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The Open Space Institute and New York State add 1,000 acres to Minnewaska

NEW YORK, NY —January 14, 2014 — Commemorating a nearly quarter-century effort, the Open Space Institute has added 1,068 acres to Minnewaska State Park Preserve through the transfer of the Sam’s Point Preserve in Ulster County. The addition of the property, known for its spectacular views and striking cliffscapes, will enhance the protection of the scenic Shawangunk Ridge and expand tourism opportunities in the ‘Gunks. Sam’s Point is located in the hamlet of Cragsmoor, to the south of the Mohonk Preserve and adjacent to Minnewaska.

The land was acquired by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) from the Open Space Conservancy, OSI’s land acquisition affiliate, which purchased the parcel in 1997 with assistance from The Nature Conservancy and other partners. The Nature Conservancy’s Eastern New York Chapter has managed the preserve since 1997 and opened its “green” Conservation Center in 2005.

“Thanks to the leadership of Gov. Cuomo, New York State is strengthening its remarkable conservation legacy with these additions to Minnewaska State Park Preserve,” said Rose Harvey, commissioner of New York State Parks. “We are grateful to our partners at the Open Space Institute and The Nature Conservancy for their vision and dedication to the protection of the Shawangunk Ridge, and look forward to continuing to welcome visitors to this extraordinary landscape.”

Over 20-plus years, OSI and its partners have more than doubled Minnewaska’s size, with the end result an over 21,000-acre park preserve, all permanently protected and accessible to the public—and less than 100 miles from New York City.

“Through dozens of acquisitions, both big and small, OSI is proud of our success in doubling the size of Minnewaska State Park Preserve over the past 25 years. We salute New York State and Gov. Cuomo, along with our many friends and partners who have joined to protect one of the most spectacular landscapes on the East Coast," said Kim Elliman, OSI’s CEO and president. “And through our Alliance for New York State Parks program, we are moving to improve the quality of the visitor experience at the park through such projects as carriage road restoration and a new visitor center.”

For OSI, the transfer is part of a much larger, ongoing vision to permanently preserve the Shawangunk Ridge.

Adding Minnewaska’s acreage to the 28,000 acres OSI has protected elsewhere on the Shawangunk Ridge and the 4,000 acres of farmland it has preserved in the Rondout and Wallkill valleys, the organization has protected more than 50,000 acres along the 50-mile ridge from Rosendale to Port Jervis. OSI’s long-term vision is to continue this work, so that someone could ultimately walk directly from the Delaware Water Gap at the New Jersey/Pennsylvania line up to the Catskills—all on preserved land.

The state’s acquisition includes the preserve entrance, Sam’s Point, the much-visited promontory that is the highest point along the entire Shawangunk Ridge; the 56-acre Lake Maratanza, the Loop Road, the Ice Caves Trail and the Conservation Center, and is home to one of the world’s few examples of a high elevation dwarf pitch pine barrens, as well as nearly 40 rare plant and animal species.

Other lands added to Minnewaska State Park Preserve in related recent transactions include a parcel containing the last stretch of historic carriage road not already owned by the park or the Mohonk Preserve; the South Gully, an enormous ravine on the west side of Minnewaska that includes the South Gully Brook, six scenic waterfalls and a stretch of the Long Path trail; and a scenic summit known as Mount Don Bosco.

These properties, along with Sam’s Point and the related acquisitions, are being purchased by the state for approximately $4.5 million through the Environmental Protection Fund. As part of the transfer agreement, OSI and The Nature Conservancy have created a $3 million endowment that will be used for the future management of Sam’s Point Preserve. The Nature Conservancy will continue to manage Sam’s Point through June 2015, when management will be assumed by OPRHP.

“The Nature Conservancy is proud of the stewardship we have provided at Sam’s Point Preserve since 1997 and our collaboration with OSI and State Parks has resulted in a win-win for the protection of the unique resources of the Shawangunks and for New York State residents and visitors,” said Cara Lee, TNC’s Shawangunk Ridge program director. “This adds a new chapter to the extraordinary conservation history of this remarkable natural resource.”

The property now known as Sam’s Point Preserve was previously known as the “Ellenville Tract” and was owned by the village of Ellenville. In the 1960s, the property was managed commercially as “Ice Caves Mountain,” attracting thousands of visitors annually to enjoy the scenery and natural features. During this time, the property was designated a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service due to its unique geological features and the presence of rare plants.

Tens of thousands of visitors come to the Shawangunk Ridge each year to enjoy the natural beauty of the region and recreational opportunities that include rock climbing, hiking and biking. A recent study found the three main recreational areas in the region—the Mohonk Preserve, Minnewaska State Park Preserve and Sam’s Point Preserve—have a combined economic impact on the local area of about $12.3 million and support 358 local jobs.

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