A draft Open Space Plan for the Town of Hurley, worked on by the Hurley Conservation Advisory Council and consultants over recent years as called for in the town’s Comprehensive Town Plan, adopted in 2006, will be presented in a public information meeting at Hurley Town Hall in Old Hurley at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 1. Even though the 65-page document, currently on view at Town Hall and the town’s public libraries in Hurley and West Hurley, as well as online (http://townofhurley.org/content/News/View/344), has been carefully researched and vetted, the idea of the March 1 meeting is to gather further input from town residents.
The care with which the document’s been put together comes through at first glance: the plan is filled with images of the town’s forests and riverscapes, its old stone houses and fields, its trails and wetlands. It’s also present in the statements of vision and justification for coming up with such a plan in the first place, beyond state mandates or others’ expectations, playing the town’s conservative love of its old ways as a paean to conservational ideals.
“The Town of Hurley includes a unique mixture of open space resources,” reads an introduction that lists rail trails and a 40 percent portion of New York City’s Ashokan Reservoir as attributes, along with the NoVo Foundation’s preservation of centuries of agricultural heritage in the new Hudson Valley FarmHub on old Gill Farm lands. “Our challenge is to create a plan that honors and preserves the best of Hurley — its beauty, its history, its agricultural roots, respect for landowners’ rights, its friendliness and its convenience — while acknowledging and preparing for the inevitable economic and demographic changes that come with time.”
The point is made that the current plan has been in the works for over a decade, works from provisions okayed in a 2004 Open Space Plan for the town, and is wholly voluntary. The goal is to maintain Hurley’s quality of life, and the property values tied to strong resource management.
“When we speak of open space we are referring to land with minimum or no development, the protection of which would conserve important natural resources, farmland, cultural resources, wildlife habitat, and recreational uses, resulting in the creation of conservation development patterns that provide fiscal and economic benefits to our community,” reads the mission statement.
West Hurley, Old Hurley, Esopus Creek
The bulk of the document outlines several key areas for implementation.
First off is a consideration of parks and recreation in the town, currently limited to the West Hurley Park located on Dug Hill Road, accessible only by car. A suggestion is made to add new parks, two of them walkable from the rural town’s more populated areas in keeping with National Recreation and Parks Association standards and development guidelines.
It’s noted how families in the West Hurley area have long used the old playgrounds at the long-closed elementary school there, as well as the West Hurley Fire District’s recent acquisition of a 1.8 acre parcel with an old ballfield adjacent to their firehouse. The Hurley Open Space Plan suggests that the fire district negotiate with the Onteora School District to purchase the old playground and enough extra acreage to expand it, with town funding and maintenance help. It’s further suggested that an application be made to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation’s Environmental Protection Fund to help with such plans.
For Old Hurley, it is noted how there are currently no easy walking routes between the traditional hamlet of old stone houses, the large Rolling Meadows development, and the popular O&W Rail Trail that heads along the Route 209 corridor through town. It’s noted how a “Pathways to the Future” linear park could be carved out, with needed private land donations, and possibly expanded (again with private input) to provide playing fields, playgrounds and other recreational possibilities in the old village center.
Thirdly, the new plan suggests that the town work with the Catskill Center to open up the 32-acres of conservation lands, located near Twin Lakes and the Binnewater Woods, that were deeded to it in the will of Grace Macaluso. Such a park, it is noted, could host trails and some open space lands, and touch on some of Hurley’s prime natural wetlands, forest and watercourse resources.
Additionally, calls are made for increased connection to state- and city-owned lands throughout the town, ties-in to the Ashokan Rail Trail now under construction, and better access to the Esopus Creek for a variety of recreational uses.
There is also a long section that delineates five special areas around the town “with unique physiographic conditions that distinguish them from other areas” that should be treated with care by Hurley’s planning board, and even be considered for zoning changes.
Binnewater Forest, Hurley Flats, Southside
The Binnewater Forest, near the Twin Lakes and proposed Grace Macaluso Park, is approximately 377 acres of “lakes, swamps, streams, hills, fern forest, pine groves and hiking trails” that while largely undeveloped to date, holds great history and environmental sensitivity, especially in regards to possible larger developments. The Hurley Flats, which stretches along the Esopus Valley and includes Old Hurley, is largely agricultural and protected by flood plain considerations, but still important to preserve because of the ways in which its unfettered scenic views help define the entire town. The Hurley Mountain and Escarpment, located wholly within the Catskill Park “blue line,” is noted for its forest habitat, with suggestions for enhanced private conservation efforts, as well as greater openness to public use. The Millbrook Woods, located along the O&W Rail Trail, was once home to the Hurley Commons, or community-owned lands, and is currently largely undeveloped, a state the Open Space Plan suggests needs protection as the value of such areas grow for new developers. Finally, it is suggested that a heightened awareness for development pressures also be worked out in tandem with the neighboring town of Marbletown in the area known as “Southside,” located to the south of the reservoir and still largely undeveloped.
While noting Hurley’s history of respect for property rights, the plan suggests preservation of the town’s active farms and agricultural lands “so we will always have scenic cultivated fields, fresh vegetables for sale in the summer and pumpkins to pick in the fall; protection of local water quality not only for drinking but…” so residents will always be able to cast their lines and catch a fish; the directing of growth into developed areas to conserve open space so as to “allow our local businesses to grow and prosper while respecting and protecting access to the abundant natural habitats so that all can spot a turtle by a pond or hear the call of a barred owl.”
The public meeting is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, March 1, at Hurley Town Hall, 10 Wamsley Place, to discuss the draft. For a full look at what’s being proposed, check out the draft Hurley Open Space Plan at town hall, either of the town’s public libraries, or online at http://townofhurley.org/content/News/View/344.