Blooming Grove Environmental Open Space
Five-Year Plan Nearing a Vote
By Edie Johnson
The top environmental experts in the county at a town workshop to discuss the priorities that will be used in selecting the first parcels that will be chosen to protect over the next five years. The work they have done over 2 years as part of the Cornwall and Blooming Grove Natural Heritage Project was analyzed parcel by parcel, and then used by the Open Space Institute to construct a questionnaire for the public to give their input. This, combined with input from the town’s newly established volunteer Community Preservation Plan Committee, with input of the Open Space Inventory, and guidance from Town Planner, Bonnie Franson and her protege Adriana , a young lady whose understanding and presentation of the complexities of these efforts was amazing, both at a professional level and keeping everyone’s interest, resulted in narrowing the prime parcel choices down from over 11,646 acres (247 parcels) (the ideal amount to preserve) to 5,472 acres with 53 desired parcels. Negotiations with the property owners will clearly take time, and fund acquisition along with broad outreach and educational effort to make sure the public is all onboard. The town is not planning to obtain land by eminent domain, rather to look for prime vacant pieces, easements (strips of land important to access trails and recreational areas), PDR’s where farmers have the option to be paid or compensated by tax exemptions for undeveloped portions or portions that will be kept only for farming. Acceptance of the final Plan will enable the Town to apply to the State on their PDR plans.
The study resulted five priority areas. The first was aquifers and water supplies. Then came mountain landscapes, working farmland, trail and shared use corridors, and wildlife habitat corridors.
Planner, Bonnie Franson, made the point that with water resources being the top priority, people should know that every pond, lake, river or stream in Blooming Grove ultimately goes to the Moodna Creek and then on to the Hudson River.
A second presentation by Sona Mason of the regional trails conference showed the highly valued trails we are so fortunate to have, and problems foreseen in the future with creating better access and connection between them. High density building in the areas of Gonzaga Park, where a lot of high density development threatens the quality of historic views. This makes it even more important, they said, to protect contiguous waterways, farmland and woodland, both for the sake of humans who love to hike and enjoy the recreational benefits they offer, but also for the corridors they provide for dozens of species of animal and plant life, some of which are critically endangered.
These efforts all serve to protect the area’s aquifer, both for itself and neighboring towns, as the protection of farmland, wetlands, and forests all help the water resources to recharge.
Now that the best parcels have been identified, the Town can proceed to seek protections via PDR programs, zoning and grants. Many towns use a small real estate transfer tax to build a fund for these protections, but a Trust Fund for these purposes can be donated to or added to with fundraising as well. If a PDR program is used it will have to pass a public referendum vote first. The research done to date will be very useful for these fundraising and grant application efforts as they help justify the value of the open space acquisitions and make the town’s efforts known to regulating and funding organization.
The studies will be posted on the Town of Blooming Grove website in the coming weeks. It will be reviewed by the Town Board and per request of Supervisor Rob Jeroloman the town Planning Board will be at the final presentation next month after which the board will take a vote on acceptance of the plan.
In Other Business:
Councilman Tom DeVinko gave a second review of his hopes to establish an outdoor winter skating rink at May’s Field in the area of its Basketball Field. He has collected and compared costs from several vendors. The rest of the board members, however, had some reservations about potential liability issues if there were to be an accident, as well as whether scheduling might be necessary for the different kinds of skating people might want to do (ice hockey, figure skating, free skating). A further question was raised as to cost of overtime hours for building department members that might be used for installation, and recreation department or other volunteers to supervise the space, though some board members felt that supervision might not be needed. Councilmember Sonia Ayala suggested it might be easier and more economical to have buses bring people to the Bear Mt. Skating Rink.