Introductions will soon be in order: High Point, New Jersey, meet Minnewaska State Park; Fahnestock State Park, meet Hudson Highlands State Park. And meet they will, after years of effort on both sides of the Hudson to create unbroken greenways linking one famous outdoor paradise to another.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Land Trust Alliance, on April 23 in Rochester’s Seneca Park, announced 53 Conservation Partnership Program grants, totaling $1.4 million. The grants, funded through New York State’s Environmental Protection Fund, will be matched by $1.2 million in private and local funding.
Notably among these gifts, a $27,000 EPF grant to the New York New Jersey Trail Conference will support a major project in the Southern Gunks. This project will create an unbroken recreation and wildlife corridor linking the Catskill Forest Preserve and the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.
The Southern Gunks, part of the Shawangunk Ridge, stretch about 25 miles northeast from High Point, N.J., to the Northern Gunks, which comprise Sam’s Point Preserve, Minnewaska State Park and Mohonk Preserve. The Shawangunk Ridge, as it is called in New York, is a geologic feature stretching hundreds of miles. In New Jersey, it’s called the Kittatinny Ridge; in Pennsylvania and Maryland, Blue Mountain; and inVirginia, North Mountain. In all five states, the ridge is protected from development — except in the Southern Gunks.
The announcement of the grants came just 20 days after the Conservation Alliance, a national group of outdoor-industry companies, announced its own grant of $35,000 to the NYNJTC for the Southern Gunks project.
The biggest unprotected areas of the Southern Gunks are in their most southerly 10 miles, between High Point and Otisville. Now, the acquisition of just 13 parcels and/or easements is needed to complete a continuous protected corridor.
The NYNJTC sees its 1,600 members who live in Orange County as an important asset for the grassroots advocacy needed to purchase, and thereby protect, these parcels.
Another grant of local interest was a $16,000 grant to the Hudson Highlands Land Trust, a local land conservation organization based in Garrison, for its Jaycox Park-to-Park Connection Project. Those monies will facilitate a joint effort between the HHLT, New YorkState, and other partners to permanently protect a 50-acre parcel of land and create a long sought-after link between Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve and Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park.
Recent research underscores how investments in land conservation and open space boost property values, support local businesses, save taxpayer dollars, and protect public health. A study released in February by the Trust for Public Land found that every dollar of investment fromNew York’s Environmental Protection Fund generates seven dollars in additional economic benefits from tourism, reduced government costs and improved public health. A 2010 report on the economic benefits of open space from the New York State Comptroller recommended the Conservation Partnership Program as a model for public- private collaboration because it leverages substantial resources for local efforts to preserve clean air and water resources, agriculture, and outdoor recreational.
The Hudson Highlands Land Trust is a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the natural resources, rural character, and scenic beauty of the Hudson Highlands. For more information on the HHLT, call 845-424-3358 or visit www.hhlt.org.