Mohonk Preserve

Mohonk Preserve

The Mohonk Preserve Foothills

Mohonk Preserve Foothills Project

The Town of New Paltz Planning Board has scheduled a Public Hearing on the Mohonk Preserve Foothills Project on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015 at 7 p.m. at the New Paltz Community Center, 3 Veteran’s Drive, New Paltz, NY. We look forward to reviewing the Preserve’s site plan for this project and continuing to engage the community in our planning for the Mohonk Preserve Foothills. To view the current plan documents, please click on the links below.

Below please find links to planning documents and a full range of independent environmental reports and studies, including mitigation efforts, regarding the Mohonk Preserve Foothills Project.

PLAN DOCUMENTS

The Mohonk Preserve Foothills Project reflects the Preserve’s mission of protecting the Shawangunk Mountains region and inspiring people to care for, enjoy and explore their natural world by:

  • Protecting critical wildlife habitats in the Foothills’ forests, fields, farmlands, marsh, and ponds;
  • Preserving the historic and cultural landscape of the Foothills, including the landmark viewshed, farm buildings and Testimonial Gateway tower; and
  • Inspiring the community and visitors to get into nature at the Foothills.

This project also fulfills the goals of the Town of New Paltz Open Space Plan, which identified the Foothills as the number one landscape for protection in a community survey, and the Town’s Farmland Protection Plan, which promotes conservation of active farmlands and preservation of agricultural heritage. 

The Mohonk Preserve Foothills Project has been carefully designed with neighbor and community input to provide safe, controlled access to the Mohonk Preserve Foothills, while also optimizing recreational, educational, and conservation science opportunities. The footprint of all proposed, carefully sited visitor amenities comprises approximately 8 acres – less than 1 percent of the 857-acre Mohonk Preserve Foothills landscape – at three different sites. The visitor amenities include three small wooden visitor contact booths; a small wooden education cabin and shelter; a small, rustic gazebo; a marsh wildlife viewing blind and wooden nature walkway; a small pond dock and footpath; interpretive and directional signage; parking and three restrooms.

Upon completion of the project, the Mohonk Preserve Foothills landscape will remain in its current state – wide-open farmlands, marshlands, extensive tree cover, numerous historic structures, and glorious vistas.

BACKGROUND
In October 2011, the Open Space Conservancy, the land acquisition affiliate of the Open Space Institute(OSI) of New York, acquired 857 acres from Mohonk Mountain House, preserving priceless views of the Shawangunk Ridge. Following this acquisition, Mohonk Preserve agreed to manage and, as resources permitted, purchase land, now designated as the Mohonk Preserve Foothills.

The Preserve subsequently undertook an extensive, community conservation-based planning process that included planning firm DiMella Shaffer, Preserve staff, board, and advisory committee members, Town of New Paltz liaisons, OSI and Mohonk Mountain House staff, along with the local community, to create a comprehensive Land Asset Management Plan(LAMP) for the Mohonk Preserve Foothills. This process was supported in part by funding from the Hudson River Valley Greenway and the New York State Conservation Partnership Program (NYSCPP), administered by the Land Trust Alliance and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.

MOHONK PRESERVE FOOTHILLS LANDS
The Mohonk Preserve Foothills lands are strategically located between the Village of New Paltz and the protected areas of the Shawangunk Ridge.  The parcel includes the historic Testimonial Gateway tower, circa 1907, which served as the entrance to Mohonk Mountain House until 1945; Humpo Marsh, an important wildlife area; the historic Brook, Kleinekill, and Pine Farms; and important segments of the historic carriage road system that extends into the Preserve, Mohonk Mountain House, and Minnewaska State Park Preserve.

PURCHASING THE PROPERTY
In December 2014, Mohonk Preserve entered into an agreement to purchase the entire 857-acre Mohonk Preserve Foothills from the Open Space Institute Land Trust, the land acquisition affiliate of OSI.

The Preserve is deeply committed to whole-landscape, mixed-use conservation. The purchase of the entire Mohonk Preserve Foothills represents the fulfillment of the conservation legacy originally envisioned by the Preserve’s founders and creation of a community resource that integrates open space stewardship, world-class recreation, participatory environmental education and conservation science, sustainable agriculture, and a remarkable viewshed to provide a unique and inspiring experience on the land.  

As owner of the farmland properties, the Preserve also assumed the lease for Glynwood and their Hudson Valley Farm Business Incubator program, which is designed to provide the tools and resources aspiring agricultural entrepreneurs need to develop and manage viable farm enterprises in the Hudson Valley. The Preserve is working with Glynwood on a balanced conservation plan that includes watershed, bird habitat, and viewshed protection, with Preserve member and day visitor access alongside the regenerative agricultural and farmer-training operations.

PROJECT PLANNING
Comprehensive planning efforts are underway for the Mohonk Preserve Foothills. Using past grant funding from the Hudson River Valley Greenway and NYSCPP, we developed a Trail & Connectivity Master Plan for the entire Foothills landscape, with neighbors and community members providing input into this process. We expect, phased over a period of years, to be able to open new trails to the ridge via restored carriage roads, as well as some new and interesting loop trail routes to Humpo Marsh and Duck Pond.
 
