NEW YORK, NY — January 20, 2010 — Together with the town of New Paltz, the Open Space Institute has acquired a conservation easement that will protect 52 acres of open fields, meadows and wildlife habitat in the scenic Ulster County town.
The acquisition of the easement is the first transaction to use funds from the landmark $2 million Clean Water and Open Space Protection Bond Act that New Paltz voters approved three years ago. Based on the scenic, agricultural and ecological values of the property—a landscaping nursery known for its open fields and meadows—the New Paltz Clean Water and Open Space Protection Commission identified the property as a high priority for protection. Using bond funds, it is sharing with the Open Space Conservancy, OSI’s land acquisition affiliate, the purchase price of the $200,000 easement.
The property is distinctive for its expansive view across open, wet meadows along the course of the Kleinekill Creek at the base of the wooded Shawangunk Ridge. The easement was conveyed by the property owners, Vernon and Barbara Palmateer, who have owned and operated the nursery on the adjoining property since 1972.
“When we purchased this place 37 years ago we had a good idea of keeping a portion of it forever wild,” said Vernon Palmateer. “We think it’s a great thing for the town. And now all the little critters that live down in the fields here—they might not know it, but they’re going to have a place to live.”
Adopted in 2006, the Clean Water and Open Space Protection Bond Act marked the first time that Ulster County residents authorized the creation of funding for open space conservation. Similar acts were passed in the Ulster County communities of Marbletown and Gardiner around the same time.
“I am thrilled that the Open Space Institute has partnered with the town of New Paltz on this project,” said Town Supervisor Toni Hokanson. “Not only are we preserving an important habitat corridor and watershed area, but the partnership with OSI allows the town to stretch its conservation dollars.”
The Wallkill Valley, where the parcel is located, is the northern terminus of an immense “ridge and valley” system that starts in the southern Appalachians and runs northeasterly for hundreds of miles. At its northern terminus in Ulster County, the Wallkill Valley and its sibling, the Rondout Valley, straddle the Shawangunk Ridge on the east and west. These valleys and the ridge are the epicenter of a substantial amount of conservation work undertaken by OSI and other conservation groups over the last 30 years. In that time, OSI has protected more than 26,000 acres on the Shawangunk Ridge and nearly 3,000 acres of farmland in the Wallkill and Rondout valleys.
“The preservation of this property, using Open Space bond funds for the first time, expands the protection of landscapes that are important to OSI—the Shawangunk Ridge and the Wallkill Valley,” said OSI President Joe Martens. “It protects important views along Mountain Rest Road and prime habitat along the Kleinekill.”
Conservation easements restrict the development and subdivision of a property. The landowner retains ownership of the land and may pass it on or even sell the land, although the terms of the easement must be adhered to by future owners.
The protected property is nestled on the eastern side of the Shawangunk Ridge, forming part of the scenic backdrop of the village of New Paltz. The property has more than 1,000 feet of frontage along the Kleinekill (known locally as the Humpo Creek), and falls within an area designated by New York State as an “Important Animal Habitat Area” for several varieties of rare turtles and salamanders. A wooded area on the property provides connectivity between the lowland and ridge forest and protected lands. Just to its south, a 300-acre portion of the Kleinekill Creek and associated wetlands have already been protected by the Mohonk Preserve.
The property is a half-mile mile west of the Jewett and Khosla farms, two Huguenot farms that were protected by OSC and the Wallkill Valley Land Trust in 2006 as part of the “Two Farms” campaign.