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OSI and New York State Parks protect land near Fahnestock State Park

New York, NY - April 24, 2015 - The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) and the Open Space Institute (OSI) today announced that two properties totaling 270 acres in Putnam County that had been threatened by development will be added to Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park, expanding outdoor recreational opportunities and open space protection in the Hudson Highlands.

The announcement is in honor of Earth Week, April 19-25, which Governor Cuomo proclaimed as a weeklong celebration of New York’s commitment and accomplishments to protecting our environment, conserving open space, increasing access to the state’s vast and magnificent natural resources, implementing clean energy initiatives and preparing for the effects of climate change.

OSI acquired the first of the two properties, 235-acre “Roaring Brook,” which will provide valuable habitat for sensitive plants and animals and further expand the park’s abundant recreational offerings. State Parks purchased a second 35-acre parcel that will buffer the southern end of the park.

“Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park is a jewel of the Hudson Highlands. As we celebrate Earth Week, it is fitting that we are protecting these scenic lands, expanding the tremendous recreational opportunities in the region, and contributing to clean air and water,” State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said. “New York is very fortunate to have Governor Cuomo’s commitment to expanding public access to outdoor recreation, as well as the partnership of the Open Space Institute for helping us to preserve our state’s magnificent places.”

“The Hudson Highlands are a nationally recognized landscape whose scenic allure is encapsulated by this future addition to Fahnestock State Park,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s President and CEO. “We are grateful to our partners, including State Parks and the Hudson Highlands Land Trust, for helping us realize this conservation achievement, and we also acknowledge the hard work and perseverance of the community members who rallied for its preservation.”

OSI will hold Roaring Brook until State Parks purchases it, planning to use a combination of funding from the state’s Environmental Protection Fund and from the federal Highlands Conservation Act program. This program is funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund that is designed to assist Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania with conserving land and natural resources in the Highlands region. The land has been an acquisition priority of State Parks for over a decade. The effort to protect it began over a year ago, when the Roaring Brook Lake Homeowners Association began calling for the conservation of the threatened land. Over the past 20 years, the property, valued at $787,500, has been the subject of various development proposals. The most recent plan, from the spring 2013, proposed 15 residential lots along the property’s ridgeline.

The property will remain forever in its natural setting, consisting of changing elevations, wetlands, rocky outcroppings and swaths of oak and hemlock forests. A New York State-identified Important Bird Area, Roaring Brook hosts a community of ecologically significant chestnut oak and provides a protected wildlife corridor to species such as bears and bobcats. Furthermore, Roaring Brook’s location within the Croton Watershed, which provides 10 percent of New York City’s drinking water, also helps protect the city’s water supply. State Parks expects to designate a parking area and trails by this fall to provide public access to the property.

State Parks has also completed the purchase of 35 acres in Putnam Valley, protecting a ridge above Oscawana Lake from the impacts of residential development. The property will allow for the establishment of a public trailhead to facilitate development of trails in the southernmost section of Fahnestock Park, as designated in the park’s 2010 master plan.

The acreage was identified by the Hudson Highlands Land Trust as a Legacy Landscape conservation priority. The land was acquired for $414,000 from the Environmental Protection Fund.

"The successful completion of these projects is the latest example of the amazing collaboration taking part between our land trust, OSI, State Parks, and others within the conservation community, to the benefit of Fahnestock and its devoted visitors," said Hudson Highlands Land Trust Executive Director Andy Chmar. "Within the heart of the region nationally recognized through the four-state Highlands Conservation Act, the properties are a great addition to the Park and further the public benefit our organizations are dedicated to achieve through these partnerships and our other conservation efforts."

"Fahnestock is a masterpiece of a park that just keeps getting better," said Katrina Shindledecker, president of Friends of Fahnestock and Hudson Highlands State Parks. "This string of successes in expanding the park benefits not only sensitive plants and animals but also the hundreds of thousands of visitors each year who find in Fahnestock a needed escape."

The additional park acreage underscores Governor Cuomo’s commitment to improving and expanding access to outdoor recreation. NY Parks 2020 is a multi-year commitment to leverage a broad range of private and public funding to invest approximately $900 million in State Parks from 2011 to 2020. The 2015-16 State Budget includes $110 million toward this initiative. 

The Roaring Brook project also continues OSI’s legacy of expanding Fahnestock and providing enhanced public access to the park, a regional recreation and tourism destination located less than 100 miles from New York City. Thanks to OSI’s efforts in the area, the park has doubled in size since the early 1990s. In addition, OSI’s Alliance for New York State Parks program has raised $1.2 million in private funds and grants toward the revitalization of Fahnestock’s Canopus Lake visitor complex. 

Through multiple, large-scale land acquisitions such as Roaring Brook, OSI has helped to enhance and protect Fahnestock State Park, its drinking watersheds and the metropolitan greenbelt. Working in partnership with the State of New York to enhance and expand the park, OSI has acquired numerous vacant and heavily wooded parcels, converting large tracts of privately owned, undeveloped lands to publicly accessible parkland. 

Thanks to the efforts of OSI, State Parks and others, such as The Trust for Public Land and the Hudson Highlands Land Trust, Fahnestock has more than doubled from approximately 6,000 acres to over 14,000 acres of protected woodlands, valleys and plateaus. The park is located in the heart of New York’s Hudson Highlands, part of a regional mountainous greenbelt running from west of the Delaware River in Pennsylvania through New Jersey and New York, and into Connecticut. 

Noted for its wide array of biking, hiking and equestrian trails—including the Appalachian Trail—Fahnestock welcomes more than 245,000 hikers, swimmers, campers, bikers, birdwatchers, anglers, skiers and snowshoers each year.

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