Houghton Farmland Purchase Links Black Rock Forest and Schunnemunk Mountain

Image Credit: Greg Miller

NEW YORK, NY — September 7, 2010 — The Open Space Institute announced today the acquisition of the 151-acre Houghton farm property, an Orange County parcel that represents an important first step in OSI’s effort to preserve a conservation corridor between the Black Rock Forest and Schunnemunk Mountain State Park.

The conservation of this property will protect a portion of a slender mile-and-a-half corridor that connects Black Rock Forest and Schunnemunk but is currently vulnerable to development. Earlier this year, OSI, through its land acquisition affiliate, the Open Space Conservancy, began working on a handful of conservation projects that would protect much of the corridor, preserving vitally important connectivity in a region of New York State known for its diverse wildlife habitat.

“OSI and its partners have invested considerable energy preserving the pristine lands within Black Rock Forest and Schunnemunk Mountain State Park for the benefit of all New Yorkers,” said OSI President Joe Martens. “Now, we are attempting to protect the small but important link between the two, which will afford the wildlife in these areas the natural area it needs to roam.”

In the near future, OSI intends to acquire 32 additional acres adjacent to Black Rock Forest and within the connecting corridor.

Although they’re only about an hour from New York City, Black Rock Forest and Schunnemunk State Park are both largely intact native forest ecosystems that provide natural habitat for bears, bobcats, coyotes and otters, as well as flora such as chestnut-oak forests and pitch pines. Because many of the animals in the region tend to travel from season to season over large, unfragmented areas, it is critically important that the strip between the nearly 4,000-acre Forest and 2,100-acre publically accessible Schunnemunk Mountain State Park remains in its current undeveloped state.

This unique region of New York State sits at the intersection of the New York – New Jersey Highlands and the Hudson River Basin, and the meeting of the two large ecological systems has created a hub of tremendous biological diversity and rich habitat that has been the subject of considerable conservation activity, dating back as far as a century.

In 1910, Mary Averill Harriman donated 10,000 acres that would ultimately become the nucleus of Harriman State Park, now the second-largest state park in New York. Additional conservation efforts over the years protected Storm King State Park, the Black Rock Forest Preserve and Bear Mountain State Park, as well as Schunnemunk Mountain State Park and Sterling Forest State Park—the latter two being major OSI projects in the 1990s that resulted in the protection of over 23,000 acres.

Located in the westernmost portion of the conservation corridor, the Houghton farm contains land that was part of the original 1,000-experimental farm owned by Lawson Valentine, an early innovator in farm management and farm research. Valentine was a friend and patron of Winslow Homer, who spent the summers of 1878 and 1879 at the Houghton Farm, producing more than 150 watercolors and paintings of the farm and the surrounding area.

A portion of the historic farm now lies under the New York State Thruway, while another portion is part of Schunnemunk Mountain State Park and the Black Rock Fish & Game Club. The remaining, just-acquired 151 acres include several fields running along Route 32 that boast stunning and historic views of Schunnemunk Mountain and a stretch of Woodbury Creek.

In addition, an important regional trail, the Highlands Trail, currently runs in a westerly direction from Black Rock Forest to Schunnemunk Mountain State Park, passing through the proposed conservation corridor. Access to this trail has been restricted by several private landowners; however, OSI hopes to secure enough land in the conservation corridor to provide a permanent, off-road route for the Highlands Trail. Current plans include routing a portion of the Trail through the Houghton Farm and heading north toward Mountainville and Schunnemunk Mountain.

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