Right now, the town and village has 126 acres devoted to the park and protected as open space. The park itself would follow Tributary 13 (also known as Stream) from North Putt Corners Road to Route 32 North, and it would straddle both the town and village.
The idea for the Mill Brook Preserve dates back to several years ago when four large developments came before the town and village planning boards. Members of the planning boards and the town’s Open Space Commission saw an opportunity to gain cooperation from private landowners to protect the more significant natural features, including wetlands, beaver ponds, marshes and woodlands that surrounded Tributary 13.
A real boon to the Mill Brook Preserve project came in August when the town, utilizing the $2 million open space bond, purchased 63 acres from Sunset Ridge Developers behind Duzine Elementary School and one of the major puzzle pieces in the Mill Brook Preserve plan.
“At the very least, the town can go ahead with making that 63 acres available for public recreation,” said Seth McKee, co-chair of CWOSP, who along with open space board member Michael Zierler, have really spearheaded the Mill Brook Preserve concept.
“Woodland Pond also has 35 acres under a conservation easement. It is not yet open to the public, but we hope to sit down and talk with them to try and bring that puzzle piece into line with the rest of the plan,” he said. “David Lent, as part of his subdivision agreement, placed approximately 8 acres of sensitive land under a conservation easement.”
Property owner Floyd Kniffen has also expressed an interest in providing a portion of his property which borders Tributary 13 as a conservation easement as he moves forward with his plans to create a residential subdivision north of Henry W. Dubois Drive. Peter Bienstock owns a considerable amount of land that is within the Mill Brook Preserve vision and has also spoken with Zierler and McKee about potential areas that he may consider allowing to be conserved as part of the preserve.
“The vision itself, if realized, could allow kids from Meadowbrook Apartments to walk through this beautiful tract of woods and meadows all the way to the Moriello Pool,” said McKee. “It would be of such great benefit to dozens of neighborhoods that border it on one side or the other as they could walk, possible ride their bikes, picnic, and just be connected to their natural environment right in the heart of New Paltz.”
The 80-page concept plan outlines the natural features of the park and the common and endangered animals that abound in its vast ecological landscape. The plan also shows possible access points, areas for gravel parking, educational programs for students from Duzine, areas of research for students both primary and in secondary education. The plan is also very careful to mark areas that should not be used for passive or active recreation, since they are critical ecosystems that could suffer greatly from use or overuse.
“We want the public to have access and trails through this preserve, but at the same time, one of the core missions is to protect the wetlands, beaver ponds, vernal pools and to protect Tributary 13 itself,” McKee said. “This plan allows for both.”
An outcrop group -- some from CWOSP, the Open Space Commission, SUNY New Paltz, residents that neighbor the proposed Preserve, residents of Woodland Pond -- have recently formed a Friends of the Mill Brook Preserve group and are actively working and brainstorming on ways to turn this concept plan into a reality.
The next step, according to McKee is to present the concept plan to both the town and village boards in January. There the hope is that they adopt the plan and make it part of their master plan and open space plan.
In the open space plan that was adopted several years ago, a Top 10 list of areas the community wanted to see preserved was created and Tributary 13 and its surrounding landscape was No. 5 on that list.