On Feb. 25, SUNY New Paltz hosted a public engagement session with Mohonk Preserve to discuss and draft plans for the new Mohonk Preserve Foothills.
Last September, the Preserve bought more than 850 acres of land from the Open Space Institute (OSI) and made plans to open it up to the public. The OSI’s land acquiring affiliate, Open Space Conservancy, bought the property from Smiley Brothers, Inc. (SBI). Negotiations with the Preserve began immediately, and a plan to open publicly was underway.
According to an OSI press release, the foothills consist of “three historic farms, hundreds of acres of open fields…forested hills and streams, and important segments of a historic carriage road system that dates back to the late 1800s.”
The final plan for this site will be revealed to the community in a couple of weeks, but preserve spokesperson Gretchen Reed said this is only the beginning.
“Over the coming years, Mohonk Preserve plans to incrementally purchase sections of the land from OSI as resources permit,” Reed said. “In the meantime, the Preserve is already actively studying and managing the OSI lands, designated as the Mohonk Preserve Foothills, and planning future conservation uses.”
About 80 people showed up to hear what the Preserve has planned. Important speakers included the Preserve’s Director of Conservation Science John Thompson, Executive Director Glenn Hoagland and Michael Rudden of Dimella Schaffer, the consulting firm who chose the Preserve’s land management plan.
Emphasizing the land’s agricultural roots, Thompson gave a speech about the use of farming, tanning and charcoal production in and around the area.
The foothills are part of New York’s water supply and home to many state protected species of birds. There are also rare state plants who cannot survive without the foothills’ wide grasslands, according to the press release.
Hoagland said the land would be open to both resort visitors and hikers with day passes to roam and sightsee as they wish. However, the final presentation insisted that both the historical and biological aspects of the foothills would be protected.
OSI’s press release said this transfer will be “one of the largest and most high-profile in the Hudson Valley in recent years,” but all parties say the farms affected can go about their usual business.
Hoagland confirmed that the Brook Farm CSA will continue leasing property, and cattle and haying operations will run normally. Any issues that occur will be handled in cooperation with both the town of New Paltz and Ulster County.
The foothills take up most of the eastern part of Shawangunk Ridge. They were originally a part of the Mohonk Mountain House resort, owned and operated by SBI for 142 years.