April, 3, 2015 —As New York slowly unthaws into Spring, more and more people
will engage in a yearly tradition: flocking to parks across the state for
outdoor fun. From hiking to swimming, one of the best places to go is just 60 miles
from New York City: Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park.
Every year, Fahnestock welcomes an astounding quarter-million
people who use the park to hike, swim, camp, bike, birdwatch, fish, ski and
showshoe. With so many enthusiastic visitors, it’s clear how grateful people
are for this park. What many don’t
know, however, is the moving story behind the founding of Fahnestock, which truly
was built by the spirit of philanthropy.
In 1914, the park’s namesake, Clarence Fahnestock, a Harvard
man and scion of a prominent banker, was firmly a member of Manhattan’s
intellectual and societal elite and enjoying the pinnacle of a flourishing
medical career. When World War I broke out across Europe, however, he gave up
his practice to join the Army as a line officer. In 1918, he succumbed to the devastating
Spanish Influenza in Chaumont, France, while
treating patients with the disease.
In 1929, Dr. Ernest Fahnestock chose to honor his younger
brother’s legacy of sacrifice with a donation of former farmland for a park. Through
the years, others have built on the Fahnestock brothers’ generosity with gifts
of their own, growing the park piece by piece. Since OSI became involved, we
have spearheaded a movement to add 7,000 acres, doubling Fahnestock to its current
14,000 acres and creating a regional economic driver stretching across Putnam
and Dutchess counties.
Today, nearly 90 years after its creation, there are still
more exciting new developments at Fahnestock. Just this week, OSI closed on a
deal to preserve an adjacent property, called Roaring Brook. Long targeted for
development, the property is now conserved after years of local advocacy. Going
forward, OSI will convey it to New York State Parks to expand recreation and
protect sensitive species in the area. Roaring Brook will forever maintain its
current natural setting of changing elevations, wetlands, rocky outcroppings
and swaths of oak and hemlock forests.
In addition to Roaring Brook, there are developments afoot
at Fahnestock’s Canopus Lake visitor complex, which is a part of Ernest
Fahnestock’s original land donation creating the park. Over the past two years,
OSI has been raising money and support for a major overhaul of the
deteriorating beach and recreation area there. To date, the Alliance has raised
$1.2 million in private funds and grants towards this effort, which we are
putting toward updating the lifeguard facilities, rejuvenating services for the
park’s ten miles of groomed trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, and
improving energy efficiency at the site.
When Dr. Ernest Fahnestock gave the land to create the park
in 1929, he could have had no way of foreseeing the cherished escape it would eventually
become for the modern generation of park-goers.
Truly, for generations to come, it will be amazing to see
the impact that the land preservation we set in motion today will have on
tomorrow’s New York.
Stream and listen to Erik on the Your Environment podcast.