May 30, 2015 — In our top story, this month something momentous has happened for the
Hudson Valley outdoors community: after twenty years of hard work, visitors can
now make reservations at the first public campground serving the rock-climbing
areas of the Shawangunk Ridge.
For decades, even as the Gunks’ reputation has grown, hikers,
leaf-peepers and out-of-area visitors have not had quality public campsites on
the Ridge. The opening of the new Samuel F. Pryor III Campground in Gardiner—named
for an avid outdoorsman and giant of the New York land conservation community—will
for the first time give visitors and the climbing community a safe, affordable base
camp with comfort facilities within walking distance of some of the Ridge’s
most scenic sites. It’s so gratifying to see this long-time dream finally
become a reality, on lands assembled and protected by OSI, and with facilities
supported by our capital grants.
After all, projects that improve access to conserved natural areas are
an important part of our work. A park should be more than a protected patch of
grass and trees; it is about forming a place that helps people escape outdoors,
spins dollars into their community, and makes them love and take ownership of
this gift, forever.
The campground reminds us of how important strong recreational
communities are to parks. Minnewaska
State Park Preserve and its dedicated rock climbers are a major example, while
a more local example is Wawarsing’s Lippman Memorial Park and its community of avid
Visit Mohonk or Minnewaska, and you may encounter them beside the
trails: climbers in colorful helmets suspended by ropes, scaling sheer rock faces
by their fingertips and the tiny contact area made between the rock and the rubber
soles of their shoes. Since 1935, when the first pioneering European climbers
arrived in America, the Shawangunks have remained one of two premier
rock-climbing venues in the US, due to the area’s signature cliffs—ancient,
compressed layers of sand and quartz.
Nearly 50,000 climbers flock to the Shawangunks each year for its
world-class climbing. Making the area easy to access has paid dividends to the local
economy: a study of Minnewaska found that, whether they’re coming for rock-climbing,
hiking or other reasons, visitors contribute a total of $16.2 million yearly to
regional shops and stores. Through the years, the Open Space Institute has more
than doubled the size of this park, and it’s been amazing watching our
conservation impact extend beyond the park gates.
West of Minnewaska in the Rondout Valley is the hamlet of Wawarsing. Here,
in 2000, the Open Space Institute partnered with the Trust for Public Land to
purchase the Lundy Estate, the once-private realm of a famed New York City
restauranteur that had been slated for a theme park.
Today, the part of the estate that became
Wawarsing’s Lippman Memorial Park is enjoying its second career: that of a single-track
bike course. Using donated time and materials, dedicated groups of local
residents have built the bike course down trails outside the main area of the
park. It’s become a place to enjoy the company of friends and the thrill of
being outdoors. What is more, finding a fun, safe outlet in Mother Nature—away
from today’s usual digital distractions—is doubly rewarding for the residents
of the rural towns along the western side of the Ridge. For these small places,
a mountain bike track can
Stream and listen to Erik on the Your Environment podcast.