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Former Buddhist property's conservation is a big deal to a small town

Berne, NY — Feb. 6, 2015—Residents of the small town of Berne are celebrating the preservation of one of the Helderberg Escarpment’s most scenic landscapes. The property, located at one of the highest points in Albany County, offers dramatic views across the Switzkill Valley to the Catskill Mountains. The $475,000 acquisition, a product of public-private endeavor, was made possible through a grant by the Open Space Institute, as well as funding from Albany County and the Town of Berne.

Acquisition of the “Tenzin Gyatso” property, formerly owned by the Center for Wisdom & Compassion, will create the opportunity for passive recreational activities, including hiking and cross-country skiing through its open hay fields, mature hardwood and conifer forests, woodland streams and waterfalls. The land will allow for rerouting a portion of the Long Path, which stretches 365 miles from George Washington Bridge in New Jersey to John Boyd Thacher State Park. Additionally, the land sits adjacent to the 876-acre Cole Hill State Forest, and lies across from the 5,478 acre Partridge Run State Forest.

Tenzin Gyatso’s 356 acres were preserved after a group of concerned citizens, including Berne’s town supervisor, noted with concern that the land was for sale. After approaching Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy (MHLC) for input on how to conserve it, MHLC recommended contacting the Open Space Institute (OSI) for support. OSI provided a $237,000 grant, and paid for $25,000 in transaction expenses. At the closing, OSI directed the deed to the town, with a conservation easement held by MHLC.

Over the past two decades, the Helderberg Escarpement has been a primary conservation landscape of the OSI. During this time, OSI has played a leadership conservation role: doubling the size of John Boyd Thacher State Park, preserving the Indian Ladder Farm, creating the Bozenkill Creek Preserve and protecting the historic settlement pattern in the Town of Rensselaerville.

“For the past 20 years, OSI has been an active conservation leader throughout the Helderberg landscape. In saving nearly 3,000 acres along the escarpment we have protected valuable natural resources, preserved community character and improved recreational access for area residents,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s President & CEO. “OSI is proud to support this community-inspired project and we congratulate our partners at the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, the Town of Berne and Albany County. We look forward to seeing its transformation into an inspiring public space for all to enjoy.”

“The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy is pleased to be a partner in this very exciting project,” said Mark King, Executive Director, MHLC. “The Conservancy holds a conservation easement on the property that helps to guide how the park will be used in the future. It promotes the reuse of existing structures and facilities on the property and provides flexibility for additional recreational and economic development activities, while ensuring that the property will always be available for public use as a park. The project is a great example of a rural town preserving and promoting one of its greatest assets—the scenic beauty of the Helderberg region.

“Through their work in the Helderbergs, OSI has made a lasting positive impact on the lives of the people of Albany County,” Mr. King said.

Leaders of the town and Albany County have laid plans to use the property’s existing buildings and grounds venues for weddings and other events to support economic development in the area. Also a former game farm, improvements on the property include several barns, two small guest houses, and a 6,400 square foot Adirondack-style hunting lodge.

“The space is amazing from the 5,000 square foot lodge to the retreat house and then to recreation outside,” said Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy. “When the Tibetan center and its land was put up for sale, it presented a chance for our hilltown communities to conserve the land and find ways to capitalize on recreational and tourism dollars that could be produced.”  

“The Buddhists chose this site for their Center for Wisdom & Compassion because they were inspired by the beauty, the location and our community,” said Berne Town Supervisor Kevin Crosier. “Possibilities are endless for us to encourage the public to walk the trails or go camping or to book weddings, retreats or other programs as we further develop our plan down the road. This would not have been possible without the help and financial support of the Open Space Institute.”

With a purchase price of $475,000, the town of Berne paid $112,500 and, in addition to the OSI funds, received $125,000 from the Albany County Capital Resource Corporation.

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