OCLT Announces Effort to Protect Sugar Loaf Mountain

Credit: Nick Zungoli

The Orange County Land Trust (OCLT) has announced plans to acquire over 300 acres of land comprising a significant portion of Sugar Loaf Mountain in the Hamlet of Sugar Loaf within the Town of Chester. The announcement comes after the Land Trust secured an option agreement to purchase the land from the Palmer Family, an important preliminary step to purchase the property.

If successful, the Land Trust would own the property with the intent of transferring it to State Parks as parkland.

The agreement grants OCLT the option to purchase the land within a one-year timeframe. Upon conducting the necessary due diligence, such as surveys and assessments, the Land Trust will then embark on a capital campaign to raise the funds needed to acquire the property for conservation.

According to the Land Trust, the property comprises approximately 280 acres of closed-canopy deciduous forest, with areas of rocky ridgetop grassland habitat; a “Significant Ecological Community” designated by the New York Natural Heritage Program (NYS DEC). The property is also identified as a “Tier 1 Priority Conservation Area” in the Land Trust’s Strategic Land Conservation Plan. The project supports the strategic objectives of the Orange County Open Space Plan, New York State Open Space Plan, and Highlands West Trails Connectivity Plan, which include: water resources, recreation, and biodiversity.

OCLT Executive Director Jim Dehner stated: “I have had the pleasure of meeting and keeping close contact with the landowners, the Palmer Family, throughout this process. They care deeply about the property and take great pride in stewarding the land. By protecting this property for future generations, we can honor their family legacy and continue carrying on their tradition of stewardship.”

The mountain’s distinctive, rocky face and highly-visible presence has made it a cherished landmark among generations of area residents. The mountain was the subject of several paintings in the late 1800s by Hudson River School artist, Jasper Francis Cropsey.

OCLT Board President Lewis Lain said: “Acquiring the land as a potential addition to the state park system will make a big impact on tourism and economic development in Sugar Loaf and the surrounding areas, as it would provide public access to Sugar Loaf Mountain for the very first time.”

Lain added: “The County Executive’s vision of connecting the village to the mountain via county-owned land would be a game changer. The prospects of a trail that would essentially connect the shops and restaurants along Kings Highway to the Mountain is as exciting as it gets. We thank County Executive Neuhaus for his support and enthusiasm, and look forwarding to working with him.”

Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus said: “For close to 10 years, we have worked with the Palmer family to preserve Sugar Loaf Mountain, one of the most iconic landmarks in Orange County, which has incredible views. I am proud to collaborate with the Palmer Family and the Orange County Land Trust (OCLT) to make this happen. We are excited about the future of Sugar Loaf Mountain, which will include public access trails and other outdoor activities for residents to enjoy for years to come.”

“The landscape scale impact of this project is of absolute importance to the region’s conservation goals,”
said Dehner. News of the project has created some buzz and excitement, but Dehner still cautioned that the money to purchase the land still needs to be raised before the iconic landscape is protected.

The Land Trust is also calling on supporters of this project to consider making a future donation toward their “Saving Sugar Loaf Mountain” capital campaign, which would directly support the purchase of Sugar Loaf Mountain.

The campaign is tentatively scheduled to launch in late summer or early fall. To be added to the campaign mailing list, e-mail Jeremy@OCLT.org or call 845-534-3690, x18.

The Sugar Loaf Mountain property is privately-owned and public access is prohibited at this time. The Land Trust kindly asks the public to respect private property.