Cragsmoor, NY - October 9, 2003 - The Eastern New York Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the Open Space Institute, Inc. held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Sam's Point Preserve Conservation Center today in Cragsmoor, New York. Sam's Point Preserve is a 5,400 -acre preserve on the Shawangunk Ridge, renown for spectacular vistas, dramatic ice caves, and globally rare dwarf pitch pine barrens. The Preserve is a cooperative conservation project of the Open Space Institute (OSI), The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and numerous local partners. The Center will provide visitors, volunteers and students with in-depth information about the intriguing ecology and human history of Sam's Point.
Landscape restoration at the Preserve entrance, and a 3,000 square foot educational center, are slated for completion early next summer. Designed to compliment the dramatic cliffscapes of the Preserve, the building will reflect the geology of the Shawangunks, as well as the architectural vernacular of the historic arts and crafts era Cragsmoor community. Designed by Matthew Bialecki Associates, the Center will employ environmentally sustainable building practices.
The center will present exhibits to inform and inspire visitors, and will serve as a home for stewardship, scientific research and educational and volunteer programs related to the Shawangunks. Exhibits will draw on the unique geological history of the Preserve as well as the rich and varied social history of the surrounding region. Landscape restoration of damaged areas, nature trails, an outdoor educational pavilion for local schools groups, improved signage and parking and a picnic area for families are all part of the plan. “The entrance to Sam's Point will be transformed from a dusty, loosely defined parking area to visually inviting and informative place - an immediate welcome to the special ecology and beauty of Sam's Point,” said Cara Lee, the project manager and Director of The Nature Conservancy's Shawangunk Ridge Program.
The Open Space Conservancy, the land acquisition affiliate of the Open Space Institute, acquired the Sam's Point Preserve in a series of transactions that culminated in 1997. According to OSI's president, Joe Martens, the two highest summits in the entire 245-mile Shawangunk Range are located at the Sam's Point Preserve. The preserve is managed by The Nature Conservancy. In addition to developing the Conservation Center, The Conservancy provides public hikes, manages hunting on the preserve and works with a corps of more than 60 local volunteers on trail maintenance and other aspects of stewardship. “Our conservation partnership has resulted in Sam's Point being managed both for recreation and protection, and the Conservation Center will provide a wonderful opportunity for people to gain better appreciation for the Shawangunks,” said Joe Martens, President of the Open Space Institute.
The Northern Shawangunks are widely recognized as one of the most important sites for biodiversity conservation in the northeastern United States. The ridge supports more than 35 natural communities, with five that are globally rare. Sam's Point Preserve is home to the world's best example of dwarf pine ridge community, where more than 30 rare plant and animal species can be found, leading The Nature Conservancy to designate the ridge as one of Earth's “Last Great Places” for landscape-level biodiversity conservation. “This new center will help people who visit the Shawangunks better understand this distinctive and fragile ecosystem and the importance of protecting it,” said Carol Ash, Executive Director of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, and manager or the neighboring Minnewaska State Park Preserve.
Funds for the project are from public and private sources, with a substantial grant from the Clean Water/Clean Air Bond Act.