Open Space Institute Makes Land Purchase

The Open Space Institute (OSI) announced their $8.8 million purchase of 874 acres of land from Smiley Family Inc. on Wednesday, Sept. 14.

The Smiley family has owned and run the Mohonk Mountain house in New Paltz for 142 years and possess land in Rochester, N.Y., of which 17 acres were also sold to OSI.

The sale was split into two transactions. The first consists of the 857 acres of property stretched alongside Route 299, Butterville Road, Gatehouse Road and Pine Road West just outside the village of New Paltz. The sale also includes17 acres of forest land close to the entrance of Minnewaska State Park Preserve in the upstate city of Rochester.

Both properties include historic farms and carriage roads dating back to the 19th century. These momentous assets will remain under private ownership, as will the remaining 1,350 acres surrounding the Mohonk Mountain Resort, all of this information coming from a recent press release.

According to a press release, OSI is a company based in New York City geared towards purchasing valuable land and preserving the property and the resources it contains. In New York alone, 110,000 acres of land have been protected due to their efforts. In addition, they have aided in the conservation of land throughout the North East.

Bert Smiley, president of the Mohonk Mountain house, contacted OSI.

“We made contact out of a shared desire to protect the very special landscape and provide opportunities for recreation, education, scientific research, and sustainable farming,” he said.

The president felt that this was their best option.

“I’m sure there could have been other options for the sale of this land since it is beautiful land, but we chose not to pursue other possibilities because we felt our objectives could best be achieved by partnering with OSI.”

The recent acquisition of the Smiley land has stirred some responses from other members of the community.

“This property is ranked near the top of the town’s Open Space Plan, and I am thrilled that OSI has also found this a priority. This purchase by OSI keeps the town’s Open Space funding available for other locations. We are pleased to have OSI as a partner in accomplishing our Open Space Plan goals,” Toni Hokanson, New Paltz town supervisor, said in a press release.

Rachel Lagodka, SUNY New Paltz alumna and environmentalist working for the Village of New Paltz Environmental Conservation, shared a similar opinion.

She said that, “with land, people think, ‘I can put a housing development on [it]’…but it can ruin our water table, ruin the view people see each day they drive by. Something like this beautiful land, it’s valuable to preserve it. I think in general it’s a good deal.”

Although she believes that because land is part of nature it has no monetary value is crucial to maintain open space, especially in an area like New Paltz where flooding is extensive.

“[Nature] is irreplaceable. Once you destroy land, it’s gone and you can never get it back,” said Lagodka.