Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus announced today the completion of the County’s acquisition of a conservation easement on the Stone Church Property of Dover, in partnership with the Town of Dover. The Dutchess County Open Space and Farmland Protection Matching Grant Program provided a matching grant to preserve this 58.5-acre of privately owned land.
“The Dover Stone Church property is an extraordinary natural landform that I feel strongly should be preserved and made accessible for public recreation and educational purposes. The site includes a trail system, streams and waterfalls,” said County Executive Steinhaus. “This site has played an important role long ago in the area’s history, serving as a destination for visitors and worshipers and as a subject for painters from our renowned Hudson River School of Artists,” he noted.
The County welcomed the Town of Dover as a member of the Greenway Compact in July 2000. In July 2003 the Town of Dover submitted an application for an award of $441,250 from the Dutchess County Open Space and Farmland Protection Matching Grant Program as partial funding for the Town’s purchase of Stone Church property, a 58.5-acre parcel of privately held land. The Dutchess County Planning Board has since recommended that the County approve the Town’s request. Grant approval through Dutchess County’s matching grant program will be equivalent to approximately 46% of the total cost of the easement acquisition.
The County’s funds will be combined with municipal and private funds already committed through the Dutchess Land Conservancy. “What has also so impressed me,” said the County Executive, “is a community group called the Friends of the Dover Stone Church who worked so actively as an advocate and fundraising. Together with the Conservancy, the two organizations will provide more than 50% percent of the acquisition costs,” he said.
The Dutchess Land Conservancy has supported the Stone Church initiative since its inception. “It has been extremely rewarding to have worked so closely with the Town of Dover, Friends of Dover Stone Church, Dutchess County, local residents, and the landowner over the past two years on the acquisition and protection of this unique and historically rich property. Only by working together have we achieved the preservation of an incredible natural landform and cultural legacy that inspired FDR back in 1925 and will continue to inspire and benefit people of all ages. What a great legacy to give to future generations,” noted Becky Thornton, Executive Director, Dutchess Land Conservancy.
Chairman of the Dutchess County Legislature, Bradford Kendall, R-Dover/UnionVale haled the acquisition of the property as a “wonderful opportunity for Dutchess County.” Kendall went on to state, “The preservation of this property is what was envisioned by the Friends of Stone Church as well as Dover Town officials. I am grateful to all of them for their collaborative efforts this year to ensure that this property is preserved and can be enjoyed not only for residents of Dutchess County, but for the many that visit our county.” Kendall also praised the property’s owners, Kevin and Deirdre Cunningham for their willingness and support to see this project become a reality.
Since the establishment of the Matching Grant Program the Dutchess County Planning Board has to date recommended $3.775 million for open space and farmland proposals that would protect 1790 acres. The Board anticipates an increase in applications as communities commit to local participation. The County Executive initiated the program in 1999 and has committed $7 million to its advancement, with the goal of protecting at least 10,000 acres of resources by 2010.
Steinhaus added, “From my two visits to the property I am convinced the Stone Church property proposal is an ideal open space acquisition—an opportunity to protect an environmental and historic resource, to open a recreational area to the public, and to provide an economic boost to the region by creating another tourism destination for the beautiful Harlem Valley. I want to give special credit to Supervisor Jill Way and the Town Board for their vision for their community, as well as their understanding of the value of the preservation of this land. I am pleased to partner with the Town to make this acquisition possible.”
Steinhaus pointed out that in combination with the proposed Sunset Ridge Farm project in North East, the Stone Church acquisition extends the reach of the County’s program into the Harlem Valley with two important open space and farmland protection acquisitions.