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Storm King Mountain, which Scenic Hudson was initially founded to help protect. (Photo: Robert Rodriguez, Jr. / Scenic Hudson)

#SH60: Highlights from the First Six Decades of Scenic Hudson

As Scenic Hudson kicks off its seventh decade, here are some highlights of what we accomplished in our first 60 years.

by Lynn Freehill-Maye

Since its founding in 1963, Scenic Hudson has been a key leader in protecting the Hudson Valley’s irreplaceable landscapes — including the region’s productive family farms — while advancing balanced and sustainable development, and protecting the valley’s land, air, and water from threats like pollution.

Along the way, we’ve helped establish 60-plus parks, often transforming contaminated industrial sites along the Hudson River into magnificent green spaces for all to enjoy. As our seventh decade begins, here are some standout moments from our first six.

1963: A movement organizes into something lasting

Storm King Mountain in the early 1960’s, when a power plant was proposed for this site. (Photos: Scenic Hudson Archives)

Six community members come together to found Scenic Hudson. Their goal: to lead the campaign against construction of a proposed hydroelectric plant on iconic Storm King Mountain in the Hudson Highlands. 

1968: A landmark case is won

Rendering of Con Ed’s proposed plant at Storm King Mountain. (Image: Scenic Hudson Archives)

A federal court ruling, known as the Scenic Hudson decision, gives people the right to sue to protect cherished lands and waters. Many consider it the birth of the modern grassroots environmental movement.

1980: Storm King is protected forever

Franny Reese signing the agreement leading to Storm King’s protection. (Photo: Scenic Hudson Archives)

Scenic Hudson Board Chair Franny Reese signs the agreement leading to Storm King’s permanent protection. Reese would later become namesake of a state park along her beloved river.

1990: First Scenic Hudson Park opens

Geese at Lighthouse Park, Scenic Hudson’s first park, in Esopus. (Photo: Robert Rodriguez, Jr. / Scenic Hudson)

A new era of public green spaces begin as Scenic Hudson’s first park, Lighthouse Park, opens on the Esopus waterfront. Today, Lighthouse Park is adjacent to our Esopus Meadows Preserve, but it is owned by the town.

1996: An iconic inspiration point opens to all

Poets’ Walk Park in Red Hook opened in 1996. (Photo: Vickie Muller)

One of Scenic Hudson’s most popular green spaces, Poets’ Walk Park in Red Hook, opens fittingly: with a poetry reading. The park was named for the numerous 19th-century writers, including Washington Irving, who were inspired by walks through the grounds.

1997: A historic viewshed is protected

The protected viewshed around Hudson River School painter Frederic Church’s hilltop home, Olana. (Photo: Ted Spiegel)

The vistas of farms, forests, the Hudson River, and the Catskill Mountains fed the creativity of Hudson River School painter Frederic Church — who set his Columbia County hilltop home, Olana, to maximize views. Scenic Hudson began conserving more than 2,000 acres within Olana’s viewshed in the mid-1990s to ensure they could continue inspiring people forever.

1998: Valuable agricultural lands begin to get special protection

Scenic Hudson has helped protected more than 20,000 acres of productive farms and orchards. (Photo: Robert Rodriguez, Jr. / Scenic Hudson)

Scenic Hudson begins an initiative to conserve the region’s productive farmland. To date, more than 20,000 acres on 140-plus family farms and orchards have been protected.

2009: A thrilling new kind of park welcomes hundreds of thousands

The opening weekend of the Walkway Over the Hudson. (Photo: Scenic Hudson Archives)

The now-famous pedestrian-only Walkway Over the Hudson, to which Scenic Hudson provided leadership financial support, opens on what was an old railroad bridge across the river. Today, half a million visitors cross the span each year.

2009: A key reclamation of the river’s health begins

Dredging to remove soils contaminated with toxic PCBs from the Hudson River. (Photo: Terry Hardy)

General Electric begins a six-year dredging project to remove soils contaminated with toxic PCBs from the Hudson River. The project marked a milestone in Scenic Hudson’s ongoing campaign to restore the river’s health.

2022: Sojourner Truth State Park opens

Enjoying the trail at the new Sojourner Truth State Park. (Photo: Jeff Mertz / Scenic Hudson)

More than 500 people celebrate the opening of the Empire State’s newest such park, Sojourner Truth State Park. Scenic Hudson protected the 500-acre former industrial site, partnering with New York State Parks to create the first state park in the City of Kingston.

Lynn Freehill-Maye is managing editor of Scenic Hudson’s HV Viewfinder. She is also a Hudson Valley-based sustainability writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Scientific American, Sierra, Civil Eats, CityLab, Modern Farmer, and beyond. 
Explore More with Scenic Hudson

Sojourner Truth/Ulster Landing Park

After lazing on a sandy Hudson River beach, enjoy games and trails.

Storm King Mountain

Views from Storm King's summit rank among the best of the Hudson River.

Esopus Meadows Preserve

A prime spot for a picnic and a hike.

Lighthouse Park

Scenic Hudson’s first public park.

Poets’ Walk Park

Inspiring poets and non-writers alike since 1850.

Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park

Unforgettable views from 212 feet above the Hudson River.

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