May 1, 2015 — Trail trekkers and tourists alike were recently very enthusiastic about
the latest news out of Minnewaska State Park Preserve in Ulster County. The
popular state park preserve grew by 602 acres in April after the New York State
Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation acquired land we at the
Open Space Institute had conserved—which means more year-round trail access for
biking, hiking and general escaping into nature.
The new lands will also further protect the Witch’s Hole Conservation
Area, a wild and remote part of the preserve. Located on the west side of the
Shawangunk Ridge, this is a place for the serious hiker to experience scenic
waterfalls and panoramic vistas in an ancient bowl-shaped hollow carved out by
These 602 acres are just the newest addition to the park preserve,
whose 23,000 acres are studded with world-class rock climbing, sky lakes for
swimming, and panoramic landscape views atop the Shawangunk Ridge. Since its
creation in 1993, the word has gotten out about the state’s third-largest park.
A recent visitor survey commissioned by the Open Space Institute revealed
who comes to the park preserve most often, and what they like to do.
Significantly, 52 percent of all visitors originate from outside the counties
immediately surrounding Minnewaska, hailing from locations upstate or
downstate, from New York City, or outside the state. While at the park, they
enjoy hiking—especially along the park’s Victorian-era carriage roads, recently
restored by OSI—as well as photography and unwinding in nature.
What is more, these visitors have an impact on the greater economy:
between food and beverage, outdoor clothing and entertainment purchases, in all
it is estimated that patrons contribute a total of $16.2 million yearly to
regional shops and stores through purchases en route to and from the park.
The visitor survey also captured the enthusiasm the park enjoys from
its diverse user base.
“This place is a gift!” one visitor said.
“This is the only decent place for long-distance swimming in the area,”
said a swimmer. “Actually, I’ve swum around the world during my career in the
Navy, and this place is the most sublime.”
I can second these sentiments, as a frequent visitor to Minnewaska
myself. I like to travel there with my daughters and lose track of time
wandering over the pine-needle paths or scrambling up boulders.
Days like this make me so proud of OSI’s work. Over a 20-year period,
OSI and its partners have more than doubled Minnewaska to its current size of
about 23,000 acres. The park features numerous waterfalls, three crystalline
sky lakes, dense hardwood forests, sheer cliffs and ledges opening to beautiful
views, clear streams cut into valleys, and 35 miles of carriageways and 25
miles of footpaths.
Take some time this spring to unplug and get outside at Minnewaska or
somewhere near you.
Enjoy your next
Stream and listen to Erik on the Your Environment podcast.