Speak up today to keep a casino out of the heart of Sterling Forest State Park!

From AMC enews blast:

In the New York Highlands developers are proposing a 1.4 million square foot casino hotel in the heart of Sterling Forest State Park. The proposal includes a new highway interchange off the New York Thruway for an expected seven million visitors a year.

AMC has worked side-by-side with our partners for close to two decades to protect the 22,000-acre Sterling Forest State Park, which offers outstanding recreational opportunities, including six miles of the iconic Appalachian Trail. Approximately $55 million in public open space funding was contributed toward the park’s purchase and protection by the federal government, New York, and New Jersey.  But now, this enormous development proposal threatens to devastate the ecological integrity and irreplaceable recreational values for which the land was initially protected.

Visit the Action Center to learn more.

Take Action TODAY to stop the proposed casino and help protect Sterling Forest State Park!

Mark Zakutansky
Mid-Atlantic Policy Manager
Appalachian Mountain Club

Valley full of beautiful hiking options

REPOSTED from Poughkeepsie Journal, written by Karen Maserjian Shan

Hikers enjoy a trek along the Dover Stone Church Trail in eastern Dutchess County. The trail is maintained by Friends of Dover Stone Church.
Hikers enjoy a trek along the Dover Stone Church Trail in eastern Dutchess County. The trail is maintained by Friends of Dover Stone Church.

(Photo: Courtesy photo/Georgette Weir)

Stancy DuHamel remembers when her parents insisted that she and her five siblings head outside. These days she doesn’t need any prompting.

“It’s a great way to clear the mind and discover,” said DuHamel, a resident of New York City and long-term weekender in Wingdale. “Plus the air is fresh.”

Millions of people agree with DuHamel. The Outdoor Foundation’s 2014 Outdoor Recreation Participation Topline Report shows 142.6 million Americans participated in at least one outdoor activity in 2013 and jointly made 12.1 billion such outings. Favorite activities among young people were running, biking, fishing, camping and hiking.

For DuHamel, who volunteers with several conservation and outdoor groups, hiking is an outdoor activity that relieves stress and connects her with nature’s flora and fauna. All you need, she said, is a backpack for binoculars, bug repellent, water, a compass and maps. And don’t forget to wear good hiking shoes.

“My tips are give yourself enough time to relax,” she said.

DuHamel hikes with others for their company, safety and the shared experience, whether it’s at the Great Swamp in Pawling, the Roger Perry Preserve in Dover Plains, Nellie Hill Preserve in Dover Plains or elsewhere. “There’s just a lot of places to get out the door,” she said.

Recently about 24 miles of trails primarily in Dutchess County were designated as “Greenway Trails” and part of the Hudson River Valley Greenway Trail system, including Bowdoin Park, Wilcox Memorial Park, Quiet Cove Riverfront Park, and the Dutchess Rail Trail, which connects to the Walkway Over the Hudson and the Hudson Valley Rail Trail in Ulster County.

The Hudson River Valley Greenway Trail system includes more than 800 miles of designated trails, with nearly 117 miles of designated Greenway Trails in Dutchess County, including riverside trails, countryside corridors and connector trails, many of which offer hiking opportunities.

“Dutchess County recognizes the importance of trails to both residents and visitors, as a recreational resource and an economic driver,” said Mark Castiglione, acting executive director of the Hudson River Valley Greenway. “The Greenway Trails System comprises a variety of trail experiences that help enhance the quality of life in the Hudson River Valley.”

Georgette Weir, a spokeswoman for the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, said more than 2,000 miles of hiking trails run from northern New Jersey through the New York’s Hudson Valley, with most maintained by volunteers.

“There are fabulous trails, many of them offering fabulous views,” said Weir, who also is a member of and volunteer with the Mid-Hudson Adirondack Mountain Club. “I just think people in this region, we’re so fortunate in the outdoor opportunities that we have. We’re known for being an urban area — the Catskills, even down through the Hudson Highlands. You get up to those peaks, and you look out and you see nothing but trees and the river.”

