Hugh Neil Zimmerman  

Neil Zimmerman, 77, died peacefully in his sleep at his home in Accord, NY on February 28.  Neil had a special talent for making friends and bringing people together.  An avid hiker, he was president of the NY/NJ Trail Conference from 1987 to 1999, where he was instrumental in developing their excellent hiking maps, which are used by nearly everyone who hikes in New Jersey and New York. He is a co-author of two books, Fifty Hikes in the Lower Hudson Valley and Fifty Hikes in New Jersey. His “day job” was as chief librarian at the Population Council in New York City from 1974 to 2017. One of his many accomplishments there was the development and implementation of a global program to provide academic books to libraries in developing countries.  As he told it, Neil’s hiking career began in 1974 when he won a car in a raffle. To get some use out of it he started camping with friends. He fell in love with the Shawangunk Mountains in particular around 1980 when the Mohonk Preserve asked him, as the then Map Chairman of the Trail Conference, to help produce a hiking map set of the area. He was subsequently appointed a member of the Minnewaska State Park Master Plan Advisory Committee, formed by PIPC and NY State Parks shortly after the big 1987 Lake Minnewaska addition. He served as the Chair of the American Hiking Society, as a Governor of the Adirondack Mountain Club, and as a member of the DEC’s Forest Preserve Advisory Committee. In retirement Neil served on the boards of the Town of Rochester Food Pantry, Friends of the Shawangunks, and The Shawangunk Conservancy, chairing the latter two from 1998-2013, and volunteered at Angle Food East in Kingston.  Neil hiked and trekked the world over, from Nepal to Peru, including the arduous Annapurna circuit, and the Tour de Mont Blanc. He also rafted the Colorado River for its total length. Twice. He always returned from a trip with a funny story. He was member of the Catskill 3500 Club, ADK 46ers, AMC NE111, 100 Highest and 4000Footers. He was working on the Colorado Fourteeners and the Highpointers list. He also enjoyed canoeing and biking. He will be greatly missed by his family, his friends and neighbors, and those he worked with over the years. Neil is survived by his sister Judith Roshke and nephews Mark and Richard Maltz. Suggestions for donations:

