Overlook Mountain House
Approximately an hour and a half into a short but strenuous hike that climbs 1,400 feet above the artful village of Woodstock, one passes the skeletal remains of the charming old Overlook Mountain House hotel, the most famous of all the original Catskills resorts. Shortly thereafter, continuing further up a flattened path, cool breezes and a 60-foot fire tower greet the weary hiker at the apex of the climb and stunning, miles-long views of the rolling hills of the Hudson River Valley and the Ashokan Reservoir culminate the journey.
Fifty years ago, residents from New York City began making the connection that the mountainous Catskill terrain was easily accessible from the city, ushering in unparalleled recreational growth and a new era of appreciation for the mountains. Woodstock was also a hub for creativity and progressive thought, undoubtedly inspired by the almost divine nature of the nearby mountains.
Today this majestic landscape is still admired and enjoyed by more than a million visitors annually. And due to a recent cooperative effort by the Open Space Institute (OSI), the Woodstock Land Conservancy (WLC) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the landscape and a significant portion of Overlook Mountain will remain intact as a forever wild part of the Catskill Forest Preserve.
OSI and WLC teamed to help facilitate the DEC’s acquisition of three separate properties: the 210-acre Woodstock Guild of Artist and Craftsmen parcel, the 92-acre Berg parcel, and the 28-acre Illjes parcel — all of which will become additions to the state’s 590-acre Overlook Mountain Wild Forest, where people come each year to hike, camp, hunt and trap.
The natural beauty of Overlook Mountain Wild Forest provided the backdrop for another famous American movement: the 19th-century Hudson River School of landscape painters.
“Overlook Mountain has enjoyed a prominent place in America’s natural and cultural history, and is considered by many as the birthplace of the Hudson River School of Painting,” said Jennifer Grossman, OSI’s vice president of land acquisition.
“Now, due to the successful partnership OSI has forged with DEC and the WLC, this eastern Catskill escarpment of commanding panoramic views will forever provide unique natural habitat for threatened wildlife and unmatched recreational opportunities for current and future generations of New Yorkers.”
Since its inception 40 years ago, OSI has protected 100,000 acres in New York State for public use and benefit. The Catskills, in particular, have been a focal point of the organization’s efforts since day one, with more than 20,000 acres conserved to benefit wildlife, protect recreational areas and farms, and to ensure the purity of the watershed that provides drinking water for nine million New Yorkers each day.
OSI has been working with WLC since 2001 to protect Overlook Mountain — acquiring over 390 acres on the flank of the mountain in that time. A number of additional acquisitions are in the planning stages, and could result in the protection of several hundred more acres adjacent to existing state forestland. DEC paid a total of $784,000 for the recently protected parcels using the Environmental Protection Fund.
“As one of the most recognizable landmarks on the eastern escarpment of the Catskill range that provides stunning backdrops to the Town of Woodstock, Overlook Mountain has long enjoyed a prominent place in America’s natural and cultural history,” DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis said. “DEC will continue to partner with local governments and land trusts to protect precious properties like Overlook Mountain throughout the Catskill Forest Preserve.”
Michael DeWan, past president of the WLC who led the “Save Overlook” campaign said:
“This is the culmination of years of hard work, and thanks are due to the hundreds of Woodstockers and folks from all over who responded to our call to protect our beloved Overlook. We are immensely grateful to be able to realize this long-held dream, now a reality, and for the people of the State of New York and beyond to enjoy its wild, rugged beauty forever.”