OSI protects land between Schunnemunk and Black Rock Forest

Woodbury. The acquisition of the “Northern Ventures” property helps protect local sources of clean water, as well as area flaura and fauna, and will eventually add more hiking opportunities to the region.

| 19 Jan 2024 | 01:05

The Open Space Institute (OSI) on January 18 announced the acquisition of property in the town of Woodbury that will create an off-road trail connection for the Highlands Trail, which extends nearly 180 miles through New York and New Jersey.

The “Northern Ventures” property include three parcels for a total of 169 acres. The parcels are expected to be transferred to New York State as an addition to Schunnemunk State Park. OSI purchased the Northern Ventures property for $850,000.

OSI says its stewardship of the land will provide a potential route for three miles of the Highlands Trail to be redirected off-road, “creating safer conditions for walkers, hikers, runners, and cyclists, and supporting local, nature-based tourism.” OSI added that this acquisition could also result in new access points to the Highlands Trail and nearby protected lands in the future. The organizations will work with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation and the Palisades Interstate Park Commission to ensure that hiking and other outdoor activities will be allowed prior to transferring the property to state ownership.

“New York-New Jersey Trail Conference has led the development of the Highlands Trail since its inception. We value enormously the work of OSI and the success our partnership has had for trail protection throughout the Hudson Valley. Over the last decades we have sought to connect people with the natural beauty of the Highlands and supported local and landscape level conservation efforts by elevating the Highlands’ outdoor recreation potential. This new acquisition represents an important step for all the partners developing the Highlands Trail towards realizing our vision for a unique and enjoyable hiking experience through this spectacular region,” said Zachary Cole, long-distance trails program coordinator at the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference.

OSI noted that it has protected more than 3,300 acres to create and expand Schunnemunk State Park, located within the western Hudson Highlands, also known as the “Black Rock Forest to Schunnemunk Mountain Conservation Corridor.” The property is near two previous OSI acquisitions that were transferred to New York State as additions to Schunnemunk State Park. Together, the properties comprise more than 1,100 acres of forest between Black Rock Forest and Schunnemunk State Park.

“This is OSI’s third land protection project in the corridor between Black Rock Forest and Schunnemunk Mountain in the towns of Cornwall and Woodbury. We are proud to have assembled more than 1,100 acres of forested land that will keep this landscape connected for people and wildlife, offer safer recreation options, and protect drinking water resources,” said Dene Lee, OSI’s vice president of northeast land.

According to OSI, its acquisition of the Northern Ventures property will help to protect wells within the village of Woodbury’s public drinking water system, which tap into a sand and gravel aquifer in the Woodbury Creek corridor. Plus, the property’s forested wetland and headwater areas help absorb and store water during flooding events in the Moodna and Woodbury Creek watersheds.

According to OSI, the property is reportedly rated as “far above average” for landscape diversity, containing a variety of wildlife habitats and plant and animal species. Protection of the Northern Ventures property also supports breeding trout populations in nearby streams, including Mineral Springs Brook, Trout Brook, and Woodbury Creek. Plus, Audubon New York has designated the property as part of an Important Bird Area (IBA) and the property has also been identified as a critical habitat for birds, including the cerulean warbler, the wood thrush, and the blue-winged, worm-eating, and prairie warblers.

”The flora and fauna of the Hudson Highlands will benefit yet again from the work of OSI. This acquisition further enhances the connectivity and resiliency of the landscape, directly benefiting the bobcats and other species navigating their increasingly fragmented habitats,” said Dr. Scott LaPoint, director of research at Black Rock Forest.