OSI Acquires Over a Thousand Acres in the Town of Wawarsing

Protection of the property part of a long-term goal to connect the Shawangunk Ridge and Catskill Park for recreation and wildlife. The Open Space Institute (OSI) today announced the permanent protection of land in the Town of Wawarsing. Completion of the project marks a critical step in establishing a green corridor between the Catskill Park and the Shawangunk Ridge. The property will safeguard local sources of clean drinking water; provide critical wildlife habitat; expand recreational options into the future; and, through its capture and storage of carbon, aid in efforts to fight climate change. OSI purchased the more than 1,000-acre “Shawangunk-Catskill Connector” property from T&T Associates, Inc. for $2.3 million. The property is situated in Ulster County between the southern boundary of the Catskill Park and the northwestern boundary of the Shawangunk Ridge. Now protected from future development, the acquisition is a critical step toward establishing regional trail connectivity of forested lands. “With the permanent protection of this property, a years-long effort to link the Catskill Park to the Shawangunk Ridge is finally taking shape,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s president and CEO. “In fast growing regions like Ulster County, it is becoming increasingly important for OSI to identify conservation opportunities, and act swiftly and with determination to save the land that matters for the health our of our families, our communities, and our planet.” New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “Thanks to the significant connectivity this land acquisition will provide to the Catskill Park and the Shawangunk Ridge, New Yorkers will have new and enhanced opportunities for outdoor recreation ranging from hiking, biking, hunting and birdwatching. DEC is proud to be working with the Open Space Institute in this partnership effort to protect state land and ensure that future generations of visitors have the chance to experience the scenic wonder of the region’s natural landscape, while also preserving sensitive habitats for wildlife.” “The Town of Wawarsing is a Climate Smart Community, and OSI’s protection of more than 1,000 acres of forest and precious wetlands helps us accomplish our environmental goals,” said Town of Wawarsing Supervisor Terry Houck. “In 2019, the Town identified this area as a Critical Environmental Area and I’m glad to see that OSI has taken the necessary steps to ensure this property is permanently protected to provide recreational opportunities and clean water to residents, visitors, and future generations.” The Shawangunk-Catskill Connector Property is an essential part of creating a corridor linking more than 30,000 acres of protected land along the Shawangunk Ridge to more than 288,000 acres of protected land in the Catskill Forest Preserve. The corridor will serve as an important landscape-level connection that will support the movement of people and wildlife between the two landscapes. With several existing roads running throughout the property, the land has the potential to support multiple recreational uses, including hiking and mountain biking. Future trails on the property could eventually connect to an existing network of recreational trails and carriage roads, including regional trail networks OSI is developing throughout the Hudson River Valley. The Shawangunk-Catskill Connector property contains extensive wetlands and streams, including the headwaters of the Brandy Brook and Fantine Kill, which flow to the Rondout Creek and ultimately to the Hudson River. A significant part of the local watershed, the Shawangunk-Catskill Connector property will safeguard clean drinking water for surrounding communities, filtering rainwater as it enters the well-field that serves the Napanoch Water District. Nationally, forests and other land sequester more than 15 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions each year, providing a natural climate solution that is helping in the fight against climate change. The Shawangunk-Catskill Connector property is heavily forested and stores and captures significant amounts of carbon, two key benefits protected and well-managed forests provide communities. According to OSI’s data analysis, the property stores more than 92,000 metric tons of carbon, or more than 90 metric tons per acre, in soils and trees. In a 2017 report, the USDA Forest Service announced that, on average, forests in the United States store about 85 metric tons of carbon per acre. The property also contains multiple types of wildlife habitat and is home to a diversity of plant and animal species. The property contains the majority of a 360-acre Spruce-Fir swamp, which is designated as a significant natural community by the DEC New York Natural Heritage Program. Within a corridor that has been labeled as “above average” in terms of resilience, the property is uniquely positioned to continue to support a diverse array of plants and animals even as the climate changes. Creating a conservation corridor connecting the Shawangunk Ridge and the Catskills Park Preserve has been a long-time goal of OSI and surrounding communities. The Shawangunk-Catskill Connector property is identified as a priority conservation acquisition in the New York State Open Space Plan and the Town of Wawarsing 2019 Comprehensive Plan. Now permanently protected, the property was also designated by the Town of Wawarsing as a “Critical Environmental Area.” The property is anticipated to be transferred to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) as additional protected land for public recreational use.

