Newburgh, New York

Centering nature as a key community asset in a storied riverfront city

In Newburgh, we are igniting young people’s passion for the environment. We’re working with community members to create stronger neighborhoods and increase access to open spaces that offer an oasis from heat, manage stormwater, sequester carbon, and improve air quality.  One focal point for these efforts is Crystal Lake — once a popular swimming spot but virtually abandoned since the 1970s — and adjacent Snake Hill, which offers stunning views of the city, river, and the Hudson Highlands but has limited public access.

At Crystal Lake, city youth have helped us to:

  • Plan, build, and improve trails, community gardens, and urban farm plots
  • Design and build a new entryway and parking area
  • Install new bike racks and benches
  • Install new signage
  • Hold events, including the popular Winterfest and Juneteenth celebrations
  • Conduct cleanups (we’ve already removed 1,250 pounds of litter from the shores of Crystal Lake)

The community farm alongside Crystal Lake is thriving. Local teens are learning about the importance of agriculture while growing fresh produce. The team delivered 240 pounds of produce to neighborhood families during the summer of 2020 and learned to make a meal with what they grew. We’ve turned management of the farm over to the Ecological Citizen’s Project, and it is now known as the Sanctuary Healing Farm & Gardens at Crystal Lake.

Quassaick Creek, another key natural asset, runs through Newburgh and New Windsor before flowing into the Hudson River at the City of Newburgh’s southern border. We are exploring the feasibility of the creation of a park and trail to provide neighborhood access to the creek, restore the creek’s ecosystem, and provide an upland link to the Hudson waterfront. Scenic Hudson is partnering with community members and local stakeholders to ensure the study includes community vision and meets the open space needs of Newburgh residents. We are continuing a long-term initiative with students and faculty from Newburgh Free Academy’s P-TECH to take ownership of Newburgh’s green spaces by creating new pathways to success for them. Along with earning their high school diplomas, students have the chance to graduate with an associate’s degree in Applied Sciences. We are lending support through classroom programs and site visits and, by providing the living laboratories for hands-on learning, helping students build confidence and skills to advocate for themselves and their community. 

Additionally, we:

  • Co-led an initiative to plant street trees along South Miller Street, connecting people to nature and creating safer walking environments, lowering urban air temperatures, and improving air quality. Partners included Habitat for Humanity Greater Newburgh, the Greater Newburgh Parks Conservancy, and members of the Broadway River District Neighborhood Association. We are now supporting the Parks Conservancy’s expansion of this street tree initiative.
  • Are working with the Newburgh Urban Farm and Food Initiative (NUFFI) on a community task force to guide comprehensive planning around urban agriculture and food systems while engaging our Land Conservation team to seek land for urban farms and agricultural education sites. 
  • Are providing an open space inventory, assessment, and improvement guide to help the City of Newburgh and local park advocates collaborate on improving the parks and open space network.