OSI purchase will protect over 1,000 acres

OSI has acquired 144 acres of historic farmland known as “the flats” along the western bank of the Wallkill River owned by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Photo by Lauren Thomas)

The Open Space Institute (OSI) has completed two acquisitions of land west of the Wallkill River in New Paltz that will conserve more than a thousand acres at the base of the Shawangunk Ridge. The 874 acres of land owned by Smiley Brothers Inc. (SBI) of scenic and historic land on the eastern escarpment of the Shawangunk Ridge had been widely reported. OSI also announced the acquisition of 144 of additional acres of historic farmland known as “the flats” along the western bank of the Wallkill River from the Valley Farms Corporation, owned by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The property acquired by OSI from the Smileys, who have owned and operated the Mohonk Mountain House for a 142 years, includes three historic farms, hundreds of acres of open fields, rolling forested hills and streams, and important segments of a historic carriage-road system that dates back to the late 19th century.

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“The Smiley Brothers property that is being preserved by OSI represents part of the iconic views which are the symbol of New Paltz,” said Toni Hokanson, the New Paltz town supervisor. “This property is ranked near the top of the town’s Open Space Plan, and I am thrilled that OSI has also found this a priority. This purchase by OSI keeps the town’s Open Space funding available for other locations. We are pleased to have OSI as a partner in accomplishing our Open Space Plan goals.”

The Smiley lands acquired by OSI on Sept. 14 include two separate parcels. The larger, 857 acres, includes the four-story stone Testimonial Gateway at the intersection of Gatehouse Road and Route 299, several historic farms, Duck Pond, Brook Farm, and expanses west of the village along Butterville Road, Gatehouse Road and Pine Road. The second Smiley parcel consists of 17 acres of forested land near the entrance to Minnewaska State Park in Rochester, including the last stretch of historic, Victorian-era carriage road connecting the Mohonk Preserve and the state park.

According to Jeff Simms of OSI, the institute has been in discussion with the Jehovah’s Witnesses about this farm for several years. “OSI has been actively protecting farmland in and around the Gunks for years,” he continued, “so we’re always targeting scenic and historic farms that make sense to preserve.”

The acquisitions will not only protect one of the last large tracts of open space on the Shawangunk Ridge, but also account for (and protect) more than 30 percent of the active farmland in New Paltz.

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