History of Friends of the Shawangunks & The Shawangunk Conservancy

Throughout its history, Friends of the Shawangunks (Friends) and its affiliate, The Shawangunk Conservancy (TSC), have faced down threats to the Shawangunk Ridge. In the Beginning In 1963, the first recorded threat in Friends’ history, senators from New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania proposed a bill to study the feasibility of creating a skyline parkway running along the crest of the Kittatinny-Shawangunk ridge between the Delaware and Hudson Rivers. The Smiley Brothers of Mohonk Lake sent a message to Friends of the Shawangunk Mountains, a group of conservation minded people, describing the Skyline Drive Proposal and providing key information on how to resist the initiative. The proposal was dropped when the supporting senators realized how unpopular the skyline project was. he group’s name was shortened to Friends of the Shawangunks and adopted with permission by early climbing luminaries Hans Kraus, Frits Wiessner and James P. McCarthy in their fight “to save the Minnewaska-Awosting land from being sold for development” and to raise money to purchase the face of Millbrook Cliffs. By 1971, The Nature Conservancy, with the help of Friends and other groups, had purchased 6,950 acres of Minnewaska-Awosting land. The land was transferred to the Palisades Interstate Parkway Commission (PIPC) and Minnewaska State Park was created. The Fight to Save Lake Minnewaska During the 1970s, Friends continued to raise money for land purchases by The Mohonk Trust (now Mohonk Preserve). It advocated for tax-exempt treatment of The Mohonk Trust lands. It continued to urge the State to acquire more land to add to Minnewaska State Park. In the last few months of 1977, it became apparent to the Friends group that there was no end to the need for concern and action to save the Shawangunks, so the group declared its intention of remaining “a permanent, ongoing organization to serve as a private citizens’ watchdog.” Its activities would “include public education, legislative lobbying, support of private conservation efforts such as those of The Nature Conservancy and The Mohonk Trust, and work for public acquisition of suitable park lands.” By 1979, the Marriott Corporation had announced its plans for a new 400-room luxury hotel and conference center plus 500 condominiums on the Lake Minnewaska property. And so began Friends’ 8 year battle with Marriott and later Knickerbocker Associates to preserve the Shawangunk Ridge. In 1985, Friends won a key lawsuit against the US Department of the Interior preventing Marriott from using Lake Minnewaska as part of its water supply. Faced with this loss, Marriott Corporation announced it was abandoning its Minnewaska project. Next, Knickerbocker Associates attempted to acquire the property in bankruptcy but this too failed and in March 1987, Lake Minnewaska was added to the Minnewaska State Park Preserve. The Shawangunk Conservancy is Formed In 1988 Friends formed The Shawangunk Conservancy to target and acquire critical parcels of open space in the Shawangunks at a time when no other organization was actively pursuing acquisitions. In 1989 TSC acquired the Cross parcel on Rock Hill Road. In 1992 it acquired the Rappaport parcel on Knob Hill Road. The following year it acquired the Bowers parcel on Rock Hill Road. Over the years, TSC worked with other organizations to save open space in the Shawangunks. It acquired an option on 878 acres in the Sam’s Point area which was later purchased by Open Space Institute (OSI). TSC initiated efforts to acquire 30 acres of the Southern Trapps’ cliff face and top land which were later transferred to Mohonk Preserve. It pledged $85,000 to support OSI’s Joppenbergh Mountain project at a critical time in that project’s history. Recent History Friends joined Save the Ridge (paying 85% of the legal expenses) for a successful battle against development of the Awosting Reserve, a significant 2,700-acre parcel on the Shawangunk Ridge. OSI and Trust for Public Lands purchased the Awosting Reserve in 2006 and transferred it to Minnewaska State Park Preserve. Most recently, TSC acquired the Alder Lane parcel, the DeGraw parcel on Clove Valley Road and the Brooks parcel on Rock Hill Road. Friends and TSC continue to monitor threats to the Shawangunk Ridge, acquiring lands to add to open space where it can and advocating against harmful development when necessary.

Who We Work With

Basha Kill Area Association Minnewaska State Park Preserve New York New Jersey Trail Conference Mohonk Preserve Open Space Institute Palisades Interstate Park Commission

Why We Love The Shawangunks

Robi Josephson and Ted Reiss – Members since 1990: “Ancient bedrock, white cliffs, sky lakes. Huckleberries, mountain laurels, hemlocks.  Chipmunks, deer, bears.  Hermit thrushes, peregrine falcons, bald eagles.  Vistas extend to the horizon.  Protected lands stretching thousands of acres.  It’s a mountain range that has called to people for thousands of years and calls to us every day.  It is home.” Barbara Petersen and Roger Roloff – Members since 1991: “The Shawangunks bring us back to old essential Earth:  ageless glories and trials of all seasons, life-and-death struggles of predator and prey, and life-sustaining cooperation of plants and pollinators.” Susan Staples and Mac White – Members since 1989: “We love the varied enchantments of the Gunks: the dark earthy forest of the northern ridge, the white cliffs and escarpments, and the remote landscape of the pine barrens. Escarpments can be traversed on rugged footpaths or gentle carriage roads or even climbed. In the pine barrens, the old cairn paths of blueberry pickers can be followed or you can lose yourself among the small trees scattered over vast expanses of rocky space.”  Roman Sadowy – Member since 1997: “I was born and raised in New York City, where I also raised my family.  Becoming acquainted with the Shawangunks and acquiring a second home there has provided my life with exceptional purpose.”  Judy Menges – Member: “I am a city kid who landed in Ulster County 50 years ago. When I eventually discovered Friends of the Shawangunks, I joined. What I find especially valuable is that FOS doesn’t just advocate for wilderness, they protect and preserve it, like a small scale Nature Conservancy.”

