OLIVE, NY (July 27, 2023)—The Open Space Institute (OSI) celebrated the transfer of 261 acres in Ulster County to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The property, an addition to the Catskill Forest Preserve’s Sundown Wild Forest, will protect the renowned quality of the New York City watershed and increase public access to recreational opportunities.
The newly transferred, OSI-protected “South Mountain” property is located within the Ashokan Reservoir watershed and will help safeguard a critical drinking water source for millions of New Yorkers. The Ashokan Reservoir, located more than 100 miles north of the New York City, typically supplies about 40 percent of the city’s daily drinking water needs. The completely forested property, which is adjacent to Sundown Wild Forest, connects to other lands conserved by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to protect water quality.
Located in the Town of Olive, the property also contains a portion of the east side of South Mountain, including part of the mountain’s summit. The permanent protection of the land also lays the groundwork for the creation of new public access points for two popular hiking destinations from a public road, opening additional wild areas to hikers and visitors and relieving pressure on popular trailheads and summits.
DEC acquired the property using $666,500 from New York State's Environmental Protection Fund (EPF).
“The Open Space Institute is proud to work with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to protect the South Mountain property and secure long-term access to clean water for millions of New Yorkers,” said Kim Elliman, president and CEO, of the Open Space Institute. “The power of strategic land conservation and public-private partnerships is invaluable in safeguarding sources of clean drinking water. Through the Environmental Protection Fund and partnerships just like this, New York State continues to invest in land conservation that will benefit New Yorkers for generations to come."
“Continuing to build upon the progress made in protecting this important natural corridor will help ensure clean drinking water in the New York City watershed while also providing new opportunities for outdoor recreation in the Catskills,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “We are grateful to our partners at the Open Space Institute as well as the previous landowners, Dr. Sam and Delia Adams, for their outstanding and ongoing commitment to environmental stewardship and dedication to preserving the beauty of the Catskills for all.”
OSI initially purchased the property in 2019 from the Adamses, whose family had owned the land since the Hardenbergh Patent of the 1700s. OSI and DEC worked together to accommodate the family’s desire to retain their farmhouse and adjacent agricultural fields.
South Mountain rises 2,190 feet high near the west shore of the Ashokan Reservoir and is connected to the 3,091-foot Ashokan High Point Mountain by a ridgeline. The new acquisition adds to the 30,100-acre Sundown Wild Forest, which covers a large swath of the southeast Catskills, including several ridges and 10 mountains over 2,000 feet.
Since 2017, OSI has protected more than 1,350 acres adjacent to Sundown Wild Forest. OSI has also funded the engineering and feasibility study for the Ashokan Rail Trail, a new multi-use trail which is currently being built on the north side of the Ashokan Reservoir by Ulster County.
The EPF is a critical resource for environmental programs such as land acquisition, farmland protection, invasive species prevention and eradication, recreation access, water quality improvement, and environmental justice projects. Among the many environmental victories in the 2023-24 State Budget, Governor Kathy Hochul maintained EPF funding at $400 million, the highest level of funding in the program's history. The EPF also provides funding for critical environmental programs such as climate change mitigation, farmland protection, invasive species prevention and eradication, enhanced recreational access, water quality improvement, and an aggressive environmental justice agenda.