Dutchess County couple preserves 81 acres of woods and wetlands

On Burger Hill (photo by Dion Ogust)

On Burger Hill (photo by Dion Ogust)

As the Hudson Valley’s allure becomes known to more people, the press for development occurs. None of us, whether we’re transplants or residents of long generational standing, want the natural and historic beauty of the upstate landscape to disappear.

To that end, the Winnakee Land Trust in Dutchess County was recently given an easement of 81 acres: woodland and wetland property owned by Ellen and Sam Phelan, located in the Towns of Red Hook and Milan. “It is part of one of the last extensive woodland areas in Red Hook,” said the Phelans.  “For over 25 years we have enjoyed viewing the wildlife and natural scenery of the property. It was a playground for our children and has provided us with warmth (firewood) each year. With Winnakee’s assistance, we now can be assured that the natural beauty and resources of our property will be protected in perpetuity.”

Further south and east of Rhinebeck lies another property held by the Winnakee Land Trust. Burger Hill’s bucolic hayfields and wetlands were threatened with residential development in the 1990s. Local residents joined with Winnakee and Scenic Hudson to purchase the hill, with Scenic Hudson transferring full ownership to the Land Trust in 2006. Burger Hill is now the location of Drayton Grant Park, named for one of the leaders in the action to protect the property. Her commitment resulted in a 550-foot-high hilltop park that is open to the general public.


The Park boasts a panoramic view of the Hudson River Valley, the Shawangunk Ridge, the Catskill and Taconic Mountains, Stissing Mountain and the Berkshires. It’s a great spot to hike, go birding, picnic, paint en plein air and sled in winter. Wide trails are kept mown, leading to the peak and through fields below, where a rare grassland habitat is home to ground-nesting bobolinks and meadowlarks. Dogs are allowed on-leash. Drayton Grant Park is managed by the Burger Hill Park Committee, a volunteer effort that keeps the grounds and even offers sledders free hot cocoa on some snowy winter weekends.


For information about the Winnakee Land Trust, trail and habitat maps or volunteer/stewardship opportunities, contact Ellen Henneberry at (845) 876-4213 or visit www.winnakee.org.