Gardiner strives to protect open space

GARDINER - After more than a year of work, the Gardiner Open Space Committee will present the final draft of its plan to the Town Board at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

About 4,800 acres, or 17 percent of Gardiner's total land area, is protected. The proposed open space plan designates eight landscape conservation "hubs" and six conservation "corridors" - totaling about 45 percent of Gardiner's total land area - as key natural resources.

Eighty percent of the town's land is in private ownership, but the plan's intent is not to require landowners to conserve their lands. Rather, it calls for providing options and finances for every landowner that chooses protection, according to the committee's co-chairman, Lewis Eisenberg.

"We're not really telling anyone what to do. The main thing we are trying to do is make people aware of what resources are," Eisenberg said.

The conservation hubs would be the Shawangunk Ridge, the Shawangunk Kill South, the Shawangunk Kill/Wallkill River confluence, the Galeville Grasslands, the Wallkill River North, the Route 208 north farmlands, the Plattekill Gorge and the Route 208 south Farmlands.

The conservation corridors would be the River to Ridge corridor, the Palmaghatt Kill corridor, the Mara Kill corridor, the Wallkill River corridor, the Shawangunk Kill corridor and the Route 208 wetland corridor

The plan details a resource and inventory analysis of Gardiner's natural systems, a map of conservation planning areas, a priority conservation network map and a strategic plan of action and tools to help achieve the conservation goals of the community.

Eisenberg, a Gardiner resident for seven years, said the plan not only responds to the need to protect Gardiner from burgeoning development that could threaten its water resources, wildlife habitats, farmlands, rural roads and the Shawangunk Ridge, but looks after Gardiner's fiscal health.

Though it may seem counterintuitive, protecting a region from overdevelopment actually protects the local economy, he said.

Nationwide, Eisenberg said, for every dollar that is received, farmland requires between 36 and 70 cents in services (such as schools, roads, water, sewer, police and fire), while residential development requires $1.16 in services.

"If you pave paradise and put up a parking lot, then you have killed the thing people love about Gardiner," Eisenberg said.

The Open Space Committee's plan will be subject to a public hearing before it can become part of the town's master plan.

Freeman 8/6/06