Trails in all levels of difficulty allow generations to get together for family fun and exercise while providing more challenging opportunities for those who are up for it.

Hikers, said Weir, should wear suitable clothes and footwear plus bring a hat, bug spray, sunglasses, water and paper trail guides, the latter as insurance against low cellphone reception in remote areas or problems with cellphone batteries.

Detailed information about 400 hikes is shown on the Trail Conference’s website, http://www.nynjtc.org. Volunteers with the Trail Conference work to maintain trails and direct hikers.

“Many people don’t know what they’re getting into,” Weir said. “We’re there to have a good time and pick a trail appropriate for what they want to do.”

Recently, the Pawling and Dover Plains libraries joined efforts with the Harlem Valley Appalachian Trail Community to lend backpacks with hiking accessories to day hikers to encourage them to enjoy a day on the trails. The joint effort also includes Little Free Libraries, a free book exchange at two A.T. shelters in Dover and Pawling along the trail for through-hikers, that is, people trekking the Appalachian Trail in a continuous journey.

“Once you’re in your tent and there’s no TV around, you might like to read before sleeping,” said Susan Totter, director of the Dover Plains Library, of through-hikers’ overnight campsites.

With Dover Plains and Pawling designated as an Appalachian Trail Community, the Little Free Libraries show community support of the Appalachian Trail and its hikers.

“It’s been very exciting to meet other people and learn the history,” said Trotter, including that the A.T. Wiley Shelter’s Little Free Library in Wingdale is turning 75 years old. “My library is working to get our local Boy Scouts to help maintain the box,” she said.

Anthony Coneski, parks event and volunteer coordinator for Scenic Hudson in Poughkeepsie, said from miles-long hikes through the Hudson Highlands’ rocky terrain in Beacon to peaceful river views in the Esopus Meadows Preserves and moderate treks over hills through the Black Creek Preserves, the Hudson Valley offers great hikes.

“New hikers should have a map and plan and know where to go, how long the hike is and know what the weather is,” he said.

Volunteers work to maintain the organization’s parks and trails, including ridding sites of invasive plants, planting native selections, general cleanup and restoration work on old trails, all of which open the way for ongoing trail-hiking fun.

“Get out and enjoy,” said Coneski. “We live in a beautiful area, and there are hiking trails all over.”

Karen Maserjian Shan is a freelance writer: mkshan@optonline.net

On the Web

American Hiking Society: www.americanhiking.org

American Trails, New York trail resources:http://americantrails.org/resources/statetrails/NYstate.html

Dutchess County Tourism, hikes: http://dutchesstourism.com/listings/hiking

Hike the Hudson Valley: http://hikethehudsonvalley.com

Hudson River Valley Greenway, land trail system:http://www.hudsongreenway.ny.gov/Trailsandscenicbyways/LandTrail.aspx

Hudson Valley Hikers: http://www.meetup.com/hvhikers

The New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, high quality, free downloadable maps: www.nynjtc.org/view/maps

Scenic Hudson: www.scenichudson.org/parks

Hyde Park trek

What: Hyde Park Trail, End-2-End Trek, a nine-mile trek from Top Cottage to the Vanderbilt Mansion, via Val-Kill, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Home and Library and Riverfront Park. Finishers will earn the 2014 Walkabout trail patch.

Where: Vanderbilt Mansion parking lot. Participants will be shuttled to the starting point. The hike will finish at Vanderbilt.

When: June 7, sign-in 7:30-9 a.m.

Bring: Hiking supplies, including water, lunch, insect repellant, rain gear and other essentials.

