BLOOMING GROVE/CORNWALL NATURAL HERITAGE STUDY COMPLETE
15 Maps Provide Key To Area’s Sustainable Future
By Edie Johnson
The long awaited Cornwall/Blooming Grove Natural Heritage Study results were presented to officials and interested residents this week at the Blooming Grove Town Hall. It was a labor of love that was conducted over 3 years by dozens of volunteers and expert planners. The project is an important asset both to promote the town’s preservation of open space, important tourism assets, and to work with Cornwall where the parcels and assets intersect. Schunnemunk Mt. is the tallest in Orange County and has links to much of the region’s trail systems and ultimately to the Highlands, Long Path and Appalachian Trail (which runs from Georgia to Maine) and their spectacular valley and river views which from the Blooming Grove trailheads are one of the most underused environmental treasures in the county. The Moodna Trestle valley which houses one of the trailheads is iconic and historic. The project was felt as urgent, because with ever increasing county growth our remaining rural communities feel that the land will either be protected or developed over the coming decade. The work was funded by a Hudson River Estuary Program Grant through the DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation). A natural resources inventory was compiled over the span of about 2 years, then analyzed by John Behan of Behan Planning and Design, then with the local Conservation Advisory Committee, and volunteers who reviewed every parcel. The somewhat surprising result showed that while Blooming Grove does not currently have a huge amount of protected open space (the majority of existing space being the Schunnemunk Ridge and Birnberg Preserve), it does have a lot of open space in the way of farmland, forest, aquifer and surface water that has the potential to be protected, whether as municipal purchase, Purchase of Development Rights (PDR), land trust, state and county parkland, trail groups, or other agency protections. These lands show a preservation potential of acreage in the thousands. Behan said the study and detailed maps showing the assets that residents identified as areas of prime importance of protection for water, forest, endangered species, will provide a roadmap for future preservation. Now that they will be better publicized and ‘in the eyes of’ protection agencies, the likelihood of their future protection will be greatly increased. He added that these now detailed resources will be “the beginning of partnerships, an important planning and zoning resource, and will present opportunities to expand conversations with neighbors and agencies looking for contiguity”. They will also be an invaluable resource for future studies. Each map shows a valued asset, and a final map shows all of them superimposed on one large map (the map and link to the entire presentation will soon be on the town’s website). Considering the large amount of remaining farmland and its importance to the town’s rural character, the potential of developing PDR (purchase of development rights) for some of these farms (and undeveloped farmland) is at the top of Blooming Grove’s priority list. Another area high on the list is future connection of existing trail resources. Behan reminded the audience that conservation groups could work for decades to come up trail routes that are already in some use but have the potential to connect one end of town to the other.
Open Space Inventory
Satterly Creek South – 401 acres; Western Slope of Schunnemunk Mt.- 2,129 acres; Tomahawk Lake – 1,604 acres; Round Hill – 107 acres; Perry Creek – 873 acres; Moodna Valley – 1,429 acres; Route 94 Corridor Farmland – 1,025 acres; Woodcock Mt – 986 acres; Erie Rail Corridor 8.67 mi, 91 acres; North Branch Corridor – 758 acres; Oxford Depot – 165 acres; Marycrest – 222 acres; Blooming Grove Crossroads – 482 acres; Lasser Park Buffer – 145 acres