Outdoors | Tourism | State Parks In The Hudson Highlands To Grow By 1200 Acres To Promote Outdoor Activities

State Parks In The Hudson Highlands To Grow By 1200 Acres To Promote Outdoor Activities

Recently it was announced by Governor Kathy Hochul that there will be an addition of nearly 1,200 acres to three state parks in the Hudson Valley.

Recently it was announced by Governor Kathy Hochul that there will be an addition of nearly 1,200 acres to three state parks in the Hudson Valley. That will expand New York State's protection of open space and ensure the conservation of significant blocks of contiguous forest land. The new parkland includes 946 acres at Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve in Dutchess and Putnam Counties; 179 acres at Schunnemunk State Park in Orange County; and a 33-acre property that will provide better access to the adjacent Appalachian Trail and nearby Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park in Putnam County. 

"One of my favorite pastimes is exploring the different activities and stunning views at our state parks, and with this expansion we will have even more beautiful views and trails for New Yorkers to experience," Governor Hochul said. "Preserving open space and expanding our parks also helps to protect the environment, create new access for outdoor recreation, and boosts the local economy. Our State Parks are some of New York's greatest natural treasures - and I'm excited to expand access to the great outdoors for future generations." 

The new lands include 926-acres of the Scofield Ridge, representing the largest remaining private tract in the Hudson Highlands and a significant ecological and biodiversity corridor through the 8,900-acre park. The Scofield Ridge property, acquired from Scenic Hudson, links Breakneck and Fishkill Ridges, and permanently protects portions of the Wilkinson Memorial, Notch, and Breakneck Ridge Trails - which are public trails maintained by State Parks, along with volunteers from the New York/New Jersey Trail Conference. The ridge is highly visible from many publicly accessible viewsheds, including the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge, the Newburgh Waterfront, and the Hudson River. In addition, a 20-acre parcel will provide a connection between Arden Point on the Hudson River with the remainder of Hudson Highlands State Park.

State Parks has acquired a 179-acre property in the town of Cornwall from the Open Space Institute that will expand trail connections and protect a major Orange County watershed containing significant wildlife habitat. The property will serve as part of a future critical trail connection between Schunnemunk State Park, the not-for-profit Black Rock Forest, and Storm King State Park. Longer-term plans for a rail trail by Orange County would allow that trail connection to extend further south to Goosepond State Park. Almost completely forested, the newly acquired State land includes a significant portion of wetlands within the Moodna Creek, which Orange County identifies as a critical watershed. The property also presents an opportunity to re-route a portion of the proposed Highlands Trail to an off-road location, creating safer conditions for walkers, hikers, runners, and bikers to safely enjoy these protected lands; reducing human-wildlife conflict; and supporting local, nature-based tourism.

The 33-acre property adjacent to the Appalachian Trial will be added to Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park. The addition provides a crucial buffer to the historic Appalachian Trail from future residential development and safeguards the area's natural resources for wildlife habitat. The property, also acquired from OSI, features an old farm road which has the potential to provide safe, off-road parking and a new trailhead, offering hikers, runners and cyclists a new entrance point into Fahnestock State Park and the Appalachian Trail. 

State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, "These acquisitions continue New York State's vital work to protect open space and expand interconnected trail networks within the majestic Hudson Highlands. I'm thankful to Governor Hochul and our conservation partners for their dedication to creating much-needed parkland and protecting our environment."

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro said, "Parklands are invaluable assets for communities - providing opportunities for recreation, physical and mental wellness in the great outdoors. Dutchess County is proud to offer an expansive county parks system and we are fortunate to be home to spectacular state and federal park properties as well. The expansion of nearly 1,200 acres in the Hudson Highlands, including the Hudson Highlands State Preserve that straddles Dutchess and Putnam Counties is wonderful news. We are grateful to Scenic Hudson for their stewardship of the Scofield Ridge property and their efforts to see it become public parkland for all to enjoy in partnership with New York State and Governor Hochul."

Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus said, “I appreciate that Governor Hochul has taken these important steps to preserve for future generations to enjoy. Schunemunk Mountain is Orange County’s highest peak and a popular tourist attraction. The protection of this open space in our beautiful County is something that we can all take pride in.”

Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell said, "The state's addition of 33 acres of land to Clarence Fahnstock Memorial State Park and more than 900 acres to Hudson Highlands State Park is an investment that Putnam County residents and visitors will appreciate for generations to come. To preserve so much open space in the sought-after Hudson Valley is a gift to hikers, cyclists and all who just love to watch the leaves change on these hills, and it comes at a time when outdoor activities mean more than ever."

Seth McKee, Executive Director, The Scenic Hudson Land Trust, Inc. and Land Programs, said, "Scenic Hudson is delighted to transfer Scofield Ridge to New York State, linking the northern and southern sections of Hudson Highlands State Park and assuring permanent public enjoyment of trails long enjoyed by hikers. Adding this land to the park also ensures that its unspoiled natural resources will continue sustaining the Highlands' globally important biodiversity and help safeguard drinking water sources on which many nearby communities depend."

Kim Elliman, president and CEO of the Open Space Institute, said, "From creating Schunnemunk Mountain State Park and working with NYS to grow this 3,300-acre hiking mecca, to improving public access in and around Fahnestock State Park and the Appalachian Trail, OSI's work is making parks and protected land more available and welcoming for all who visit to explore and enjoy these spectacular landscapes. Thanks to the strong leadership of Governor Hochul and Commissioner Kulleseid, local partners, and the cooperation of private lands owners, OSI's is continuing our long history of leveraging partnerships to further the ecological and recreational connectivity of some of the state's most popular and scenic outdoor destinations."

Palisades Interstate Park Commission Executive Director Joshua Laird said, "This new addition to Schunnemunk State Park helps protect important watershed lands along the Moodna Creek and expands critical wildlife habitat. It also creates added connectivity for our network of parks in the Hudson Highlands, which is good for visitors and wildlife. The Palisades Interstate Park Commission is grateful to Governor Hochul, State Parks Commissioner Kulleseid and the Open Space Institute for their leadership and efforts that made this acquisition possible."

State Parks partnered with Scenic Hudson Land Trust to protect the Scofield Ridge lands, and the Open Space Institute to protect the lands at Arden Point, Schunnemunk, and Fahnestock State Parks. A combination of $9.7 million in funding from the state's Environmental Protection Fund and the federal Highlands Conservation Act Fund was used to acquire the four parcels.

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In this article:   Nature | New York State Parks | Governor Kathy Hochul | Environment | Hudson Highlands |
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