New York, NY - January 7, 2005 - This morning, the Open Space Institute announced the protection of 665 acres at Surprise Lake Camp in the heart of the eastern Hudson Highlands in Philipstown, New York.
“Surprise Lake Camp was one of the last large tracts of open space in Putnam County,” said OSI President, Joe Martens. “It's highly unusual to find this type of unprotected and yet unfragmented landscape in the Hudson Highlands, particularly in Putnam County, one of the fastest growing counties in the State,” said Martens. Surprise Lake Camp lies just beneath the historic escarpment of Breakneck Ridge, according to Martens. Breakneck Ridge, to the east of the Hudson River, and the adjacent Storm King Mountain, to the west of the river, form the Northern gateway to the Hudson Highlands. The southern Gate is located near Anthony's Nose.
The Open Space Institute has protected many properties between the two gates, effectively protecting several miles of critical Hudson River shoreline. To the west of the Hudson, OSI worked with the State of New York to create Schunnemunk Ridge State Park and to the east, OSI has added lands to Hudson Highlands State Park and Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park. The latter has doubled in size as a result of OSI's long-term partnership with New York's Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP).
State Parks Commissioner Bernadette Castro said "With this announcement, we are grateful to the Open Space Institute and Surprise Lake Camp for their successful protection of this 665-acre property adjacent to Hudson Highlands State Park. This scenic parcel offers compatible use with our parkland and is yet another important step in the overall protection of the Highlands for the future."
According to Open Space Institute's CEO, Kim Elliman, land conservation in the Hudson Highlands has been a top organizational priority since OSI's first land acquisition efforts in the 1970s. “The Highlands are part of a larger chain of mountains — the Appalachians — running 2,100 miles from Maine to Georgia. Development pressure from the New York City metropolitan area is moving northward into the Highlands and quickly consuming large swaths of this rugged landscape. In response to this threat, OSI is working with public and private partners to protect open space in the Highlands and the broader Appalachian Mountains.”
With the protection of 665 acres at Surprise Lake Camp, the Open Space Institute has now protected close to 11,000 acres in the Hudson Highlands. At Surprise Lake Camp, OSI acquired 200 acres in “fee,” or outright acquisition, and protected an additional 465 acres through conservation easement. The latter is a purchase of development rights that severely limits development and prevents fragmentation of the landscape.
According to Jennifer Grossman, OSI's Vice-President for land acquisition, Surprise Lake Camp has been a summer retreat for young children since 1902. “The Camp has been an outstanding steward of the land, and as a result, Surprise Lake and its surrounds are as pristine as they were at the turn of the 20th century. The landscape is largely forested and contains important wildlife habitat, especially for the endangered Timber Rattlesnake, as well as mountain streams, including the picturesque Breakneck Brook, that winds its way down to the Hudson River,” said Grossman
"We applaud the Open Space Institute for preserving Surprise Lake, a gem of the Hudson Highlands,” said Tom Gilbert, Executive Director of the Highlands Coalition. "Protection of this key parcel adds to the significant acreage that the Open Space Institute has already conserved in the Highlands region."