Governor Announces Protection Of 2,500 Acres In Otsego County

James L. Seward

August 01, 2005

Governor George E. Patakiwas in OneontaSaturday toannounce the acquisition of three properties totaling more than 2,500 acres in Otsego County, including 1,036 acres in the Towns of Milford and Maryland that is being donated to the state for a new state park. The property was a gift from the family of Robert V. Riddell of Colliersville and is the 22nd state park to be opened by the governor since 1995.

"I have known the Riddells my entire life -- since we grew up in Cooperstown Junction -- and I can say that the donation of their land to the state for use as a park exemplifies their community spirit and generosity," Senator James L. Seward said. "While the land was very attractive for development and Bob Riddell could have sold it, he chose to maintain a lasting memorial to their family that will benefit generations to come and maintain 1,000 acres of open space and recreational lands. I commend and thank Trish Riddell Kent and Steve Kent for carrying out their father's wishes, and I applaud the governor for making the preservation of open, forested and agricultural areas a priority of his administration."

The state also is acquiring 1,130-acres that will become the new General Jacob Morris State Forest in the Town of Morris, and 392 acres to expand state forest land in the Town of Plainfield. Together, the three properties will open up new public recreational opportunities, protect water quality and natural resources and promote sustainable forestry in the county.

"Securing this scenic open space ensures the continued protection of natural resources throughout the Susquehanna Valley while increasing access to pristine parkland," Governor Pataki said. "The generosity of Robert Riddell and his family will provide outdoor enthusiasts in the area with exceptional recreational opportunities for years to come. These remarkable public private partnerships mark another important milestone as we advance our environmental and recreational initiatives to benefit the local community here in Otsego County and the many visitors to New York."

The new park property straddles Interstate 88 near Oneonta with 838 acres on the south side containing forested woodlands with an extensive woods road and hiking trail network. The northern 198-acre portion is traversed by Schenevus Creek, a class A trout stream which enters the Susquehanna River to the west of the property. The parcel is bordered by state and county forest lands and is the largest single state park acquisition in Central New York in decades.

The site, a gift from Patricia Riddell Kent and her husband Steven Kent, will be focused on fishing and camping activities and will include additional recreation such as hiking, bird-watching and snowshoeing. The family's ownership of the property dates back to 1871.

Patricia Riddell Kent said, "Together with my husband Steven, we are proud to donate this 1036 acres to become a state park named after my father, Robert V. Riddell. Five generations of my family have had stewardship of this beautiful land and it was my father's heartfelt wish that it be conserved, remaining forever wild and enjoyed by generations to come."

General Jacob Morris State Forest
The State Department of Environmental Conservation worked with the Trust for Public Land to acquire the 1,130-acre property that will become the new General Jacob Morris State Forest. The property is located approximately 14 miles northwest of Cooperstown, along State Highway 51, in the beautiful Butternut Valley. The land will be acquired from Erika Hall, whose deceased husband was a descendant of General Jacob Morris, a Revolutionary War hero who settled in the Town that is named in his honor. General Morris' father, Lewis, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The property has been in the family since 1793.

The parcel lies between the existing 458-acre Wagner Farm State Forest and the 730-acre Calhoun Creek State Forest, which will bring state land holdings there to more than 2,300 acres. Its acquisition will help protect an important ecosystem and increase protected acreage in the Susquehanna watershed. The majority of the property is forested land, with a portion being wetland and farmland. Much of the forested acreage was established as plantations of conifers in the 1930s. As with all state forest lands, the state will pay local property and school taxes.

Plainfield State Forest Expansion
The state will acquire an additional 392 acres of land, known as the Armstrong property, from the Open Space Institute, which acted as intermediary in purchasing the property from the Armstrong family. The property, which had been in the family for several generations, includes a mosaic of forest and grassland habitats and is adjacent to the existing 1,400 acre Plainfield State Forest, bringing this state forest area to nearly 1,800 acres. It consists of open fields and woodlands, streams, and a pond. The beautiful topography of gently rolling hills makes the property a desirable destination, in all seasons of the year. Local school and property taxes will be paid on the property.

Area sports groups had urged the state to acquire this land, to ensure continued use of the area for
hunting. Wildlife is abundant on the property, and there will be many opportunities to manage the land for multiple uses. The property is readily accessible via several town roads that run through it. The purchase also will consolidate existing land holdings and improve access for the public.
Unit Management Plans detailing public uses of both DEC properties will be developed after the acquisitions are complete, expected in the next year. Funds for the acquisition of the two properties will come from the State Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). The state has agreed to pay $ 1,073,500 for the General Morris property. The Open Space Institute paid $502,250 for the Armstrong parcel.

This latest acquisition of a new state park furthers the longstanding environmental goals set by the governor that have made New York a national leader in open space protection and natural resource stewardship. In the 2004 State of the State address, the governor committed to opening 5 new state parks in the next two years and opening or expanding 20 parks over the next five years.

Since that time, the state has announced a new state park with the acquisition of Amsterdam Beach in Montauk, opened Two Rivers State Park in Tioga, opened Jamesport State Park in Suffolk County, Robert G. Wehle State Park in Jefferson County, announced Sonnenberg Gardens State Historic Park in Canandaigua and expanded Rockefeller Preserve and Fahnestock State Parks in the Hudson Valley and Saratoga Spa State Park in the Capital District.

With today's announcements, the governor has now protected close to 920,000 acres of open space statewide since 1995. During that same time he has invested more than $13 billion to protect and preserve New York's environment. This historic commitment includes a record $150 million in the 2005-2006 state budget -- a 20 percent increase over last year and a six-fold increase in the last decade. Annual funding for environmental programs now totals more than $1.4 billion.