Newly-conserved land protects drinking water for fast-growing Orange County

BLOOMING GROVE, NY—October 14, 2015— After ten years of effort, newly conserved land in the Hudson Highlands will protect drinking water resources for Orange County and safeguard a scenic natural area from regional development.

The 405-acre “Mountain Lodge” property, purchased by the Open Space Institute (OSI) for $770,000, will also buffer the Highlands Trail and the Long Path, two long-distance hiking trails that converge in the Hudson Valley.

Located in Moodna Creek Watershed, which supplies drinking water to Orange County, the acquired Mountain Lodge property is adjacent to a subdivision and in an area under significant development threat spreading north and west of the Route 87/17 interchange. The property’s conservation furthers several long-term open space planning and protection efforts in the area, such as the Moodna Creek Watershed Conservation and Management Plan, the Orange County Open Space Plan and the Southern Walkill Biodiversity Plan.

“I fully recognize how important it is that we work to preserve our bucolic landscape for future generations,” said Steve Neuhaus, Orange County Executive. “This conservation effort preserves an important area of Orange County ensuring public recreational uses for those who love the outdoors.”

Situated adjacent to the 2,700-acre Schunnemunk Mountain State Park, and with ridge-top views of the Hudson Highlands to the east and the Shawangunks and Catskills to the west, the land is expected to become a permanent addition to the park after OSI transfers the property to the state parks system at a later date.

“This newest property builds on OSI’s decades-long commitment to conserve lands for our state parks,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s President and CEO. “It is especially gratifying that the land will be protected in the face of expanding regional development. We thank our partners at State Parks and The Peter & Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation for their assistance in protecting this land.”

“Our state parks are some of New York’s greatest treasures, and their impact—like clean air and drinking water protection—are felt far beyond the park borders,” said Rose Harvey, Commissioner of New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks). “We applaud OSI’s determined effort to preserve this land for future generations.”

“We are very pleased to have been involved with this acquisition of 420 acres of significant open space in the Hudson River Valley,” said D. Ben Benoit, Executive Director of The Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation, Inc. “The Foundation’s program-related investments enable land conservation groups to move quickly in making key land acquisitions in New York and Connecticut. The Mountain Lodge project is an illustration of how program-related investments can accelerate the pace of land conservation.”

The transaction builds upon OSI’s longtime commitment toward creating and adding to New York’s state parks. Over the past 40 years, through nearly 80 conservation initiatives, OSI has added more than 40,000 acres to New York’s 335,000-acre state park system.

The conservation of Mountain Lodge also furthers a long-term vision of the Orange County Open Space Plan, the Southern Wallkill Biodiversity Plan, and other conservationists in the region: a proposed connection between Schunnemunk Mountain and other regional state parks, which will create a web of protected greenspace in a quickly-developing region.

The area is currently a scenic favorite for many long-distance hikers traveling on the Highlands Trail and the Long Path, both maintained by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference (NYNJTC). The Highlands Trail runs through scenic and remote lands in New Jersey and New York, linking the Delaware and Hudson River with close to 150 miles of trails. The Long Path, meanwhile, extends 357 miles from the 175th Street Subway Station in New York City to John Boyd Thacher State Park near Albany.

“Long-distance recreational trails are key in getting more people to experience and develop a stake in the great outdoors,” said Glenn Oleksak, Chair of the Highlands Trail West Committee of the NYNJTC. “Land conservation achievements like Mountain Lodge are critical for the long-term success of these trails, in addition to creating important wildlife corridors."

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