The Open Space Institute (OSI) announced today its acquisition of one of the largest additions to the Sam’s Point Preserve portion of Minnewaska State Park Preserve since creation of the Preserve in 1997. The project fulfills a priority acquisition of the New York State Open Space Plan while protecting scenic waterfalls flowing through the world-renowned Minnewaska State Park Preserve.
The largest remaining tract of privately-held open space on the Shawangunk Ridge, the scenic, 615-acre “South Escarpment” property (map and photos here) is visible throughout much of the Hudson River Valley. Adjacent to the well-known Ellenville Ice Caves, the parcel’s acquisition will also enhance trail access to Sam’s Point via the eastern slope of the Shawangunk Ridge.
Purchased by OSI for $621,000, the South Escarpment property is the seventeenth and second-largest acquisition by OSI in the Sam’s Point area of Minnewaska State Park Preserve since 1991, bringing all the lands protected by OSI at Sam’s Point to over 10,000 acres and protecting virtually all of the area’s globally-rare pitch pine barrens. The project is the latest success in building Minnewaska, a recreational mecca visited by nearly 370,000 people every year. Through a series of expansions spearheaded by OSI, Minnewaska is now the third-largest state park in New York.
“The successful conservation of the South Escarpment property will significantly enrich opportunities for outdoors enthusiasts and help protect the unique pine barrens ecosystem enjoyed by so many,” said Kim Elliman, President and CEO of OSI. “We are thankful to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and proud of our role in building this spectacular park.”
“New York State is fortunate to have the Open Space Institute’s sustained commitment to the stewardship of the Shawangunks, and I am grateful for this latest effort to protect these unique resources for the benefit of New York State residents and visitors,” said State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey.
A priority acquisition of the New York Open Space Plan since 1992, the South Escarpment property also furthers the protection of a major portion of the Verkeederkill stream, which drains the eastern side of the Sam’s Point plateau and tumbles down a series of magnificent waterfalls and cascades that have delighted generations of hikers.
Over the past 30 years, by way of over 45 transactions totaling $50 million on the Shawangunk Ridge and valleys, OSI and its partners, including New York State, have worked to more than double the size of the state park preserve—including the 1995 acquisition of the Ellenville Ice Caves.
Building on this longstanding momentum, in 2015 OSI along with Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Rose Harvey, Commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation unveiled plans for a $7.3 million project to create a much-needed gateway experience at Minnewaska State Park Preserve through a new, 6,000 square foot visitor center. OSI has pledged to raise $3 million in private funds to support the center, which will better accommodate the growing number of visitors to the stunning Shawangunk destination, and deliver design and construction services.
Situated atop the Shawangunk Ridge in Ulster County, the 23,000-acre park preserve features dozens of panoramic views of the Hudson Highlands, Catskill Mountains and the farmland of the Wallkill and Rondout Valleys. It also features impressive sky lakes and waterfalls, and is a world-class rock-climbing location. With 35 miles of historic carriage roads and nearly 40 miles of footpaths, the park welcomes a wide range of hikers and bikers. Naturalists also enjoy the park’s globally-rare, high-altitude pitch pine barrens, which along with the matrix of chestnut oak forest that surrounds them, provide habitat for abundant flora and fauna, both rare and common.
Looking ahead, OSI intends to hold South Escarpment property until potential future acquisition by State Parks.