New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recently announced the acquisition of 241 acres in the Catskills, including 208 acres adjoining existing Forest Preserve lands in the Bluestone Wild Forest that will preserve critical open space and expand recreational opportunities to support the local economy. The purchases of the two properties were made possible through a partnership with the Open Space Institute (OSI) and $758,000 from New York’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF).
DEC acquired the former Aldulaimi property with $675,000 EPF funds from the Open Space Institute Land Trust, Inc. This acquisition will link two previously disconnected sections in the state’s Bluestone Wild Forest-the Onteora Lake and Jockey Hill parcels. Prior to DEC acquiring the property, OSI and partners constructed a new connector trail suitable for use by hikers, runners, and mountain bikers. The trail improvement plan sets the stage for creating regional connectivity of protected lands and permanently protecting a scenic, forested parcel for public enjoyment and recreation.
Located in Ulster County in proximity to Route 28 and the New York State Thruway, the Bluestone Wild Forest is a primary gateway to the Catskill Park that conserves important natural resources and provides diverse outdoor recreational opportunities. Its lake, ponds, trails, old quarries, hemlock and oak forests on gently rolling hills-and an occasional cliff-are ideal for hiking, mountain biking, fishing, hunting, and cross-country skiing. There is developed access to Onteora Lake off State Route 28, one of the few publicly accessible lakes in the Catskills. The topography, terrain, and historic bluestone mining lend this area to more intensive recreational use, including a robust mountain biking trail system enhanced with the Aldulaimi purchase. For more information about the Bluestone Wild Forest, visit DEC’s website.
In addition to the Bluestone Wild Forest acquisition, DEC recently acquired another parcel in Ulster County from the Open Space Institute using EPF resources. The former Peckham property, a 33-acre addition to the Vernooy Kill State Forest in the town of Wawarsing, was purchased for $83,000 and will provide access to the Vernooy Kill Stream, a trout stream of regional importance.
Governor Cuomo’s 2020-21 enacted State Budget sustains EPF funding at $300 million, the highest level of funding in the program’s 25-year history. In addition, this year’s Budget added $500 million to the State’s already historic $3 billion commitment to water quality improvements. The Budget also creates the Restore Mother Nature Environmental Bond Act. If approved by voters in November, the Bond Act would fund critical environmental restoration and climate mitigation projects in every corner of the state to ensure New York is able to adapt to the intensifying impacts of climate change, and reduce emissions, while creating jobs and local economic development.
Photo: Onteora Lake in autumn/DEC