NEW YORK, NY — July 26, 2011 — The Open Space Institute (OSI) announced today that it has agreed to purchase 874 acres of scenic and historic lands on the eastern escarpment of the Shawangunk Ridge from Smiley Brothers, Inc. (SBI), which owns and operates the historic Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, NY. The dramatic and well-known landscape, which has enormous recreational value for the general public and which preserves a large swath of active agricultural land west of New Paltz, is one of the most prominent open space acquisitions in New York State in recent years.
The acquisition is expected to close later this year, and includes three scenic and historic farms, hundreds of acres of open fields, rolling forested hills and streams, and important segments of the historic carriage road system that was constructed for Victorian guests of Mohonk Mountain House in the late 1800s.
The land will be acquired by OSI through the Open Space Conservancy, its land acquisition affiliate, and includes 857 acres of scenic lands along Route 299, Butterville Road, Gatehouse Road and Pine Road west of the village of New Paltz. Included in the acquisition is the Testimonial Gateway, a four-story stone structure at the intersection of Gatehouse Road and Route 299 that served for many years as the main entrance to the Mohonk Mountain House resort.
OSI is also acquiring 17 additional acres of forested land located near the entrance to the nearby Minnewaska State Park Preserve in the town of Rochester. This parcel is an important inholding to the park preserve and includes the last stretch of historic carriage road connecting the Mohonk Preserve and the Minnewaska State Park Preserve that is still in private ownership.
The lands being acquired by OSI are among the last large tracts of open space on the Shawangunk Ridge, and are clearly the jewel of the range. The property includes a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) operation known as the Brook Farm Project with over 150 members, and will provide recreational and educational opportunities for area residents, school groups and the general public. The Mohonk Preserve will play a key partnership role with OSI in developing a long-term plan for sustainable stewardship, recreation and conservation management. SBI will retain an adjacent 1,350 acres of land on which it will continue to own and operate the historic Mohonk Mountain House, which has been continuously operated by five generations of the Smiley family for 142 years.
"We are delighted to partner with OSI and the Mohonk Preserve to ensure the protection of this iconic landscape for future generations," said Albert Smiley, president of SBI. "We are taking this step to guarantee the necessary stewardship of the land for public recreation, education, environmental research and to support the continuation of sustainable community farming operations."
OSI has submitted the proposed acquisition to the town of New Paltz Planning Board so that the lands can be subdivided from the balance of the SBI lands. Because the property is being acquired for preservation and will be accessible to the public for recreational and educational use, no development of the property is being proposed. OSI also anticipates continuing the long-term agricultural use of the property, which until World War II provided much of the food for the guests of Mohonk Mountain House.
This acquisition continues OSI's longstanding initiative for the preservation of land along the 50-mile Shawangunk Ridge, which stretches from Rosendale, NY 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 20 active farms in the two valleys—the Rondout and the Wallkill—that straddle the Shawangunk Ridge.
"OSI and the Smiley family have long been tremendous partners with us in preserving special places in the Gunks," said Mohonk Preserve Executive Director Glenn Hoagland. "We are committed to a high-level collaboration with OSI to ensure active conservation and public use of this culturally and environmentally significant landscape."
"It is hard to imagine a more enduring legacy than the permanent conservation protection of the Mohonk Mountain House lands on the Shawangunk Ridge, and the opportunity to protect the land is a testament to the Smileys' enlightened stewardship," said Kim Elliman, OSI's president and CEO. "These lands capture the majesty of the Gunks, and OSI is honored to play a role, in conjunction with the Mohonk Preserve, in their permanent protection and in keeping them accessible to the public.