NEW YORK, NY — April 7, 2009 — Working steadily over the years, the Open Space Institute (OSI) is gradually assembling one of the largest nature preserves in the Hudson River Valley on the highest reaches of the Shawangunk Ridge. The Sam’s Point Preserve, as it is now known, is a globally unique ecosystem that protects thousands of acres of pristine ridge-top land and pumps vital tourist dollars into local economies every year.
Earlier this month, OSI acquired 35 additional acres of undeveloped mountainous land on the eastern side of the ridge, as the conservation group chips away at its goal of a 7,500-acre Sam’s Point Preserve. Consisting of two separate purchases from two of the preserve’s neighbors, the parcels protect the headwaters of the Verkeederkill Stream and the eastern escarpment of the Ridge as it looks out over the town of Shawangunk.
Tens of thousands of people visit the Sam’s Point Preserve each year for a variety of recreational opportunities, including hiking, cross-country skiing, hunting and other pursuits. The recent acquisitions will protect scenic views from the hiking trail to Verkeederkill Falls, and contain extensive rock-walled crevices, slabrock and pitch pines. OSI will eventually add the land to the adjacent Minnewaska State Park Preserve.
OSI’s land acquisition affiliate, the Open Space Conservancy, made the acquisitions with funds from the Lila Acheson and DeWitt Wallace Endowment, a permanent fund that was transferred to the Open Space Conservancy in 2001.
“The big picture here is that we started assembling the Sam’s Point Preserve in 1991, and over the years, and through ten subsequent acquisitions, it’s grown to about 5,700 acres,” said Joe Martens, OSI’s president. “We’ve kept adding to it over the years, and we think in the next 15 to 20 years this is going to be one of the flagship preserves of the Hudson River Valley.”
After conserving a handful of smaller, adjacent parcels in the early 1990s, OSI officially created the Sam’s Point Preserve in 1997 with a breakthrough purchase of 4,780 acres from the Village of Ellenville. Formerly known as Ice Caves Mountain, the area had been owned by the village and used for a variety of purposes for almost a century. It was named one of the “75 Great Places in the Western Hemisphere” by The Nature Conservancy, which partnered with OSI on the Ellenville acquisition and helps manage the properties today as a publicly-supported nature preserve.
The OSI purchases have protected Sam’s Point, the highest summit in the Shawangunks; Indian Rock; deep, glaciated ice caves; the Verkeederkill Stream; and an immense, globally rare pitch pine barrens. OSI anticipates that it will be able to purchase enough adjacent land from willing sellers over the next two decades to bring the preserve to as much as 7,500 acres, protecting important plant and animal habitat and increasing access for recreation in the Shawangunks.
In 2007 OSI transferred a 4,000-acre portion of Sam’s Point, consisting of rare dwarf pitch pine barrens, stark quartz cliffs and underground ice caves, to the Minnewaska State Park Preserve. This property had been off the tax rolls for nearly a century as village-held watershed land, but with the transfer to the Minnewaska State Park Preserve, New York State is now paying local real property taxes to the Village of Ellenville, Ellenville Central school district, and other local taxing jurisdictions.
In addition to its rare ecological features, Sam’s Point is flanked by tens of thousands of acres of conserved land—Minnewaska State Park Preserve and Mohonk Preserve to the north, and several thousands of acres of state forest preserve land stretching along the spine of the Shawangunk Ridge as it winds its way through Sullivan and Orange counties to the New Jersey border near Port Jervis.
“The protection of the Shawangunk Ridge is one of OSI’s core programs, along with the protection of the Adirondack Mountains, Catskill Mountains and other important jewels in and around the Hudson River Valley and the Capitol District,” Martens said. “It is a strikingly pretty and ecologically important landscape which hopefully will be enjoyed by the residents of the Hudson River Valley for many generations.”