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Scenic Hudson Celebrates Opening of Newest Public Park

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

287-acre preserve in Ulster County offers outstanding opportunities for recreation, connecting with nature

Also allows for future economic development of 35 acres on Route 9W

ESOPUS (ULSTER COUNTY)—Project donors and public officials joined Scenic Hudson today in a ribbon cutting to mark the opening of the organization’s newest public park—Scenic Hudson High Banks Preserve in Esopus. Encompassing 287 acres, the preserve offers exciting new opportunities for town residents and visitors to engage in outdoor recreation while exploring the land’s remarkably diverse natural features. See this slideshow for images from opening day. 

High Banks Preserve—named after the English translation of “Esopus,” which early Native Americans called the area—contains bluffs offering superb vistas of the Hudson River as well as extensive wetlands, wildflower-filled meadows, hardwood forests and shoreline along Esopus Lake. The property’s great variety of habitats has earned it designation as an Important Plant Area by the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Natural Heritage Program, while Esopus Lake is an important resting and feeding site for migratory waterfowl.

Trails connect visitors to prime natural features, superb Hudson River views

Open daily dawn to dusk free of charge, the preserve features three miles of paths and former carriage roads that connect visitors to the lake, a 110-foot boardwalk spanning a wetland, forested rock outcroppings and a river overlook atop the bluffs. In addition, a universally accessible pathway from the parking area leads to another Hudson River overlook and informational kiosks explaining the history of the site and its ecological importance.

Generous supporters who made the creation of High Banks Preserve possible include the Colombel family, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Andre Balazs, Mary Huntington Snyder, Christopher Scholz and Ines Elskop, Jamie Kibel and Michael DeCola, Wheelock Whitney III, Naja and Regina Armstrong, William Oris and Jeanne Murphy, as well as anonymous contributors.

“Scenic Hudson worked for decades to conserve this astonishingly beautiful and ecologically important property. Now we’ve also achieved our goal of sharing its natural treasures with Hudson Valley residents and visitors. High Banks Preserve adds another jewel to the collection of parks and preserves we’ve created in the area, providing significant economic and quality-of-life benefits. We’re so grateful to the many supporters who made this day possible, as well as the many volunteers who helped create its exciting amenities,” said Scenic Hudson President Ned Sullivan.

Preserve builds on Scenic Hudson’s efforts to boost local economy

Scenic Hudson acquired most of the land within the new preserve in 2012—at the same time ensuring 35 commercially zoned acres fronting Route 9W would remain available for economic development. The organization acquired additional acreage in 2014 to enhance public access, universally accessible viewing opportunities and parking.

Scenic Hudson High Banks Preserve is the fourth natural area the organization has created in Esopus, joining Black Creek Preserve, Esopus Meadows Preserve and Shaupeneak Ridge. Scenic Hudson also originally protected the land at Sleightsburgh Park and Lighthouse Park, both now owned by the town, creating a robust network of trails. Outdoor recreation is a major component of Ulster County’s $532-million tourism economy responsible for 8,600 jobs.

“How fortunate we are to have this land forever preserved and for us to be able to take advantage of the trails, the view of the Hudson River and the great scenery and environment that our children’s children will also have preserved for them,” said Town of Esopus Supervisor Diane McCord. “I wish to thank Scenic Hudson for the investment they have made in Esopus, and I wish to thank every person who is in attendance today for their love of our town and for making High Banks Preserve the place to be this Saturday and for all the Saturdays to come.”

“When I was searching for an iconic location for The Star Estate & Distillery, it was vital to be in a community that provides nature-based activities for all to enjoy. I was really excited to learn about this new park—Scenic Hudson High Banks Preserve, with hiking trails running through the woods and offering stunning, bluff-top views of the Hudson River. High Banks Preserve is a place that our guests will enjoy when they come to Esopus,” said Charles Ferri, founder & CEO of Star Vodka USA.

Important recreational trail project in the works

Scenic Hudson currently is working with the John Burroughs Association and other partners to create an eight-mile hiking and paddling trail through the John Burroughs Black Creek Corridor. This recreational route will follow the creek from Scenic Hudson’s Black Creek Preserve in Esopus to Illinois Mountain in Lloyd, with links to the Hudson Valley Rail Trail and Walkway Over the Hudson. The trail honors the conservation legacy of John Burroughs, whose rustic Slabsides retreat is located in the John Burroughs Sanctuary.

Volunteers supported creation of trails, amenities

Hemlock Hollow Farm of Philmont, Columbia County, was chosen through a competitive bidding process to undertake construction of preserve amenities. Action Sign Company, LLC, of Rensselaer, Rensselaer County, fabricated and installed the informational signage. Scenic Hudson Park Planner Heather Blaikie and Parks Project Manager Joseph Kiernan oversaw the 10-month project.

Prior to construction, Scenic Hudson completed significant work to make the land more inviting and safe for the public, removing more than 32 derelict structures and foundations remaining from the former Camp Chi-Wan-Da once located on the property. Many volunteers, including members of the Student Conservation Association Hudson Valley Corps, provided hours of work building trails, removing invasive species, improving views to the Hudson River, repairing stone walls, installing benches and constructing a bog bridge.

About Scenic Hudson

Scenic Hudson works to protect and restore the Hudson River and its majestic landscape as an irreplaceable national treasure and a vital resource for residents and visitors. A crusader for the valley since 1963, we are credited with saving fabled Storm King Mountain from a destructive industrial project and launching the modern grass-roots environmental movement.  Today with more than 25,000 ardent supporters, we are the largest environmental group focused on the Hudson River Valley. Our team of experts combines land acquisition, support for agriculture, citizen-based advocacy and sophisticated planning tools to create environmentally healthy communities, champion smart economic growth, open up riverfronts to the public and preserve the valley’s inspiring beauty and natural resources. To date Scenic Hudson has created or enhanced more than 65 parks, preserves and historic sites up and down the Hudson River and conserved over 35,000 acres.