The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced the acquisition of 261 acres adjacent to the Catskill Forest Preserve’s Sundown Wild Forest. The permanent protection of the land will preserve open space, protect drinking water sources of the New York City watershed, and expand recreational opportunities to support the local economy.
The purchase of the property, consisting of forested land along the east side of South Mountain in the Town of Olive, Ulster County, including a portion of the mountain’s summit, was made possible through a partnership with the Open Space Institute (OSI) and $666,500 from New York’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF).
The South Mountain property is located within the Ashokan Reservoir watershed and connects to other lands conserved by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to protect water quality. More than 90 percent of New York City’s water supply comes from the Catskill and Delaware watershed, located more than 100 miles north of the city.
The protection of the land also lays the groundwork for the creation of new public access points for two popular hiking destinations from a public road, opening additional wild areas to better welcome and disperse hikers and visitors seeking to recreate in the Catskills.
Additional access points, allowing for eastern access to South Mountain from High Point Mountain Road, could be used to relieve pressure on popular trailheads and summits. South Mountain rises 2,190 feet high near the west shore of the Ashokan Reservoir and is connected to the 3,091-foot Ashokan High Point Mountain by a ridgeline.
The new acquisition adds to the 30,100-acre Sundown Wild Forest, which covers a large swath of the southeast Catskills, including several ridges and 10 mountains over 2,000 feet.
OSI initially purchased the newly conserved property in 2019 from Dr. Sam and Delia Adams, whose family owned the land since the Hardenbergh Patent of the 1700s.
DEC and OSI worked together to accommodate the Adams’ desire to retain their farmhouse and adjacent agricultural fields. The state acquisition includes wooded mountainous portions of the property, resulting in a balance of forest preservation and private ownership of adjacent land that allows the family to carry on the agricultural tradition.
Illustration: 2023 Sundown Wild Forest acquisition map (courtesy Open Space Institute).