A ribbon-cutting grand opening ceremony — conducted using an appropriately all natural “ribbon” of plant materials — marked the official launch last Wednesday, June 3 of the new Samuel F. Pryor III Shawangunk Gateway Campground on Route 299 in Gardiner. The first public campground built in the state in more than 30 years, it’s been a project nearly 20 years in the making. Driving past the site over the last year since construction began has been intriguing for drivers wondering just what was going on out of sight past the entrance driveway. Turns out, a well appointed campground with every amenity a camper could wish for was created at the foot of the Shawangunk Mountains. Within walking distance of the Trapps and Near Trapps, where more than 50,000 rock climbers converge every year and even more visitors come to hike the carriage roads and trails, the new campground will provide a safe and affordable base camp.
Every last detail has been attended to, from the buffer zone built between the campgrounds and the road — to minimize the impact on both — to siting the parking spaces so that headlights don’t shine into the other campsites or neighbors’ property. (And an eleven-member Citizen Advisory Committee is in place to continue goodwill relations.) A large central pavilion and community fire pit offer a great gathering space for campers who wish to get together without disturbing those seeking quiet, and the cooking area with large sinks keeps smoke and cooking odors centralized. Modern showers and restroom facilities are centrally located and bear-proof storage boxes to keep supplies in are provided at each walk-in campsite.
The tent-camping-only campground will be managed 24/7 by the American Alpine Club in cooperation with Mohonk Preserve. The American Alpine Club also manages the Hueco Rock Ranch, New River Gorge Campground and Grand Teton Climbers’ Ranch as part of a larger lodging network for rock climbers.
Director Paul Curran and his two assistants will supervise 24 drive-in spots — limited to one vehicle per site — and 26 walk-in spots on 50 acres of land in total, with most of the campground sited on 25 acres of that and the remaining 25 acres in the buffer zone from the road, according to Curran. All sites accommodate up to two tents and four people per pad, so the maximum capacity for the campground is 200. Recreational vehicles are not permitted. The fees per campsite are $24 per night for American Alpine Club or Mohonk Preserve members and $38 per night for non-members.
The nearly 20-year process to build the Samuel F. Pryor III Shawangunk Gateway Campground began in 1997 with the Open Space Institute (OSI) working with Mohonk Preserve to protect 173 acres of land in the Trapps Gateway area of the Gunks. From the assemblage of land purchased from willing neighbors, OSI acquired the campground land for $300,000 and transferred it to the Palisades Interstate Park Commission. At the same time, OSI transferred the surrounding foothills lands to Mohonk Preserve, including the site where the Preserve now has its visitors center. During construction of the campground, OSI also contributed $250,000 in capital funding toward the project. Sam Pryor was instrumental in helping to get an EPF grant of $400,000.
Speakers at the ribbon-cutting ceremonies included Rose Harvey, commissioner of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; Phil Powers, executive director of American Alpine Club; Glenn Hoagland, executive director of Mohonk Preserve; Erik Kulleseid, director of Open Space Institute; and James Hall, executive director of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission.
On hand in the audience were members of the local community and family members of campground namesake Sam Pryor, who passed away at age 86 last October. Pryor was an avid outdoorsman and lifelong conservation advocate credited with leading the fight to save Sterling Forest in Orange County from development, even putting his own resources into doing so. As an attorney, his firm provided legal services pro bono to many grassroots environmental groups who could not have afforded the representation otherwise. Pryor was recognized with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Appalachian Mountain Club of which he had been chairman, and he played a key role in getting the campground in Gardiner built. “The creation of this campground was really Sam’s vision,” said Rose Harvey. “Sam was an optimist. He believed things could happen and then he helped make them happen. And that combination of optimism and ‘can-do,’ going forth to make it happen, is really the material of a great conservationist.”
The Samuel F. Pryor III Shawangunk Gateway Campground is located at 953 Route 299 in Gardiner, near Mohonk Preserve’s visitors center. The campground will be open May 15 through mid-November each year, weather permitting. More information is available at (845) 255-0032. For information on booking a campsite, visit www.mohonkpreserve.org/camping.