TREE BY TREE
Thanks to a recent deal brokered by The Trust for Public Land and The Palisades Interstate Park Commission there is more of Sterling Forest preserved for the public good. Following recent acquisitions, there will be greater than 20,000 acres of protected Sterling Forest lands in the New York-New Jersey Highlands.
In February, Governor George Pataki announced an agreement to purchase an additional 1,968 acres to be added to the Sterling Forest State Park. Two parcels totaling 1,100 acres will come from The Sterling Forest Corporation. The parcels include a section of wooded hills south of the Ski Center, located both east and west of County Route 84 and the southern end of Sterling Lake, including the ruins and related structures of the historic Sterling Furnace.
Other properties acquired include 209 acres purchased from Mr. Sears Hunter and the Lawrence Copans Trust, which extends from the western boundary of the State Park to the shore of the north arm of Greenwood Lake. Additionally, 659 acres of undeveloped land sited between Sterling Lake and Tuxedo Lake were acquired from NY University.
Sterling Forest Corporation has retained 1,100 acres, mostly within the State Park. This includes the Sterling Forest Ski Center and Renaissance Faire grounds along Route 17A, a few acres along Route 17 and a parcel in the Town of Warwick near the IBM facility. Most importantly, they also kept a large area along County Route 84 where the corporation has indicated an interest in developing a golf course and 110 estate-style homes. The 250-acre golf course would be protected from residential development by a conservation easement.
Governor Pataki has demonstrated his leadership in protecting open space in New York by being directly involved in these acquisition efforts. The cost for this latest purchase is $8 million. Governor Pataki has committed $4 million from New York State, New Jersey’s Governor Whitman has promised $1 million and the White House has announced that Sterling Forest will receive $2 million from the federal Forest Legacy program. The remaining $1 million will be sought through grants and donations from the private sector.
The Sterling Messenger, the newsletter for Sterling Forest Partnership, states “the impact of potential development of the privately held lands in the heart of the new state park, and the possible drawdown of water from Blue Lake and Sterling Lake, as the result of an earlier agreement to allow Sterling Forest Corporation to retain certain water rights, remains a concern.” The Sterling Forest Partnership and other concerned environmental groups will closely monitor any new development proposal.