Pre-registration: Call Hyde Park Recreation at 845-229-8086 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, or visit http://www.hydeparkend2endhike.eventbrite.com

Information: www.nps.gov/hofr/planyourvisit/event-details.htm?eventID=529386-232573 or http://www.hydeparkny.us/notices/End2End.pdf

Hiking sites

For a longer list, visit this story at http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com

Beacon Hill and Lake Minnewaska, Minnewaska State Park Preserve, Ulster County. Easy trail loop hike around a pleasant hill and lake with views. http://www.nynjtc.org/hike/beacon-hill-and-lake-minnewaska-easy-loop

Black Creek Preserve, Esopus. Family-friendly hikes. http://www.scenichudson.org/parks/blackcreek

Bonticou Crag Hike, Mohonk Preserve, Gardiner. Moderate hike through the woods and top of a crag. http://www.mohonkpreserve.org/suggested-hikes

Brace Mountain, South Taconic Mountains. Moderate to strenuous trail to highest point in Dutchess County. http://www.nynjtc.org/hike/brace-mountain-taconic-ridge

Breakneck Ridge Trail, Hudson Highlands State Park, Beacon. Rugged loop hike with steep climbs. http://www.nynjtc.org/hike/breakneck-ridge-trail

Burger Hill, Rhinebeck. A half-mile trail through open meadows with broad views. http://www.scenichudson.org/parks/burgerhill

Cat’s Rock, Pawling. Moderate hike with nice views. http://www.berkshirehiking.com/hikes/catsrock.html

Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park, Dutchess and Putnam counties. Various trails, including easy, moderate and difficult hikes. http://nysparks.com/parks/133/details.aspx

Depot Hill, Beekman and Pawling. Moderate hike to the top of Mount Egbert. http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/34751.html

Esopus Meadows Preserve, Esopus. Four trails through woodland or shoreline with picnicking and views. http://www.scenichudson.org/parks/esopusmeadows

Falling Waters Preserve, Glasco. Two miles of trails include a gravel road, a carriage road and a riverside footpath. http://www.scenichudson.org/parks/fallingwaters

Fishkill Ridge, Beacon. 11.5 miles of strenuous trails, including uphill climbs, rock scrambles and difficult descents. http://www.scenichudson.org/parks/fishkillridge

Franny Reese State Park, Highland. Part of the 2.5 miles of trails along a historic carriage road leading to an overlook . A link connects the park to the Walkway Loop Trail. http://www.scenichudson.org/parks/frannyreese

Ferncliff Forest Game Refuge and Forest Preserve, Rhinebeck. Woods walk, fire tower, pond, campsites by permit. http://ferncliffforest.org/index.html

Gertrude’s Nose Loop/Millbrook Mountain, Minnewaska State Park Preserve. Moderate to strenuous loop hike along cliffs of Shawangunks. Exceptional views. http://www.nynjtc.org/hike/gertrudes-nose-loopmillbrook-mountain

High Peters Kill, Mohonk Preserve, Gardiner. Strenuous trek through wooded area to ridge views and Peters Kill stream. http://www.mohonkpreserve.org/suggested-hikes

The Hyde Park Trail, Hyde Park. A growing, 10-mile system of trails and walkways linking town parks, nature preserves and National Park sites with local neighborhoods and the town’s central business corridor. http://www.hydeparkny.us/Recreation/Trails

James Baird State Park, Pleasant Valley. Easy stroll. http://nysparks.com/parks/101/amenities-activities.aspx

Mount Beacon Park, Beacon. Uphill mile-long trail to Mount Beacon’s summit and views from the Hudson Highlands to the Catskill Mountains. http://www.scenichudson.org/parks/mountbeacon

Ogden Mills & Ruth Livingston Mills State Park, Staatsburg. Numerous trails through the grounds of Mills and Norrie State Parks. http://nysparks.com/parks/33/details.aspx

Pawling Nature Preserve, Pawling and Dover. http://pawlingnaturereserve.org/index.php

Peach Hill Park, Poughkeepsie. Former orchard, now 3.2 miles of trails to the town’s highest point. http://www.scenichudson.org/parks/peachhillpark

Poets’ Walk, Red Hook. Nearly two miles of gravel and packed dirt trails. http://www.scenichudson.org/parks/poetswalk

Roosevelt Farm Lane, Hyde Park. A 1.8-mile road connecting Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Sites. Part of the 14-mile Hyde Park Trail. http://www.scenichudson.org/parks/rooseveltfarmlane

