Woodbury, NY (January 18, 2024)— Building on a 40-year commitment to land conservation in the Hudson Highlands, the Open Space Institute (OSI) today announced the acquisition of property in the Town of Woodbury that will create a critical, off-road trail connection for the Highlands Trail, which extends nearly 180 miles through New York and New Jersey. Almost completely forested, the property safeguards sources of clean drinking water in fast-growing Orange County.
The “Northern Ventures” property consists of three parcels, together totaling 169 acres. The parcels are expected to be transferred to New York State as an addition to Schunnemunk State Park.
OSI’s protection of the land will provide a potential route for three miles of the Highlands Trail to be redirected offroad, creating safer conditions for walkers, hikers, runners, and bikers, and supporting local, nature-based tourism. Now that the land is permanently conserved, there is also the potential to add new access points to the Highlands Trail and nearby protected lands in the future. OSI will work with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation and the Palisades Interstate Park Commission to allow hiking and other forms of passive recreation prior to transferring the property to state ownership.
OSI has protected more than 3,300 acres to create and expand Schunnemunk State Park. Located within a biologically rich area of the western Hudson Highlands informally known as the “Black Rock Forest to Schunnemunk Mountain Conservation Corridor,” the property is adjacent to two previous OSI acquisitions that were transferred to New York State as additions to Schunnemunk State Park. Together, the properties comprise more than 1,100 acres of forestland between Black Rock Forest and Schunnemunk State Park.
The Northern Ventures property also surrounds and protects wells that are part of the Village of Woodbury’s public drinking water system, which tap into a sand and gravel aquifer in the Woodbury Creek corridor. Additionally, these forested wetland and headwater areas are critical to absorbing and storing water during flooding events in the Moodna and Woodbury Creek watersheds.
“This is OSI’s third land protection project in the corridor between Black Rock Forest and Schunnemunk Mountain in the towns of Cornwall and Woodbury. We are proud to have assembled more than 1,100 acres of forested land that will keep this landscape connected for people and wildlife, offer safer recreation options, and protect drinking water resources,” said Dene Lee, OSI’s vice president of Northeast land.
“I am thankful for the Open Space Institute’s work in protecting these critical connections in the Hudson Highlands,” State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said. “This work creates more space for outdoor enthusiasts to discover a stunning area of New York, protects the region’s ecology, and supports the local economy.”
Palisades Interstate Park Commission Executive Director Joshua Laird said, “The Commission is pleased to work with our partners at OSI and NYS Parks to add this parcel to Schunnemunk State Park and to Legacy Ridge. The addition of this land is one more step towards a broader goal of connecting public lands throughout the Hudson Highlands region and will provide exciting new recreational opportunities for visitors to our parks. In one of the fastest growing areas of New York State, it is critical that we work together to conserve and protect natural lands for their ecological value, as places of beauty and public enjoyment, and as habitat for local wildlife.”
“The Highlands West region of Orange County abounds in biodiversity, water resources, and vast recreational potential for the public,” said Jim Delaune, executive director of the Orange County Land Trust. “We applaud OSI for their vision and leadership as they continue to make significant headway in this priority region.”
"We are thrilled and thankful to see the Open Space Institute’s continued commitment to building a more connected landscape across the Black Rock Forest to Schunnemunk Mountain Conservation corridor. Conservation of the Northern Ventures property brings us one step closer to realizing our shared vision of a resilient landscape with improved watershed protections, enhanced recreation opportunities for the public, and connected wildlife corridors,” said Dr. Isabel Ashton, executive director at Black Rock Forest.
"The flora and fauna of the Hudson Highlands will benefit yet again from the work of OSI. This acquisition further enhances the connectivity and resiliency of the landscape, directly benefiting the bobcats and other species navigating their increasingly fragmented habitats," said Dr. Scott LaPoint, director of research at Black Rock Forest.
“New York-New Jersey Trail Conference has led the development of the Highlands Trail since its inception. We value enormously the work of OSI and the success our partnership has had for trail protection throughout the Hudson Valley. Over the last decades we have sought to connect people with the natural beauty of the Highlands and supported local and landscape level conservation efforts by elevating the Highlands’ outdoor recreation potential. This new acquisition represents an important step for all the partners developing the Highlands Trail towards realizing our vision for a unique and enjoyable hiking experience through this spectacular region,” said Zachary Cole, long-distance trails program coordinator at the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference.
OSI purchased the Northern Ventures property for $850,000.
Protection of the property supports the ongoing fight to mitigate the effects of climate change. Mature forests can sequester up to 35 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions each year. The Northern Ventures property is almost completely forested, allowing the capture and storage of significant amounts of carbon. According to OSI’s data analysis, the property stores more than 15,125 metric tons of carbon in total, or nearly 98 metric tons per acre, in soils and trees.
The property is also rated as “far above average” for landscape diversity, containing multiple types of wildlife habitats and serving as home to a diversity of plant and animal species. Rated as “above average” in terms of resilience, the property is uniquely positioned to continue to support a broad array of plants and animals even as the climate changes.
Protection of the Northern Ventures property supports breeding trout populations in nearby high-quality streams, including Mineral Springs Brook, Trout Brook, and Woodbury Creek. Audubon New York has designated the property as part of an Important Bird Area (IBA) and the property has also been identified as critical habitat for birds, including the cerulean warbler, the wood thrush, and the blue-winged, worm-eating, and prairie warblers.
The property was listed as a priority acquisition in OSI’s Highlands West Trail Connectivity Plan, which highlights opportunities to permanently protect and enhance the region’s landscape. The plan proposes steps toward connecting the region’s Highlands Trail network to provide recreational opportunities for residents and visitors, protect critical wildlife habitat, and safeguard local watersheds.
About OSI in the Region
The Open Space Institute protects scenic, natural, and historic landscapes to provide public enjoyment, conserve habitat and working lands, and sustain communities. Founded in 1974 to protect significant landscapes in New York State, OSI has been a partner in the protection of nearly 2.3 million acres in North America.
OSI has protected more than 38,000 acres in the Highlands West region. At Schunnemunk State Park alone, OSI protected nearly 3,300 acres to create, expand, and improve the park for public benefit and enjoyment.
Schunnemunk State Park offers ridge-top views of the Hudson Highlands to the east, and the Shawangunks and Catskills to the west. OSI’s latest projects in the area, including the Highlands West Trail Connectivity Plan, seek to expand the region's recreational trail network, preserve scenic views, and protect the area from overdevelopment.