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Deal Permanently Protects Historic Landscape, Diverse Habitats at Locust Grove

Jay Burgess
Director of Communications, Scenic Hudson, Inc.
Tel: (845) 473-4440 x222 Cell: (914) 489-0362 Fax: (845) 473-0740

Ensures grounds will always be available for recreation, exploring nature

TOWN OF POUGHKEEPSIE—For nearly 40 years, the grounds of the Locust Grove Estate/Young-Morse Historic Site have been a refuge for people escaping the bustle of Route 9, which passes the former home of artist-inventor Samuel F.B. Morse. Now Scenic Hudson, working with the Young-Morse Historic Site, has permanently protected its 149 acres of woods, meadows and other unspoiled habitats, and ensured that these natural treasures will always be available to the public for exploring nature, hiking and jogging, and admiring Hudson River views.

Surrounding the 1851 Italianate villa built for Morse—declared a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and a house museum since 1979—Locust Grove features an astonishing variety of natural features rarely found so close to suburban and commercial development. Five miles of carriage roads and trails created by Morse and the estate’s last owners, the Young family, enable visitors to explore a ravine, a picturesque stream and waterfall, dramatic rock outcroppings, views of the Hudson River, a pond and sheltered river cove, several wetlands and formal gardens.

Locust Grove’s landscape also contributes to scenic views enjoyed by motorists crossing the Mid-Hudson Bridge, hikers at Franny Reese State Park in Ulster County and boaters on the Hudson River.

Scenic Hudson acquired a conservation easement with public access on the property from the Young-Morse Historic Site, the non-profit organization that owns the land. As part of the transaction, Locust Grove will allocate a portion of the funds it received for the easement to trail and public-access maintenance.

Land’s habitats also a priority for protection

Protecting this property keeps both people and the environment healthy. The land’s diverse habitats also made it a priority for protection according to Scenic Hudson’s Hudson Valley Conservation Strategy. Scenic Hudson developed this strategy to pinpoint properties whose protection will sustain biodiversity, increase resilience to climate change, secure the routes species depend on for survival and conserve working farmland. Due to the property’s high potential for achieving many of these goals, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation provided a portion of the purchase price. Additional key funding came from Scenic Hudson’s Lila Acheson and DeWitt Wallace Hudson Valley Land Preservation Endowment.

In 2006 Scenic Hudson partnered with Dutchess County and the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) to protect 28 acres adjacent to Locust Grove that have been incorporated into the historic site. The Dutchess Land Conservancy and OPRHP hold conservation easements on that land.

“The trails at Locust Grove provide outstanding opportunities to connect with nature along one of the region’s busiest roads—and just three miles from the heart of downtown Poughkeepsie. Scenic Hudson is delighted to build upon Locust Grove’s excellent stewardship of the site over the years and ensure that these historic grounds and important habitats will remain intact and forever available for people to enjoy,” said Scenic Hudson Land Trust Executive Director Steve Rosenberg.

“Scenic Hudson thanks Locust Grove, and particularly its Board President David Cullen, for partnering with us to protect this historic property and its astonishing habitats and vistas. It’s rare in such a heavily developed setting to be able to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors and the pleasures of nature,” said Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan.

Locust Grove Executive Director Kenneth Snodgrass spoke about how much the conservation victory will mean to people. “With more than 90,000 visitors each year enjoying free access to the estate, Locust Grove is an amazing community resource and an important tourist attraction in the Hudson Valley. This partnership with Scenic Hudson will enable us to continue to provide an oasis of open space and tranquility combined with a glimpse of our valley’s important history.”

About Scenic Hudson

Scenic Hudson helps citizens and communities preserve land and farms and create parks where people experience the outdoors and enjoy the Hudson River. We also bring together people, businesses and government to protect the river and natural resources that are the engines of the valley’s local economies. Started in 1963 by a handful of citizens who cherished the simple pleasures of the outdoors along the Hudson, Scenic Hudson is credited with launching the modern grass-roots environmental movement. Today, in the face of new challenges and the effects of climate change, we are dedicated to making the Hudson Valley a great place to live, work and play. Our focus is on strengthening and maximizing benefits all can enjoy from the region’s great assets—beautiful open spaces, working farms, and vibrant cities and town centers.