Sam’s Point Preserve, Cragsmoor. A three-mile partially paved loop with access to the various trails. http://www.nynjtc.org/park/sams-point-preserve

Shaupeneak Ridge, Esopus, Ulster County. Nine miles of trails of varying difficulty and length. http://www.scenichudson.org/parks/shaupeneakridge

Stissing Mountain, Pine Plains. Short but steep hike to impressive fire tower with sweeping views. http://www.nynjtc.org/park/stissing-mountain-multiple-use-area

The Shawangunk Sensory Trail, Mohonk Preserve, Gardiner, Ulster County. Easy loop trail on the Shawangunk Ridge. http://www.mohonkpreserve.org/suggested-hikes

The J & S Grafton Sensory Trail, Mohonk Preserve, Gardiner, Ulster County. Easy loop trail on the Shawangunk Ridge. http://www.mohonkpreserve.org/suggested-hikes

Tivoli Bays, Red Hook. Hiking trails wind around and through the tidal areas and the surrounding landscape. Part of the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve. http://www.nynjtc.org/park/tivoli-bays

Trapps Mountain Hamlet Path to the Van Leuven Cabin, Mohonk Preserve, Gardiner, Ulster County. Easy walk through the woods. http://www.mohonkpreserve.org/suggested-hikes

Undercliff and Overcliff Carriage Roads, Mohonk Preserve, Gardiner. Easy loop trail along the base of the rock climbing cliffs with great views. http://www.mohonkpreserve.org/suggested-hikes

Walkway Loop Trail, Poughkeepsie and Town of Lloyd, Ulster County. 4.5-mile walking trail that links Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park and the Mid-Hudson Bridge with amenities in Poughkeepsie, Lloyd. http://www.scenichudson.org/parks/walkwaylooptrail

Walkway Over the Hudson, Poughkeepsie and Town of Lloyd. Far-reaching views along the 1.28-mile walking/biking bridge that is part of the Walkway Loop Trail. http://www.scenichudson.org/parks/walkway

Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site, Route 9, Hyde Park. Stroll the grounds, gardens and wooded trails with scenic viewpoints. http://www.nps.gov/vama/index.htm

A Trail Runs Through It

New York landscaper equally at home serving Appalachian Trial hikers and Manhattan estate owners
By Tom Crain

native landscapes
Pete Muroski’s garden center offers unique indigenous plant material to the public and to other local landscapers. It also serves as a platform to teach about native plant landscaping.
Photos courtesy of Native Landscapes.

Hiking about two-thirds of the way northward along the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, you’ll hit “The Oblong,” a strip of land 2 miles wide and 51 miles long that, way back in 1731, became the border between New York and Connecticut, and essentially, the southern demarcation between New England Yankees and the rest of the early U.S. colonies.

On The Oblong, you’ll come to the spot where the tracks of the Appalachian North Metro Station cross the trail. You’ll also find a boardwalk that guides you through the thick cattails of the Great Swamp. Another option is a steady climb out of the thick woods along the side of Corbin Hill to get a spectacular view of open meadows. It’s also here that you’ll find the most welcome and unexpected rest stop on the entire 2,100-mile trail: Native Landscapes of Pawling, N.Y.

“Being on the Appalachian Trail and surrounded by the trail’s spectacular scenic greenway helps remind me why it’s so important for my customers to use native plants and employ more environmentally-conscious practices to compliment the natural beauty of the area that surrounds them,” explains Pete Muroski, founder and owner of Native Landscapes.

Muroski launched his business in 1987 to share his passion for plants and his commitment to environmentally-conscious landscape design and maintenance. “It’s basically a common-sense approach to gardening – using native plants indigenous to our region,” says Muroski. His company’s installation portfolio includes stone walls and paths, perennial gardens and nature-friendly water features. It also offers a full-service native plant garden center to help local gardeners learn about and enjoy the beauty of the region’s flora. He also uses it to educate other regional landscapers about using native plants and to service their special plant needs for their installations.

Native Landscapes
Owner: Pete Muroski
Founded: 1987
Headquarters: Pawling, N.Y.

