Environmental Groups Preserve 216 Acres in Pawling

A partnership of local and national groups advocating for the environment and open space have succeeded in securing $2.35 million in funds to purchase a 216-acre parcel of land on Corbin Hill in Pawling. The land, owned by Boniello Land and Realty, originally had plans to build 50 homes. Instead, the land will now be protected in perpetuity by the change in ownership. Corbin Hill is a central part of the viewshed from Cat Rocks, a scenic vista on the Appalachian Trail.

Private environmental groups have been working to make this happen for years. Leading the group are The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, The Trust for Public Land and local groups such as Oblong Land Conservancy and Friends of the Great Swamp. (FrOGS) After the purchase takes place, the land will be transferred to The National Park Service and be managed by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

The cause rose to prominence and eventually received the attention of lawmakers who supported it during the last round of budget negotiations in Washington. A confluence of interests made the difference: The panoramic view from Cat Rocks is one of the least disturbed viewsheds along the Appalachian Trail so close to a major metropolitan region. Protecting it conforms with the Conservancy’s goal to give hikers a wilderness experience and minimize interaction with sprawl where possible. In addition, purchasing the Corbin Hill parcel will permit the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to reroute part of its trail onto the new property, thereby protecting sensitive species whose habitat is dangerously close to the current trail.

Pawling is the only community along the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail that has a train stop right on the trail. Because of this and Pawling’s proximity to New York City, this portion of the trail is one of the most accessible points of entry. A day hiker from Manhattan can board the Metro-North train to Pawling, hike a few hours, take in the view from Cat Rocks, and return to the City on an afternoon train.

At the trailhead along West Dover Road stands the Dover Oak, listed on the NYS Registry as the biggest white oak in the State. Efforts by The Appalachian Trail Conservancy to reroute the trail around the root system instead of over it are underway and will continue.

Sachem Hawk Storm, Chief of the Schaghticoke United First Nation and Indige- nous Rights Delegate to the United Nations, with daughters Taryn Raccoon Bergin and Amelia Sparrowhawk Bergin; and Kristin Stinavage at the Dover Oak on West Dover Road. | PHOTO COURTESY OF DORIAN WINSLOW

Local environmentalists have raised concerns about sensitive wildlife along the trail, which will be protected with this acquisition. There is also a concern for protecting wildlife “corridors” in the region. Corridors are the migratory paths taken by wildlife and vegetation, and maps have been drawn to show where those important pathways are located. Corbin Hill is in one such corridor.

Longer term, the Oblong Land Conservancy and other local groups would like to see other parcels, to either side of the Corbin hill property, protected as well. “Let’s get back to what is important; think about what is going to happen seven generations down the road. Live with the land or lose it all,” says Sachem (Chief) Hawk Storm of the Schaghticoke tribe, who was involved in making a video about Corbin Hill. “Wanishi,” he adds, which means, “Thank you.”

The partnership is engaging in a fund raising campaign to help cover the remaining costs of the project. The Oblong Land Conservancy is spearheading this effort on the local level and has made a donation of $25,000. The group will host a table at opening day of The Pawling Farmers Market in the Village of Pawling on Saturday June 16 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. with more information about the Corbin Hill acquisition. A short video will be shown of the property and the view from Cat Rocks as well. The public can make donations (and view the video) also by visiting SaveCorbinHill.org online.