We also embarked on planning for the formal trailhead entrance to the Mohonk Preserve Foothills, which will provide the first direct access to the Shawangunk Ridge from New Paltz and the Wallkill Valley. NYSCPP provided a $48,000 grant to the Preserve to partially defray costs of this planning. After a competitive-bid process, Barton & Loguidice, D.P.C., a 50-year old planning firm with many projects in the New Paltz area, was hired in August 2013. They helped the Preserve guide a process that included formative planning meetings with our neighbors and community and resulted in the development of a full site plan.

In December 2013, the Preserve was awarded $42,000 in New York State grant funding, endorsed by the Town of New Paltz, for additional planning money leveraging the Preserve Board’s commitment of funding and the previously awarded grant from NYSCPP. To do the planning thoroughly and to meet all local and state standards, the Preserve expects to spend over $100,000 on this planning phase of the trailhead.

A site plan application was submitted to the Town of New Paltz in May 2014, with updates submitted in February 2015 and July 2015. The Town of New Paltz Planning Board has scheduled a Public Hearing of the Mohonk Preserve Foothills Project on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015 at 7 p.m. at the New Paltz Community Center, 3 Veteran’s Drive, New Paltz, NY. To view the current plan documents, please click here.

CONSERVATION SCIENCE
Environmental research on the site is also ongoing. In 2012, the Testimonial Gateway area was the site of the Preserve’s first BioBlitz with the John Burroughs Natural History Society. Citizen scientists joined Preserve and researchers to document over 395 species of plants, animals, and insects. Over the summer of 2013, our Conservation Science team, assisted by the John Burroughs Natural History Society, other research associates, and citizen scientists, conducted a biodecathon – ten days of biodiversity exploration and documentation – in the Humpo Marsh area, further assessing species, habitats, natural communities, and systems.

In the spring of 2014, the Preserve introduced the Mohonk Preserve Foothills Phenology Project. Phenology is the study of seasonal and cyclical changes in plants and animals, such as the flowering of plants, the emergence of insects, or the migration of birds. Trained by Preserve Conservation Science staff, volunteer citizen naturalists are helping the effort to monitor seasonal indicators at the Preserve by tracking and documenting changes in select trees, shrubs, and flowers on the Foothills lands. The data collected is being entered into the USA National Phenology Network database and New York Phenology Project and made available to scientists, land managers, educators, and the public for use in exploring broad-scale and landscape-level research questions. Mohonk Preserve is pleased to be teaming with Ulster-Greene ARC on this project to provide opportunities for their clients with intellectual and developmental disabilities to get into nature.

In 2015, the Preserve’s Conservation Science citizen scientists and interns collaborated on two bird censuses in the Mohonk Preserve Foothills, adding to decades of research and studies at the site conducted by Preserve Conservation Science staff and Research Associates.

CULTURAL AND HISTORICAL PRESERVATION
The Preserve continues to work with the Town of New Paltz Historic Preservation Commission, which designated the Testimonial Gateway tower and surrounding landscape as a Local Historic Landmark in 2014. The Preserve hired historic preservation architect Carl Stearns to conduct a building conditions survey and to work with us to develop a building stabilization plan for the tower. Retired architect and Gardiner resident Frank Misiurski, a member of the Preserve’s Facilities Committee, has also provided expert guidance. The Preserve has hired interpretive content specialist Dan Marwit to help Preserve educators develop the interpretive messaging that will accompany the new trailhead and the arrival sequence from the trailhead to the Gateway tower and beyond.

In May 2015, the Town of New Paltz Historic Preservation Commission issued a Certificate of Appropriateness and the Building Inspector subsequently issued a permit for repairs and maintenance on the Testimonial Gateway tower.

ONGOING COMMUNITY CONSERVATION
As part of an ongoing community conservation initiative, beginning in October 2013, the Preserve met with a group of near neighbors to solicit input on planning for the Mohonk Preserve Foothills Project. Their input was included in the ongoing planning process, and in November 2013, the Preserve held an open, public Community Engagement Meeting at the New Paltz Community Center to discuss plans for the project.

Since that time, the Preserve has continued to collaborate with Foothills neighbors and community members, conducting numerous site tours with both group and one-on-one meetings.

The revised site plan application for the Mohonk Preserve Foothills Project was submitted to the Town of New Paltz Planning Board in July 2015 and is now under review. As part of the review process, the Preserve has made public presentations of the site plan at several Planning Board meetings before and after July 2015.

The Town of New Paltz Planning Board has scheduled a Public Hearing of the Mohonk Preserve Foothills Project on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015 at 7 p.m. at the New Paltz Community Center, 3 Veteran’s Drive, New Paltz, NY. To view the current plan documents, please click here.

REGIONAL TRAIL CONNECTIVITY
Since 2013, the Preserve has been working with OSI, the Town of New Paltz, and Ulster County on possible trail connectivity across the New Paltz “flats” to the Wallkill River, the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail and the Village of New Paltz. Together with the Wallkill Valley Land Trust and OSI, the Preserve helped the Town secure a Hudson River Valley Greenway planning grant for trail design, which was completed in 2014.

In 2015, OSI acquired the 135-acre “Watchtower” property, linking to other previously purchased farms in the “flats” that created potential for a continuous trail from the Wallkill River to the Mohonk Preserve Foothills. The proposed joint OSI-Mohonk Preserve River-to-Ridge Trail is a six-mile loop trail providing a direct link from New Paltz to the Shawangunk Ridge for hikers, runners, cyclists, and cross-country skiers. The proposed trail has been submitted for review by the Town of New Paltz Planning Board. For more information, including a map of the proposed River-to-Ridge Trail, click here.

PLAN DOCUMENTS