Instead of a planned new golf course and 100 luxury homes, an expanse of rolling hills, wetlands and scenic waters have been preserved as public parkland through the purchase of one of the last large, privately held open spaces in the New York City metropolitan area. Governor George E. Pataki yesterday announced the purchase of 575 acres from developers and its reunification with the adjacent Sterling Forest State Park in Orange County…
The new property increases the size of the forest to more than 18,200 acres of forests, lakes, and streams. Thanks to the Trust for Public Land that is negotiating the $13.5 million purchase, Sterling Forest — in its entirety — is now closed for good to development and open forever to the public.
"This latest acquisition represents the last piece in the puzzle for protecting the full array of natural resources and wildlife habitats at Sterling Forest State Park from the threat of development," said Governor Pataki. "With this purchase, we are not only increasing the outdoor opportunities for the public at this incredible scenic property, but we are furthering our commitment to safeguarding open space in the New York/New Jersey Highlands. The Environmental Protection Fund has helped us secure a critical parcel that will now become public parkland, ensuring its stewardship for the future."
"This was a big vision, with big results, with big benefit for millions of people, a lasting land legacy for Governor Pataki," said Rose Harvey, senior vice president for The Trust for Public Land.
The property consists of an irregularly shaped 575-acre parcel with extensive frontage along both sides of County Route 84, Long Meadow Road. The site’s topography varies from level/rolling land to steeply sloping, and the southern section of the property features a 36-acre pond. There is also a 15-acre wetland area at the easternmost section of the property and various other wetlands, totaling approximately 25 acres, scattered throughout.
Sterling Forest State Park is centrally located in the New York/New Jersey Highlands, a 1.1 million-acre stretch of contiguous habitat from the Hudson River to the Delaware River. The tract links Abram S. Hewitt State Park in New Jersey with Harriman State Park in New York, and protects the corridor around the Appalachian Trail, which traverses the northern portion of Sterling Forest, and the full length of the Sterling Ridge Trail.
In 1998, Governor Pataki announced the acquisition of the first 15,280 acres that created Sterling Forest. The Trust for Public Land and the Open Space Institute negotiated the purchase. The groups worked with New York and New Jersey, the federal government, and private interests to raise $55 million to purchase Sterling Forest and preserve it as open space. Since the initial announcement, another 3,000 acres, including this latest acquisition, have been added to the park by TPL and other groups working with the state.
Sterling Forest protects a major source of drinking water for New Jersey. In addition to serving as a watershed for millions of residents in New Jersey and New York, the property is vital for the survival of many resident and migratory species, including black bear and a variety of hawks and songbirds, as well as many rare invertebrates and plants. The governor also designated a 16,833-acre portion of the park as a Bird Conservation Area (BCA) in an effort to protect the habitat of various bird species living in the area. (The Trust for Public Land)