Photo Credit: Jerry Monkman

Your Environment Podcast

Kim Elliman talks about our latest acquistion of the Watchtower property in New Paltzon
the monthly Your Environment podcast. Stream and listen to Your Environment
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March 6, 2015 – It is hard to believe it is March already. With Spring around the corner, I’ve been thinking about the significance of our land preservation work, and my many memories of open spaces.

If you are like me, the setting of where an experience took place becomes integral to how you remember it. In this way, the landscapes of the past are interwoven with our present. Walking on the school campus under a canopy of leaves, hiking in the mountains to a soundtrack of bird calls and waterfalls, or wandering through the neighborhood to dislodge the static of a busy day—I carry these locations around with me always, even when I am not in nature, and recalling them helps me to unwind.

At the Open Space Institute, we are very excited to have helped preserve a crucial property that will forever maintain that defining sense of place for a community in the Hudson Valley.The property, called Watchtower, is the last link in preserving the landscape stretching from New Paltz’s downtown to the Shawagunk Ridge, and is key to the area’s geographic and cultural identity. Step outside in New Paltz today and look west and you will immediately see a wave of blue-green hills coated with downy snow, with a tower rising on that ridge.

After the announcement of Watchtower’s preservation in late February, residents from New Paltz could immediately enjoy access to the vividly unique landscape that defines their town. The Open Space Institute and its partners Mohonk Preserve, the Town and the Village of New Paltz, and the Black River Environmental Improvement Association worked overtime to groom cross-country trails on the property for the community to enjoy the season’s perfect ski conditions. On a recent day in early March, skiers ranged from residents to visitors from the city to a speedy, synchronized collegiate ski team.

Thanks to the Open Space Institute’s recent acquisition, residents from New Paltz’s downtown will always have immediate access to this vividly unique landscape that defines it—and more.

The “more” is that this newest preserved property will allow OSI, working with the Mohonk Preserve, Wallkill Valley Land Trust, Town and Village of New Paltz and other partners, to develop a network of recreational trails beginning at the Carmine Liberta Bridge at the Wallkill River, and run west across the New Paltz Flats and Butterville Hills to connect to the larger network of recreational trails and destinations on the Shawangunk Ridge.

Preserving the land will also allow creation of the premier network of recreational trails on the east coast, attracting visitors to ski, hike, bike and enjoy an unparalleled network of carriage roads and rail trails that spans the width and length of Ulster County. When completed, this recreational trail network will include the extensive carriage road networks on the Shawangunk Ridge, running from Sam’s Point to the northernmost reaches of the ridge in Rosendale, and connect to rail trails that will run from the Walkway Over the Hudson to the high peaks of the Catskill Mountains as well as from Kingston down to Ellenville and points south.

We are excited that our long-running work in New Paltz has resulted in a public good for the community. It is also gratifying to think that it was secured without requiring the town to tap into bond funds, and that it will stay on tax rolls as an agricultural property—benefitting the public in many more ways than one!

At the Open Space Institute, we are motivated to conserve land for many reasons, from ecological benefits to economic. But I think at its essence, perhaps the reason many of us chose to work in this field is because of our happy memories around campfires, on hikes with friends, or under trees at the city park. Conserving a property like Watchtower is so satisfying, since it means not only are we preserving a beautiful landscape but also future generations’ ability to create similar memories to ours.






















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