That is expanding New York State's protection of open space and ensuring the conservation of significant blocks of contiguous forest land.
The new parkland includes 946 acres at Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve in Dutchess and Putnam Counties; 179 acres at Schunnemunk State Park in Orange County; and a 33-acre property that will provide better access to the adjacent Appalachian Trail and nearby Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park in Putnam County.
The new lands include 926-acres of the Scofield Ridge, representing the largest remaining private tract in the Hudson Highlands and a significant ecological and biodiversity corridor through the 8,900-acre park.
The Scofield Ridge property, acquired from Scenic Hudson, links Breakneck and Fishkill Ridges, and permanently protects portions of the Wilkinson Memorial, Notch, and Breakneck Ridge Trails - which are public trails maintained by State Parks, along with volunteers from the New York/New Jersey Trail Conference.
The ridge is highly visible from many publicly accessible viewsheds, including the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, the Newburgh Waterfront, and the Hudson River. In addition, a 20-acre parcel will provide a connection between Arden Point on the Hudson River with the remainder of Hudson Highlands State Park.
State Parks has acquired a 179-acre property in the town of Cornwall from the Open Space Institute that will expand trail connections and protect a major Orange County watershed containing significant wildlife habitat.
The property will serve as part of a future critical trail connection between Schunnemunk State Park, the not-for-profit Black Rock Forest, and Storm King State Park.
Longer-term plans for a rail trail by Orange County would allow that trail connection to extend further south to Goosepond State Park. Almost completely forested, the newly acquired State land includes a significant portion of wetlands within the Moodna Creek, which Orange County identifies as a critical watershed.
The property also presents an opportunity to re-route a portion of the proposed Highlands Trail to an off-road location, creating safer conditions for walkers, hikers, runners, and bikers to safely enjoy these protected lands; reducing human-wildlife conflict; and supporting local, nature-based tourism.
The 33-acre property adjacent to the Appalachian Trial will be added to Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park.
The addition provides a crucial buffer to the historic Appalachian Trail from future residential development and safeguards the area's natural resources for wildlife habitat.
The property, also acquired from OSI, features an old farm road which has the potential to provide safe, off-road parking and a new trailhead, offering hikers, runners and cyclists a new entrance point into Fahnestock State Park and the Appalachian Trail. ■