Editorial – Time is Running Out
Communities in Orange County are ratcheting up their pace, scurrying to save parcels of open space and farmland before they disappear. We were encouraged to hear that Hamptonburgh, with the help of the Land Trust and other agencies has saved another 72 acres, and that land along with other surrounding properties creates a 214-acre farmland corridor. They are far from the only community now scrambling to save what remains of our beautiful views, flourishing agriculture, trails and forests. Blooming Grove is meeting as we go to press in Conservation Advisory Committee and Open Space sessions geared to narrow down the most urgent parcels that will be put in the town’s Master Plan as important to seek grants to protect. A growing community of Asian farmers in Blooming Grove and Washingtonville who are interested in green agriculture has recently purchased several hundred acres that will be maintained for organic growing and herds of sheep and goats. Washingtonville has focused on developing its numerous parks for healthy uses, and continues to pursue a possible rail trail. The Town of Chester recently announced intentions to acquire 3 large parcels of farmland. The towns of New Windsor and Newburgh still have open spaces that would be wise to protect. The Town and Village of Goshen were one of the first, active a decade ago preserving open space and farmland, and still has hundreds of acres of open farmland, some of the owners of which are seeking PDR’s (purchase of development rights that compensates farmers for NOT developing their land other than for farm use).
The era of trying to build more homes to acquire tax income proved to be largely faulty because of the cost to educate and serve the new population’s children. The next era of looking for warehousing and light manufacturing business to improve tax rateables proved to be only marginally successful for the tax base, due to many long-term 20 or 30-year PILOT tax-free or partial tax agreements.
Now it becomes more and more clear that the good people of Orange County are here largely for the same reasons that populations came here a century or two ago. They came for the beautiful views, the fresh water and clean air, and are pushing to keep it that way.
Tourism, eco-tourism and their associated activities (hiking, boating, walking tours, strength challenges, souvenirs) as well as specialized produce, organic foods and craft drinks offered at large and budding small farms will grow income that helps ease tax burdens all the while protecting the things that brought us here in the first place.
There are in fact many grants at the state and county level toward these goals. It is time consuming to apply.
Carpe diem! Once gone, our precious environment here in the Hudson Valley, could take generations, if ever, to come back.