Champlain Area Trails (CATS) has announced plans to preserve 35 acres in the Town of Essex, NY, on land that features 400 million-year-old fossils — part of an ancient coral reef — as well as a type of forest considered globally rare and an historic stone quarry.
The Essex Quarry Nature Park will be located on the southern edge of the hamlet, a short distance from the Essex – Charlotte, Vt. ferry landing.
Plans for the Nature Park include hiking trails and interpretive signs on the site of the former Essex Quarry that operated from the late 1700s until a few years ago.
Stone carved from the quarry walls was used in many of the buildings in Essex. It was also shipped south by barge to the Champlain Canal and Hudson River and was used in the construction of the Capitol building in Albany and the Brooklyn Bridge.
Today, the site showcases a combination of natural, geological, paleontological and historic features. The eastern part of the property features a rare natural community that was identified by Steve Young, an ecologist with NY State’s Natural Heritage Program as a Limestone Woodland. It occurs on shallow soil above limestone bedrock and, while it occurs extensively along Lake Champlain, it is rare on the planet. In New York it’s found in the central Hudson Limestone Valley, the Lake Champlain Valley, portions of the St. Lawrence Valley, and across what’s called the Ontario Lake Plain to the west.
“Once the property is secured through the purchase by CATS, its staff and volunteers will develop two miles of trails for both walking and cross country skiing,” an announcement sent by CATS to the press said. “Interpretive signs will be installed to inform visitors about the limestone woodland, geological features, fossils, and historical uses of the quarry. The Park is within easy walking distance for Essex residents who can enjoy healthy physical activity on its trails. For people visiting Essex, it will provide an informative trail they get to by traveling through the village with many patronizing local businesses.”
CATS’ announcement said the quarry’s current owners had hoped it would become a permanent park, approached the organization and discounted the purchase price. The announcement said the purchase cost along with other transaction and trail development costs—which includes a kiosk, parking area, and signs—would bring the initial project cost to $165,000.
CATS is raising the money through donations and grants, along with naming opportunities available for items such as benches within the park.
More details on the Essex Quarry Nature Park Project are available by calling the CATS office at (518) 962-2287 or emailing [email protected]
Photos of Essex Quarry Nature Park site that CATS seeks to preserve provided.