NEW YORK, NY — February 26, 2014 — The Open Space Institute is among the organizations applauding Ulster County Executive Mike Hein for his announcement that the county will include a $3 million Open Space and Recreation Fund in its 2014 Capital Budget to protect the environment, help sustain local agriculture and close gaps in local trail networks.
“The fact is that economic development goes hand and hand with environmental protection,” Hein said. “Quality of life issues like clean water and clear air, and access to the great outdoors, are all part of business attraction and business retention in this new economy.”
The fund will provide support for protecting and enhancing open spaces that are critical to the county’s agricultural, recreational and tourism economy. In his State of the County address, Hein noted that this “green infrastructure” is an asset that the county can build upon to ensure future prosperity. The plan was approved in December by the Ulster County Legislature and includes $250,000 in matching open space grants in 2014 and 2015, and then $500,000 each year after that.
The County Executive announced the new program during his State of the County address last month at the SUNY Ulster campus.
In its four decades, OSI has protected 27 farms and preserved nearly 30,000 acres of Shawangunk Ridge in and around Ulster County.
“The Open Space Institute congratulates County Executive Hein for taking bold action to increase the pace of conservation and public access improvements in Ulster County,” said OSI President and CEO Kim Elliman. “From the ‘Gunks and farms in the Wallkill and Rondout valleys, to Overlook Mountain and the Rosendale Trestle, OSI has long worked to preserve and create access to the county’s breathtaking natural beauty, and we look forward to this new partnership.”
The new fund—the first program of its kind in Ulster county—will award matching grants to municipalities and qualified not-for-profit organizations that are investing in open space protection or recreational facilities. Purchase of land for public benefit, conservation easements on working farmland, creating access to recreational trails, and upgrades to municipal parks, playgrounds and swimming pools, will be eligible for funding.
The Ulster County program was compared in the Poughkeepsie Journal to a similar initiative that Dutchess County established in 1999.
Since that time, Dutchess has committed $5.9 million toward the protection of 2,765 acres of farmland while creating 477 acres of public parkland, the Journal reported.
Dutchess County officials have leveraged their open space grants with 13 state and federal grants totaling more than $8.8 million, as well as nearly $5.2 million in municipal contributions.
All told, Dutchess County’s $5.9 million has supported acquisitions and easements on property with a total value of more than $23 million. The valuable effect of preservation could be seen immediately, as tourists spent $475 million in Dutchess County in 2012, the Journal reported.