Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus has forwarded two resolutions to the Dutchess County Legislature that will move the Town of Dover’s acquisition of the Stone Church property toward completion.
“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, 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 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.
Dutchess County’s Open Space and Farmland Protection Matching Grant Program, which the County Executive initiated in 1999, is based on the concept of building funding partnerships to leverage local dollars. In 2001, the program was revised specifically to include municipalities as funding partners in open space and farmland protection projects. To date the Steinhaus initiated program has preserved approximately 1,260 acres countywide.
Steinhaus added, “From my two visits to the property I am convinced the Stone Church 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.
Sunset Ridge has a pending application with the County and was already awarded $1.175 million in Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) funding by the State of New York. The application is currently awaiting review by the Planning Board. The farm is 213 acres, but the project involves other donated easements that could bring the total acreage to more than 1,000 acres.