Village Awarded Grant to Improve Nature Preserve

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Hudson River Valley Greenway has awarded the Village of New Paltz a $5,000 grant for improvements to the Millbrook Preserve. Mayor Tim Rogers announced the grant on Wednesday, Jan. 13 during a Village board meeting.

The grant will fund improvements related to access of the Millbrook Preserve at North Manheim Street. Construction began in December 2015, and is expected to finish in December 2017.

The village originally applied for an $11,000 grant from Greenway. The $5,000 grant is closer in value to a modified award the village suggested, and will go towards one of the Preserve’s several trailheads.

The grant from Greenway comes at a time when the village is seeking funds from a variety of sources. The village had applied for a $200,000 grant from the New York office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, but did not receive the award, said Mayor Rogers during the village board meeting.

In an effort to continue raising money, the village has selected Peter Bienstock to lead a fundraising campaign that is expected to run the remainder of the year.

Bienstock is a resident of Princeton, New Jersey and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. He currently fulfills various roles in the Open Space Institute, Storm King Art Center, Huguenot Historical Society and others.

Bienstock is also the former property owner of land that now belongs to the Millbrook Preserve. Forty years ago Bienstock, purchased the property from the Bank of North America that acquired the land through a foreclosure. Ninety of the 150 acres Bienstock purchased were sold to the Woodland Pond retirement community.

Working alongside Bienstock is the group Friends of Millbrook Preserve. The group’s director, New Paltz Town Board Councilwoman Julie Seyfert Lillis, says the first item on their agenda is to draw up a budget of $200,000-$250,000.

The funds are likely to go towards signage, parking lots, trailheads and a nature classroom housed in a cabin. The Mohonk Preserve has already granted $2,000 for items such as magnifying glasses and dip nets. Bienstock is confident his campaign will raise the necessary funds, but recognizes the donor fatigue that hinder fundraising. In addition to monetary donations, he hopes families and contractors will give their time and resources to complete the project. A not-for-profit in the Hudson Valley has already agreed to provide signage for the preserve, Bienstock said.

Half of the money raised will be placed in an endowment for a preserve curator. This individual would be knowledgeable of animals and plants, and would take responsibility for the maintenance of the preserve.

Bienstock’s enthusiasm for the preserve is justified. It will offer New Paltz residents greater access to a natural preserve that is a short walk from Main Street.

Furthermore, Bienstock hopes to structure the campaign so the preserve will be financially self-sufficient. The result: residents won’t be charged for admission, nor will tax money be used for preserve maintenance.