Poughkeepsie… Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus has announced the final county funding package is complete for the Rhineson Property in the Town and Village of Rhinebeck. Dutchess County will provide up to $285,000 through the County’s Partnership for Manageable Growth Open Space and Farmland Protection Matching Grant Program toward the acquisition of the property and eligible administrative costs. County Executive Steinhaus authored the open space program in 1999 at which time Dutchess County was considered a pioneer in New York.
County Executive Steinhaus said, “I am delighted our partnership with the Town and Village of Rhinebeck, both Greenway Compact communities, will provide opportunities to expand recreational facilities and create new trail connections between the Village and the Hudson River. Rhinebeck resident and Winnakee Land Trust President Sally Mazzarella first brought the Rhineson project to my attention and has been a passionate champion helping to shepard it to a successful conclusion.”
Sally Mazzarella said, “I am grateful to Bill Steinhaus and Roger Akeley and all the Dutchess County government staff that I have worked with. Their support throughout this process is truly valued. This project is important to the people of Rhinebeck and is a cause for celebration.”
The 71.94-acre property adjacent to the Starr Library was acquired jointly by the Town and Village in 2002 with municipal funding and grants from the Dyson Foundation and from the Thomas Thompson Trust. Additional acreage was acquired simultaneously for private use. The Rhineson property has since been renamed the Thomas Thompson Recreational and Cultural Park in recognition of the foundation’s crucial support.
Since the County’s open space funds may not be used to acquire buildings or building sites, a single acre has been set aside for future construction of a community center. Dutchess County has negotiated a conservation easement that will restrict the remaining 70.94 acres to recreational uses available to all County residents.
The County Executive also noted that local municipal financial participation is crucial to the success of the County’s acquisition programs. “The County must have local government funding partners—if protecting a special property is important to local residents, then we look for a commitment from their local elected officials.”
Town of Rhinebeck Supervisor Dennis McGuire said: “This project has been a true community effort. We are now developing a master plan to put the park to the best possible use for our residents. We appreciate County Executive Steinhaus’ participation and support.”
The Rhinebeck Town Board approved the conservation easement on October 3; the Village must also approve the agreement. County Executive Steinhaus will now submit the proposal to the County Legislature which is then required to hold a public hearing on the project before final action on the grant. The public hearing is expected to take place in December.
Since the establishment of the Matching Grant Program the Dutchess County Planning Board has recommended approximately $3.9 million for open space and farmland proposals that would protect 1,790 acres. The Board anticipates an increase in applications as communities commit to local participation. The County Executive has committed $7 million to the program to date, with the goal of protecting at least 10,000 acres of resources over the coming decade.