New York State Announces Grant for Gunks Greenway Project

Date: 
04/23/2012
Source: 
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference

View of southern Gunks Greenway.

The Trail Conference Will Leverage State and Matching Funds for Southern Gunks Greenway Project

The New York-New Jersey Trail Conference is among 53 New York land trusts that will receive funding for land preservation work in 2012-2013 from the Conservation Partnership Program. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Land Trust Alliance announced grants, totaling $1.4 million, April 23 in Rochester. These grants are funded through New York State’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) and will be matched by a total of $1.2 million in private and local funding.

On April 3, the Conservation Alliance, a national group of outdoor industry companies, announced a grant of $35,000 to the Trail Conference for the Gunks Greenway project.

The purpose of the grants is to increase the pace, improve the quality, and ensure the permanence of voluntary conservation of private lands, which will result in significant environmental and economic benefits for communities throughout New York.

The $27,000 grant to the Trail Conference will support a major project in the Southern Gunks Greenway.  This project combines education and land acquisition to create an unbroken greenway linking the Catskill Forest Preserve and the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area—the two largest groupings of public lands in the nation’s most densely populated region. After more than a decade of successful efforts, the Trail Conference and its partners are poised to complete this important recreation and wildlife corridor.

The Southern Gunks are a portion of the Shawangunk Ridge stretching roughly 25 miles northeast from the state line at High Point, New Jersey, to the (Northern) Gunks comprised of Sam’s Point Preserve, Minnewaska State Park and Mohonk Preserve. (See map “Shawangunk Ridge Priority Assemblages.”) The Shawangunk Ridge, as it is called in New York, is a geologic feature that stretches hundreds of miles and is known as the Kittatinny Ridge in New Jersey, Blue Mountain in Pennsylvania and Maryland, and North Mountain in Virginia. Across all five states there is a protected corridor along the ridge, except in the Southern Gunks.

Since 2000, the Trail Conference has conveyed 1,342 acres of forested lands to New York State for the Southern Gunks Greenway. Additionally, the Trail Conference has assisted in the protection of another 2,148 acres, and is currently holding 284 acres pending transfer to NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.

The work of the Trail Conference and others—including the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Open Space Institute, Orange County Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy, and the Trust for Public Land—has created a mostly unbroken corridor along the ridge. The primary gaps remain at the most southerly 10 miles between High Point and Otisville. The Southern GunksGreenway has progressed to the point where the acquisition of as few as 13 parcels and/or easements are needed to complete a continuous protected corridor.

A growing appreciation of the economic value of nature-based tourism, along with the depressed real estate market, present a unique opportunity to complete the corridor.

Years of engagement and cooperation with public planning authorities—including NYSDEC, Orange County Planning Department, Real Property Office and Legislature—as well as municipal authorities,have put the Trail Conference in a position to enlist these entities in a concerted effort to establish this important recreational greenway and wildlife corridor. The Trail Conference’s 1,600 members residing in Orange County will be an important asset for the grassroots advocacy needed to accomplish this goal.

“Through the hard work of New York’s many land trusts, the Conservation Partnership Program continues its important role in improving quality of life  by enabling environmental, social and economic improvement projects in urban, rural and suburban settings,” said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. “Land conservation benefits New York’s residents, visitors, environment and economy.”

Trail Conference Executive Director Ed Goodell thanked the Conservation Partnership Program for its support of the Gunks Greenway project. “We are very excited by this latest demonstration of support from New York State and the Land Trust Alliance. Past funding from the Environmental Protection Fund has been critical to getting the project to where it is today—a nearly complete protected natural corridor, something that in the beginning many considered to be an impossible dream.”