OSI honors the Smiley family: the landscape is in their genes

NEW YORK, NY — October 13, 2011 — The Open Space Institute (OSI) presented the Smiley family and Mohonk Mountain House today with the 2011 Land Conservation Award for years of stewardship and exemplary land protection along the 50-mile Shawangunk Ridge.

The award was accepted by Albert K. “Bert” Smiley, president and CEO of Mohonk Mountain House. He is part of the fourth generation of the Smiley family to continuously own and operate the scenic resort.

The Mohonk Mountain House resort was founded in 1869 by Bert’s great-granduncle, also named Albert K. Smiley, who, with his twin brother Alfred, acquired over 17,500 scenic acres on the Shawangunk Ridge. For 142 years, the Smiley family has been noted for their enlightened stewardship of these remarkable lands.

“Landscape protection was a priority for Albert from day one, and to this day, I think my family and our entire organization still have landscape protection embedded in our genes,” Bert Smiley said during his acceptance remarks.

Today, all but 2,200 acres are incorporated into the now 7,000-acre Mohonk Preserve, also founded by the Smiley family in 1963, and the 22,000-acre Minnewaska State Park Preserve, which was created in 1971. The Smiley family, along with the Rockefeller, Harriman, Stillwell, and Osborn families, assembled and protected much of the scenic lands that form the backbone of the state park system in the Hudson River Valley.

“The Smileys have been land conservation pioneers in the Hudson Valley for almost 150 years,” said OSI President and CEO Kim Elliman. “Their stewardship and respect for land has been an inspiration for many, including OSI.”

Mr. Smiley has served for 42 years on the Board of Directors of Mohonk Mountain House. He also serves as a director of the Mohonk Preserve and the New York State Hospitality and Tourism Association. He serves on the Advisory Boards of the Hudson Valley Division of M&T Bank, the SUNY New Paltz Business School and the Oakwood Friends School. He is a member of the American Hotel and Lodging Association Resort
Committee and is a Fellow of the Culinary Institute of America.

In mid-September, OSI acquired 874 acres of historic and scenic land from Smiley Brothers, Inc., permanently protecting one of the most iconic landscapes in the Hudson Valley and furthering one of OSI’s most enduring conservation initiatives. Over the past quarter-century, OSI has protected more than 27,000 acres of important ridgetop lands that are now part of the Mohonk Preserve, Minnewaska State Park Preserve, the Sam’s Point Preserve and the New York State forest preserve.

The award was announced Thursday at OSI’s luncheon, which is held annually at the Metropolitan Club in New York City. Carol Ash, one of the founders of OSI’s Alliance for New York State Parks, served as the Master of Ceremonies for the event and New York Times columnist and author Verlyn Klinkenborg delivered the keynote address. Approximately 280 people attended.  

During the luncheon, OSI also honored the four 2011 recipients of the Barnabas McHenry Hudson Valley Awards, funded by an endowment raised by OSI. Each year, OSI awards $5,000 grants to four young leaders who partner with regional nonprofits to complete projects in the fields of environmental conservation, historic preservation, the arts, and tourism, respectively. The awards are named for OSI Trustee Barney McHenry, a longtime Hudson Valley resident and champion of the region.

The four recipients honored today were: Alexandra Church, who worked with the Newburgh Armory Unity Center in the field of historic preservation. She completed a preliminary master plan for the purpose of developing and implementing programs at the site. In the field of environmental conservation, Cornelia Harris worked with the Cary Institute, leading a program that trained students to become stewards of the Hudson River ecosystem and docents for the newly installed Hudson River Environmental Conditions Observing System (HRECOS). Sara Kendall is working in the field of the arts with free103point9 Radio’s “Hands-on Radio,” a community-run media project that is re-envisioning radio as an innovative platform in New York’s Greene and Columbia counties. In the tourism field, Derrick Mead assisted Glynwood with the launch of its "Hudson Valley Cider Route" project to showcase fresh and hard cider in the region.

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