OSI to protect 1,000 acres of the Shawangunks Ridge and Farmlands

NEW YORK, NY — September 14, 2011 — The Open Space Institute (OSI) announced today that it had completed the acquisition of 874 acres of historic and scenic lands on the eastern escarpment of the Shawangunk Ridge from Smiley Brothers, Inc. (SBI), the family that has owned and operated the historic Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, NY for 142 years.

The property, which was acquired by the Open Space Conservancy, OSI’s land acquisition affiliate, includes three historic farms, hundreds of acres of open fields, rolling forested hills and streams, and important segments of a historic carriage road system that dates back to the late 1800s.

OSI also announced today that it is under contract to acquire 144 additional acres of farmland from the Valley Farms Corporation, owned by Jehovah’s Witnesses. These lands, which sit along the western bank of the Wallkill River, have been farmed for hundreds of years, and include the extensive agricultural “flats” that lie between the village of New Paltz and the Shawangunk Ridge.  

The Valley Farms transaction is expected to be completed within two weeks. Once it is finalized, OSI—through the two acquisitions—will have protected more than 1,000 acres along one of the Hudson Valley’s most prolific landscapes.

“The Smiley Brothers property that is being preserved by OSI represents part of the iconic views which are the symbol of New Paltz,” said Toni Hokanson, the New Paltz town supervisor. “This property is ranked near the top of the town’s Open Space Plan, and I am thrilled that OSI has also found this a priority. This purchase by OSI keeps the town’s Open Space funding available for other locations. We are pleased to have OSI as a partner in accomplishing our Open Space Plan goals.”

The Smiley lands were acquired today in two separate parcels. The first, which includes the four-story stone Testimonial Gateway at the intersection of Gatehouse Road and Route 299, is an 857-acre expanse along Route 299, Butterville Road, Gatehouse Road and Pine Road west of the village of New Paltz.

The second Smiley parcel is a 17-acre tract of forested land located near the entrance to Minnewaska State Park Preserve in the town of Rochester. This parcel includes the last stretch of historic, Victorian-era carriage road connecting the Mohonk Preserve and the Minnewaska State Park Preserve that is still in private ownership.

Together, the Smiley and Valley Farms acquisitions will not only protect one of the last large tracts of open space on the Shawangunk Ridge, but also account for (and protect) more than 30 percent of the active farmland in the 12,000-resident town of New Paltz. The now permanently preserved landscape forms much of the open space for the western portion of the town of New Paltz, and represents one of the largest and most high-profile land transfers in the Hudson Valley in recent years. 

“These lands, thanks to the good management of their owners, offer an opportunity to pursue an agricultural landscape and economy while providing both residents and tourists exceptional vistas from the Shawangunk Ridge, the Wallkill River and the town of New Paltz,” said Kim Elliman, OSI's president and CEO. “This transaction is a win for both local and New York State residents in terms of preserved farmland, protected vistas and continued employment and economic activity. We at OSI have been delighted to work with such enlightened landowners as the Smiley family and the Valley Farms Corporation.”

The two acquisitions also continue OSI’s longstanding conservation initiative along the 50-mile Shawangunk Ridge, which stretches from Rosendale south to Port Jervis in Orange County. Over the past 25 years, OSI has protected 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. OSI has also protected 27 active farms, totaling more than 4,500 acres, in the two valleys—the Rondout and the Wallkill—that straddle the Shawangunk Ridge.

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