’s a bridge over the Black Creek that will get you into the property,” McKee says.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 750-mile Empire State Trail will stretch from Manhattan to Buffalo