Millbrook Mountain Cliffs: Preserved

The Open Space Institute just bought 67 acres of cliff faces in the Gunks, to be added to the Mohonk Preserve and used for conservation and recreation.

The rock formations that comprise the cliffs on the Shawangunk Ridge feature many different microhabitats for plants and animals, making the talus on the property a rare and unique ecosystem. As such, it had been regarded as a conservation priority in the New York State and Town of Gardiner open space plans.

Unlike neighboring Minnewaska State Park--which the state is threatening to close due to budget problems--the Mohonk Preserve is privately managed. The preserve is run by a trust established by the family that runs the Mohonk Mountain House, and traces its origins back to a 280-acre land deal in 1869:

The property was purchased from a local farmer, John Stokes, who had built a small tavern at the end of the lake to supplement his farming income. He maintained order by chaining his drunken customers to a tree. While showing the property to the Smiley brothers, Mr. Stokes expressed his disdain for the 'pizen' laurel. He thought it was useless because the cattle would not eat it and it was impractical as firewood. Perhaps he did not notice the breathtaking display of delicately clustered pink and white flowers that draped the Shawangunks in early June or the sprawling grace of shrubs with glossy leaves that grew in and about the rocky places and under the hemlock trees.