Open Space Institute advances Beaverkill-Delaware conservation strategy and announces protection of 929 acres at Camp Eureka in Sullivan and Delaware Counties

NEW YORK, NY - July 12, 2005 - Today the Open Space Institute, Inc. (OSI) and Prince Hall masons announced a cooperative agreement to protect 929 acres at Camp Eureka in Sullivan and Delaware counties. 

The Open Space Institute's land acquisition affiliate, the Open Space Conservancy, Inc. (OSC), acquired a conservation easement from Prince Hall Temple Associates, Inc, a nonprofit corporate affiliate of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge in the Beaverkill-Delaware region of the western Catskills. Prince Hall operates Camp Eureka on the property, a summer camp for inner-city youths. The M.W. Prince Hall Grand Lodge is a fraternal organization of more than 10,000 black masons. 

Joe Martens, president of the Open Space Institute, said the acquisition represents “the most significant transaction of the year” for the non-profit organization, which to date has protected more than 20,000 acres in the Catskills and 90,000 acres throughout the state. “We are very pleased to announce this project because it's in the heart of the Beaverkill Valley, where we have an ambitious conservation strategy to protect the region's extraordinary natural and scenic resources. OSI's 30 year old land acquisition program has its roots in the Beaverkill Valley where it has permanently protected more than 8,000 acres through conservation easements encumbering privately held land,” said Martens. 

In addition to Camp Eureka, Martens noted the historic significance of the Prince Hall property which includes a historic castle constructed in the 1920s by Ralph W. Wurts-Dundas, whose grandfather built the Delaware and Hudson Canal. Wurts-Dundas commissioned a stone structure modeled after a Scottish castle, sited on a bluff overlooking the Beaverkill River. However, Wurts-Dundas died in 1921 before the castle was completed and it has been vacant ever since. 

The Prince Hall property is located in the hamlet of Craig-e-Clare (named after an Irish fishing village and translated as “Beautiful Mountainside”). Bradford L. Gilbert, a noted New York City architect, amassed hundreds of acres in the late 1880s and built an estate known as “Beaverkill Lodge” on the property. Gilbert's wife, a native of Ireland, chose the name Craig-e-Clare because the Catskills scenery reminded her of home. 

The approach to the medieval-style castle features a cast-iron bridge that crosses the Beaverkill River. John Adams, chairman of the Open Space Institute, noted the extraordinary history of the Prince Hall property. “The castle is one of the great historic landmarks in the Catskills. It's wonderful to drive over the historic Craig-e-Clare iron bridge and through the castle gates, which were imported from Scotland, and discover the imposing stone castle. And nearby, there is an old one-room schoolhouse that once served the community. It's like traveling back in time,” said Adams. OSI and Prince Hall plan to work together to restore the Craig-e-Clare schoolhouse, noted Adams. 

The conservation easement limits future development of the property and prohibits residential subdivision. The easement advances OSI's conservation strategy, developed in conjunction with Trout Unlimited and Audubon New York, for the Beaverkill, Willowemoc Creek and Delaware River, all in the western Catskills. OSI and its partners have been working together for more than a year to identify properties like Camp Eureka to help protect the region's world-renowned fisheries and scenic quality. The Prince Hall property is located along the banks of the Upper Beaverkill, a premier trout fishery, and contains nearly 4,000 feet of frontage. Due to its proximity to the Beaverkill and the stunning views from the property, it is an attractive development target. “This area of the Catskills is under enormous development pressure,” said Martens. 

Noting a longstanding partnership with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Martens said that there may be an opportunity in the near future to convey approximately 250 acres of Camp Eureka to New York State as an addition to adjoining Catskill Forest Preserve. 

Camp Eureka serves inner city youth throughout the months of July and August. Through an OSI grant, the Camp will include a new program designed to educate campers about the environment and outdoors. According to Cleveland Johnson, Jr. 33 °, a past grand master who has been a member of the Grand Lodge for over forty years and serves as a board member of the Prince Hall Temple Associates, Inc., “Campers arrive every year with endless curiosity about the outdoors and natural ecosystems. We welcome the Open Space Institute's commitment to the Beaverkill Valley. For close to 50 years, Prince Hall has operated Camp Eureka to serve youth from inner cities throughout the state, such as Buffalo, Rochester, Albany, and of course New York City,” said Johnson. “OSI's support will help enhance knowledge of the outdoors and improve the overall camper experience,” added Johnson. 

“A key element of our mission is to support environmental education and this often leads to partnerships with other nonprofit entities that give city kids the rare chance to experience the outdoors,” said Martens. “We've partnered with other nonprofits in the Catskills and also in the Hudson Highlands. These enterprising and dedicated charities are not only great partners in conservation, but they are also doing a huge service to New York City kids,” added Martens.

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