FOS Member Meeting and Hike—June 2021

On Sunday, June 13, Friends had its annual member meeting. This year it took place at the Slingerland Pavilion at the Mohonk Preserve. The main topic was the acquisition of the 70 acre parcel known as The Shawangunk Conglomerate located adjacent to the northern portion of the Preserve. Afterwards we hiked down into the parcel, giving our members a first hand look at the spectacular boulders and other beautiful features of this magnificent tract. FOS Members will get a full recap of the meeting/fundraiser and hike in the current (summer) issue of the Shawangunk Watch coming soon to their mailbox. If you are not already a member of Friends of the Shawangunks, click Donate, and join! BTW, we are still fundraising for the purchase of this parcel! Please help make this land ‘purchase possible. In the meanwhile, here are some pictures of the fun day we had on our Shawangunk ridge! (Photos by Renee Zernitsky, Ted Sendler and John Hayes) 

FOS to Purchase 70 Acres!

What an opportunity! The Shawangunk Conservancy (TSC) has embarked on a new land acquisition project in the Northern Shawangunks. The approximately 77-acre parcel is part of a much larger holding owned by a group called The Shawangunk Conglomerate. It is situated near the very northern reaches of the Mohonk Preserve. An adjacent 10 acres of steep cliffs will be protected from development by a deed restriction. The sheer cliffs are clearly visible from both Route 32 and Springtown Road going north from New Paltz toward Tillson. As you can see from the map, the parcel fills a deep notch in the eastern edge of land that is protected on three sides by the Mohonk Preserve. It has been on the radar for decades! For a virtual visit, CLICK HERE. The beginning and end of the video will show the forests and cliffs of the property. TSC has signed an option agreement with the seller.Under the terms of the agreement we have until July, 2022 to close on the deal. The purchase price is $140,000. However, as the buyers, we are responsible for a number of contingency costs: environmental site assessment, survey, lot line revision, legal fees, etc. so we might need to raise as much as $200,000. This is a rather urgent appeal to you, our members, since that’s a challenging amount of money to raise with a fixed deadline. Obtaining this parcel will fill in a critical gap in the Shawangunk Ridge that might otherwise go to private ownership with who knows what type of development! So here it is: We need your support to purchase this precious section of the ridge which features wetlands, unique boulder fields, cliffs, and wildlife habitat. Please help make this acquisition happen. We ask that you make a donation.

FOS Has Celebratory Member Meeting

On Sunday, May 22 FOS members gathered to celebrate the purchase of the Shawangunk Conglomerate parcel and its conveyance to the Mohonk Preserve (see accompanying article on the parcel purchase). FOS wanted to say “Thanks” to our members who helped make it happen. Mohonk Preserve provided the Slingerland Pavilion at Spring Farm for the location. It was a little early in the day for libation, so we did it with coffee, bagels and other treats. Our guest speakers included David Clark, representing the Conglomerate group, the sellers of the parcel, Julia Solomon, Director of Conservation Programs, and Ed Pestone, Land Protection and GIS Manager, both of the Mohonk Preserve. Julia an Ed spoke about the importance of the land purchase, as well as the tremendous value of land protection in general ON THE Shawangunk Ridge. Last but certainly not least was Bob Anderberg, Vice President and General Counsel of the Open Space Institute. Bob spoke passionately not only about Shawangunk land preservation, but also about all the recent accomplishments by OSI in protecting huge tracts on and around the Shawangunk Ridge as well as other important efforts like the rail trails surrounding the ridge and beyond. Afterward, a hike was led around the Spring Farm trailheads by FOS member and Naturalist Michael Rider. Mike took us on a tour pointing out the wildflowers currently in bloom along the trails at the Mohonk Preserve. Overall, it was a stimulating and fun day! Once again, our thanks go out to the FOS membership for helping to make this land purchase possible!