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Open Space Institute Protects Shawangunk Ridge Property Once Slated for Casino Resort Development

Photo Credit: Greg Miller

Town of Mamakating, NY (September 21st, 2021)— The Open Space Institute (OSI) today announced that it has permanently protected a forested property in the Town of Mamakating that was once slated to be developed into a casino resort. OSI’s latest acquisition adds to the extensive network of OSI-conserved properties in Ulster, Sullivan, and Orange Counties, furthers regional connectivity of protected landscapes, and provides significantly enhanced access to trails and recreational lands on the Shawangunk Ridge.

Once the site of a well-known Catskills resort known as “Shawanga Lodge,” OSI purchased the 228-acre property for $1.7 million. The parcel sits prominently on top of the Shawangunk Ridge, east of the Village of Wurtsboro, and is adjacent to thousands of acres of protected land in a series of interconnected state forests located on the Shawangunk Ridge, as well as the 3,300-acre Bashakill Wildlife Management Area (WMA). With this acquisition, OSI holds nearly 500 acres of land in the Wurtsboro area for addition to the Wurtsboro Ridge State Forest and the Bashakill WMA.

Photo Credit: Greg Miller

Proposed at one point as a site for new resort casino development, the property is adjacent to Route 17/Interstate 86 and is highly visible from several vantage points throughout western Orange County. OSI’s conservation of the property protects the southern Shawangunk Ridge viewshed and scenic views from the ridge.

The property also advances a much larger effort by OSI and partners to create a regional hiking trail spanning the entire 73-mile length of the Shawangunk Ridge from the New Jersey border north to the Rosendale Trestle, which OSI permanently protected in 2009 and restored in 2013.

“With this latest acquisition, OSI continues to forge a lasting conservation legacy in the Southern Shawangunks by expanding recreational opportunities for visitors and protecting scenic and forested landscapes from development,” said Kim Elliman, president and CEO of the Open Space Institute. “This newly-conserved land will help protect an amazing natural resource. We commend our partners and the residents who value this beautiful, natural place for their support and dedication to protecting the Shawangunks.”

Photo Credit: Greg Miller

“The Trail Conference has been dedicated to the protection of the spectacular biodiversity and hiking experience along the Shawangunk Ridge since it came under threat in the 1980s,” said New York-New Jersey Trail Conference Executive Director Joshua Howard. “OSI is a tremendous partner with the shared vision of not only preserving land for the creation of green corridors but also providing uninterrupted access to nature via safe, sustainably built, long-distance trail networks. This acquisition is vital to the protection of the Shawangunk Ridge Trail and the Long Path, allowing the Trail Conference to maintain these trails for the enjoyment of all who seek the rugged beauty of the Shawangunk Ridge, both now and in the future.”

“Hooray! The Basha Kill Area Association (BKAA) is ecstatic hearing of OSI’s acquisition of the Shawanga Lodge acreage. Beginning with our founding in 1972, the BKAA successfully staved off several off-the-wall proposals for this property. Throughout, our greatest hope was that this ridgetop gem would become publicly accessible. Now this has happened thanks to OSI’s ongoing preservation efforts, which we joyfully salute,” said Paula Medley, president, Basha Kill Area Association.

“We thank the Open Space Institute for acquiring this property and are excited that it will now be protected and added to the Shawangunk Ridge recreational space in Mamakating. The opening of this tract of land will enable full public access and will increase the recreational opportunities for our residents and visitors to the region, which will greatly enhance the Town’s Ecotourism Industry. Acquisition of this property is in line with the 2019 Comprehensive Master Plan. This land purchase will also help protect the Town’s aquifer water supply and the environment. We applaud the determination and foresight of the Open Space Institute in this substantial investment in the Town of Mamakating,” said Janet Lybolt, supervisor of the Town of Mamakating.

Listed as a priority acquisition in the New York State Open Space Plan, the Shawanga Lodge property is located just east of the Village of Wurtsboro and is near five popular recreational trail systems: the Shawangunk Ridge Trail, the Long Path, and the Sullivan O&W Rail Trail, The Mamakating Rail Trail, and the Delaware and Hudson Canal Trail.

In particular, OSI’s protection of the Shawanga Lodge provides enhanced access to and protection of the 73-mile long Shawangunk Ridge Trail, a regional hiking trail that the Open Space Institute, along with the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference and other partners, have developed along the spine of the Shawangunk Ridge from Minnewaska State Park Preserve south to New Jersey. OSI’s protection of the Shawanga Lodge property presents an opportunity to re-route a portion of the proposed Shawangunk Ridge Trail to an off-road location, creating a “wilderness” walk and safer conditions for walkers, hikers, and runners.

The Shawangunk Ridge Trail is in public use and is now nearly complete, with over 67 miles of the 73-mile-long trail permanently protected.

OSI’s protection of the Shawanga Lodge property also contributes to a 50-mile long recreational and ecological “greenway” that runs along the spine of the Shawangunk Ridge. Almost completely forested, the Shawangunk Ridge Greenway contains numerous conservation ownerships—including Minnewaska State Park Preserve, Mohonk Preserve, the Bashakill Wildlife Management Area, six state forests and other conservation holdings—and protects over 50,000 acres of ecologically important lands.

The Greenway, which runs continuously from Rosendale, New York to the New Jersey border, is uniquely positioned to support a diverse array of plants and animals even as the climate changes, making it especially critical for wildlife habitat. OSI’s acquisition safeguards the carbon stored in the trunk, branch, and root structures of the property’s trees, and also includes a 6-acre ridgetop lake that was known during the Shawanga Lodge resorts days as “Skytop Lake.”

Photo Credit: Greg Miller

With permission, OSI will allow hiking and other forms of passive recreation during its ownership of the Shawanga Lodge property. The property is expected to be transferred to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation as an addition to the adjacent Wurtsboro Ridge State Forest.

About OSI in the region

Over the past 40 years, OSI has protected more than 33,000 acres on and along the Shawangunk Ridge in Orange, Sullivan, and Ulster counties—a total more than twice the size of Manhattan.

The work, achieved with the support of local partners and generous donors, has expanded parkland, created trails, preserved local viewsheds, and protected vulnerable farmland and wildlife habitats.

Over the years OSI has continued to add to the mosaic of protected lands in the area. Committed to protecting the Shawangunk Ridge and improving public access to protected lands, OSI has: created seven new state forests; supported the creation of a local rail trails; more than doubled the size of Minnewaska State Park preserve; rebuilt Minnewaska’s Victorian-era carriage roads; and in partnership with the Wallkill Valley Land Trusts, restored the Rosendale Trestle. Most recently, OSI raised more than $3 million toward the design and construction of the Minnewaska Visitor Center which opened in 2020.

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