WAWARSING, NY (May. 23, 2023)— The Open Space Institute (OSI) announced the acquisition of land in the Town of Wawarsing permanently protecting a swath of scenic and highly visible land on the Shawangunk Ridge southeast of the village of Ellenville. The site is renowned as one of the best hang-gliding locations on the East Coast. Now permanently protected from future development, OSI’s acquisition safeguards the longstanding recreational use of the property, protects the local viewshed from adverse development, and is a critical step toward establishing regional trail connectivity of protected forested lands.
OSI purchased 64 acres of the property in Ulster County, which is located adjacent to the popular Bear Hill Preserve and the nearly 1,500-acre Shawangunk Ridge State Forest, for $500,000 from a conservation-minded landowner. An adjacent 16-acre parcel will be retained by a local hang-gliding organization subject to stringent conservation restrictions designed to allow continued use of the land for hang-gliding while protecting the property from adverse development.
The project was completed soon after OSI announced its acquisition of the 1,000-acre Shawangunk-Catskill Connector property, also located in the Town of Wawarsing. To protect the Shawangunk Ridge viewshed, OSI has protected more than 230 acres in the local area, including this project and five previously protected parcels.
“With each significant property protected along the Ridge, OSI is advancing our commitment to save the land that we love and depend on most for the health and enjoyment of our families and our communities,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s president and CEO. “Just 75 miles north of New York City, this newly protected property will provide enhanced opportunities for outdoor recreation on and along the Ridge, and also increase access to regional trail networks.”
“People visit our town from around the globe to hike, bike, and especially to hang glide at this world-famous location. The scenic beauty of the Shawangunk Ridge and the surrounding areas, and the many outdoor activities these natural formations support, are a truly special quality of the area,” said the Town of Wawarsing Supervisor, Terry Houck. “I’m glad the Open Space Institute has permanently protected this property from development so that we can continue to enjoy outdoor recreation, a protected local viewshed, and ecotourism.”
The rugged and scenic hang glider property is adjacent to more than 55,000 acres of Shawangunk Ridge property, of which more than 36,000 acres have been protected by OSI over the past 40 years.
OSI’s protection of the property has the potential to provide increased recreational access to both the 73-mile long Shawangunk Ridge Trail, a regional hiking trail that OSI and its conservation partners have developed along the spine of the Shawangunk Ridge, and the Long Path, a 328-mile-long regional hiking trail. The acquisition also supports ongoing efforts to move both trails off-road, a goal which, if completed, will enhance public safety.
The ridgetop property contains a portion of the southernmost large cliff on the Shawangunk Ride, as well as a talus field containing an ecologically rare ice caves talus community. The site has been recognized by the New York Natural Heritage Program as a conservation priority for its ecological and geological importance and was also identified as a priority acquisition in the New York State Open Space Plan.
The property’s unique location and natural features, including steep slopes rising approximately 1,350 feet above sea level and a launch site perfectly angled for take-off, produce ideal conditions for hang-gliding. In addition to hang-gliding, the property being acquired by OSI will allow additional recreational uses including walking, hiking, and snowshoeing.
OSI permanently protected the property with additional support from an anonymous donor.
About the Open Space Institute
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, initially to protect significant landscapes in New York State, today, OSI has been a partner in the protection of over 2.3 million acres in North America.
Over the past 40 years, OSI has protected more than 36,000 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.