Conservation Maps Reviewed by Public with Orange County Land Trust
By Edie Johnson
A second presentation was given at the Blooming Grove Rec Room in Washingtonville of new conservation maps, that will total 23 when done, this time for the public. This session was held to get public input on their development and future use. Matt Decker, Director of Acquisition and Stewardship at the Orange County Land Trust gave a Powerpoint presentatio showing how a similar set of maps in Phillipstown (Putnam County) was used to produce overlays that highlight areas of best use with regard to water protection open space, forestry, and biodiversity as well as areas that will still be optimum for continued building projects. Officials can then use these maps for guidance in future Comprehensive Plans and Zoning Regulations.
Johanna Kiernan, who has spearheaded this project as a consultant to the Conservation Advisory Committee worked tirelessly this past year with the Land Trust. She thanked Matt Decker for hosting the previous work sessions at the beautiful Land Trust building in Mountainville as well as the other researchers and writers of the Cornwall team – Chris Ruppert, Shanna Ables, Ted Warren, Niklas Morran and Carla Castile, as well as Anne Gayler of Town of Blooming Grove CAC for her writing, reviewing and contributions in setting up these presentations.
Kiernan said “The project is a tool that provides a science base … for the challenges that we face. It is also an educational tool to be used by our schools. Because of the scenic beauty here in the Town it is not hard to imagine how this Town looked a hundred years ago, two hundred years ago, even longer, with dense forest, plentiful wildlife and streams.”
Blooming Grove currently has only 4% of its land protected. This is much lower than adjacent towns, especially the Town of Cornwall which has 34% protected (largely because of its portion of the Schunnemunk Ridge). Chester also has a greater proportion because of the large inclusion of Goosepond Mountain State Park. These maps can be very useful and identifying possible future parkland.
Both Decker and Kiernan emphasized that just because land is labeled as “open space” does not mean it’s not useful. In addition to providing large areas of natural water storage, viewsheds , biodiversity corridors , forests that help bind the earth and greenery that oxygenates the air, it also provides economic benefits through recreation and farmland (crops, orchards, organic meats and vegetables, cider and craft beers) and a booming tourist industry in our area (including water sports,hiking and bicycling groups and even Spartan challenges). Kiernan said that as a result of their previous presentation several landowners have already offered promises to sell or turn over their property for open space land uses in the future. With areas of town that border Chester, and New Windsor, it was recommended that they be invited to future meetings and possibly included or at least advised during the process.
The maps will now be used in a larger land use project, the Cornwall & Blooming Grove Natural Heritage Project. They will all be online by this Fall and linked to the town’s website. About 20 residents and officials who came to the presentation listened very intently. By and large, as long as the value of landowners’ rights is going to be protected during zoning changes , they were in support of the project’s benefits and even began to bring up particularly important properties that they feel would add value to the town as open space.
Decker emphasized that this work will all function for the town to use for recommendations, not for added regulations.