Urgent Call to Protect the Long Path and Highlands Trail

August 11, 2017
Staff
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference

Title

Urgent Call to Protect the Long Path and Highlands Trail
Long Path and Highlands Trail: Proposed Greenway Corridor, Orange County, NY

Body

Your help is urgently needed to save the Long Path and the Highlands Trail from being severed by major residential development!

The creation of Palm Tree, a new town in Orange County, N.Y., proposed by officials from the Village of Kiryas Joel, will likely lead to intense development where the Long Path and Highlands Trail co-align. According to the Times Herald-Record:

“The [proposed] territory now consists of Kiryas Joel - including 164 acres the village annexed in 2015 - and 56 acres outside the enlarged village, all of which would be detached from the Town of Monroe to become the first new town in New York state in 35 years. The original petition given to the Legislature last year to form a new town had encompassed Kiryas Joel and 382 additional acres - or 218 acres after the annexation, which is still being contested in court.”

The Issue

At this time, vacant parcels along the first half-mile of Seven Springs Road adjacent to the proposed Palm Tree borders create a rural character for the long-distance Long Path and Highlands Trail. If a green corridor is not protected, development poses a major threat to critical access for these multi-state trails. (Find a larger version of the proposed greenway corridor here.)

The undeveloped land connecting Gonzaga Park and the Heritage Trail in Monroe is the last refuge for the two long-distance trails that co-align here. This critical pinch point forms a vital greenway connecting two state parks: Schunnemunk Mountain and Goose Pond Mountain. If the land around Seven Springs Road is developed, the hiking experience on these trails will be negatively impacted and the parks isolated.

We are asking for the creation of a green corridor between Gonzaga Park at Seven Springs Mountain Road and Museum Village Road to protect the Long Path and Highlands Trail.

Why It Matters

These are not inconsequential trails. Both trails are listed on the New York Open Space Conservation Plan as part of their green corridors initiative, which aims to “maintain an interconnected network of protected lands and waters enabling flora and fauna to adapt to climate change,” and to “strategically preserve, restore, and/or create a matrix of natural systems sufficiently complex and interconnected to be self-sustaining while performing the critical natural functions necessary to sustain us.” The Open Space Plan Policy recommends “landscape-scale conservation in order to assure connectivity among [already] protected lands to provide greenways and wildlife migration routes.”

The 358-mile Long Path connects New York City at the George Washington Bridge with the John Boyd Thatcher Park in Albany County, while the 150-mile Highlands Trail connects the Delaware River in New Jersey to the Hudson River at Storm King Mountain.

These greenways are a cooperative effort of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, conservation organizations, state and local governments, and local businesses actively working to preserve lands on either side of the trails to establish much-needed green corridors connecting state and county parks for both wildlife and people. Without a formal agreement to protect the land for these trails, there will be nowhere else to go.

How You Can Help

Contact your elected officials today and ask them to protect the Long Path and Highlands Trail by making the creation of a green corridor between Gonzaga Park at Seven Springs Mountain Road and Museum Village Road a condition of their upcoming vote. Find their contact info and talking points below.

  • Send in your comment before the deadline on close of business Thursday, August 17, to Legislature Clerk Jean M. Ramppen, at Jramppen@orangecountygov.com. Feel free to create your own letter or use the template provided here.
  • Speak at the public hearings. Early arrival is recommend; sign up on arrival.
    • Tuesday, August 15, at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Valley Elementary School Auditorium, 45 Route 32, Central Valley, New York, 10917
    • Wednesday, August 16, at 6:30 p.m. at the Bais Rachel Paradise Hall, 5 Israel Zupnick Dr, Monroe, New York, 10950
  • Contact your county district legislator. Don’t know your local representative? Contacts are listed on page 6 of this Orange County Reference Guide.
    • A map of numbered legislative districts can be found here.
  • Let the County Executive Office know why this critical issue needs their support:
    • County Executive Steve Neuhaus  845-291-2700
    • County Clerk  Hon. Annie Rabbitt  845-291-2690

Further Information