Largest Ever Conservation Easement in the Hudson Highlands Will Provide Link Between Storm King Mountain and Schunnemunk State Parks
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced today that New York State has reached an agreement to acquire a conservation easement for the nearly 4,000-acre Black Rock Forest located in Orange County that will expand trail connections between Storm King and Schunnemunk State Parks by expanding access to miles of trails and public lands. The agreement, which is the largest Hudson Highlands conversation easement ever, will allow hikers, outdoor enthusiasts and other park visitors an uninterrupted outdoor experience made up of nearly 60 miles of trails and 8,600 acres of protected open space.
"Giving the public more access and more opportunities to experience New York’s natural beauty firsthand has been a priority for our administration," Governor Cuomo said. "The scenic allure of the Hudson Valley is a major economic driver for the region, and with this great new addition to the state parks in the Hudson Highlands, visitors and residents have yet another reason to come and see one of the most scenic views New York has to offer for themselves."
The easement was purchased by the Open Space Institute and under the agreement, the easement will be conveyed to the Palisades Interstate Park Commission by the Black Rock Forest Preserve (map). The agreement creates a publicly-accessible land connection between Storm King, which is adjacent to the Hudson River, and Schunnemunk to its west. The agreement will preserve this scenic viewshed corridor, while enhancing trail connectivity. Additionally, the Open Space Institute will conserve additional parcels adjacent to Black Rock Forest that will help extend the corridor between the two state parks.
Schunnemunk State Park features the highest views in Orange County and 25 miles of trails, while Storm King offers nearly 10 miles of trails and unsurpassed views of the Catskill Mountains and Hudson Valley. Black Rock Forest, featuring nearly 25 miles of trails, is considered the largest area in the Hudson Highlands with a sustained elevation over 1,200 feet, sweeping vistas of dramatic ridges, forest-ponds and reservoirs. A photo of the Black Rock Forest is available here.
New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Commissioner Rose Harvey said, "Governor Cuomo has been working hard to increase outdoor recreational opportunities across the state, and this agreement will create miles of trail connections between two of New York State's most beautiful state parks. Thank you to both the Open Space Institute and the Black Rock Forest Consortium for their efforts on this significant protection of Hudson Highlands wilderness."
Open Space Institute President and CEO Kim Elliman said, "We applaud Governor Cuomo and Commissioner Harvey for their support of this wonderful public-private initiative and express gratitude to our partners at Black Rock Forest. The result of a successful public-private partnership, this agreement ensures the long-term protection of thousands of scenic and ecologically significant acres, while improving public access for visitors. For OSI, this one project implements our core priorities: critical land conservation; improved public access; support for state parks, the preservation of climate-change resilient landscapes and habitat corridors."
Black Rock Forest Consortium Executive Director William Schuster said, "This historic agreement will benefit all our native plants and animals, including people, for perpetuity. We are most grateful to the Open Space institute and to New York's far-sighted leadership for their critical roles in making this happen."