Markets: Communities in Duchess and Putnam Counties in NewYork State, Connecticut’s Fairfield County

Services: Rock and woodland gardens; waterfall and stream garden construction; design consultation; drainage irrigation and sprinkler systems; tree and shrub installation; retaining structures; landscape lighting; estate maintenance; site analysis; turf renovation; and native plantings
Employees: 20 full time; 8 to 10 seasonal

About a decade into operating his business, Muroski stumbled upon the opportunity to purchase 2 acres of land a couple miles from where he lived and operated his business. He was also captivated by the fact that the Appalachian Trail ran right through it.

The property, first owned by Sheffield Farms, was part of one of the largest dairy farms in the Northeast that, in one form or another, continued operations through the mid-1990s. Until the 1940s the farm delivered raw milk and loaded onto trains that regularly stopped there. When the dairy operations closed more than a half-century ago, the owners converted the barn into a popular dining establishment that served up local grub until its closure in the mid-1980s.

Preserving history

Since Muroski struggled to find local plants to fill his landscapes, he envisioned building up his stock of plants using the existing barn on the property. He saw it as the ideal native plant nursery, and it was large enough to house the offices for his landscaping business. To stay true to the vintage quality of the property, he painstakingly restored the barn’s original 1800’s historic look using white pine planking, rough board siding and commissioning a local artist to paint a period mural of the Appalachian scenery.

The garden center primarily features native perennials, shrubs and trees and also offers fruit and vegetable plants and seeds. In front of the center is a large demonstration pond with native fish, waterfalls and flagpole islands.

Muroski, who had always been an avid Appalachian Trail hiker and supporter, also seized the opportunity to serve hikers passing through the property either on foot or bicycle. Native Landscapes offers showers, restrooms, a recharge station for cell phones, mail stop, canteen for basic hiking supplies and overnight tent camping. During peak season, Native Landscapes accommodates more than 30 hikers a day. Muroski hosts narrated hikes of Native Landscapes’ gardens and along adjacent stretches of the trail. On special occasions, he organizes hiker picnics and barbecues.

Says Muroksi, “We’re honored to be on the trail and do everything we can to be hiker friendly.” Other visitors arrive on the Metro North train that rolls in from Manhattan 75 miles away three times a day.

Although Native Landscapes is known for its native plant nursery and trail stop, its major revenue comes from landscape maintenance and installation services.

“Over the years, and especially during this current recession, we have had to diversify and add services in order to survive,” says Muroski. To keep his 20 full-time employees and five work trucks busy year-round, he added tree pruning, mulching, holiday decorating for municipalities and snow and ice removal. Many of his clients are upper-income Manhattanites in recession-proof occupations who maintain weekend summer estates in the area that includes Duchess and Putnam counties in New York and Connecticut’s Fairfield County.

Muroski takes pride in educating his landscaping customers on the benefits of using native plants and employing sustainable and organic maintenance on their landscapes. For most, it’s an easy sell as they recognize the importance of being stewards for the Appalachian greenway.

“When it comes to their lawns, I tell them to keep their grass longer, allow clover and violets to grow on it, use less insecticides and herbicides, and more clippings and leaf mulch.”

Residents in this rural New York region greatly appreciate its natural beauty. Consequently, many favor low-maintenance landscapes featuring hearty native and adapted greenery.

A committed teacher

The unique soils that run through the Harlem Valley where Muroski’s clients are clustered also provides an important teaching moment, he says. “Soils in the valley are limestone and on the hillsides acidic,” he explains.

“Most people don’t realize the alkaline soils can’t accommodate the standard acid-loving plants of the Northeast. There are a unique group of natives adapted to these alkaline soils like juniper, honeysuckle, sumac, oak, chokeberry, St. Johns wort, bayberry and sweet fern.”

Muroski finds that after his clients hang in there awhile with these new practices, they see all the benefits including saving money, better health and aiding local wildlife.

Beyond direct hands-on education of his landscaping clients, garden center customers and trail visitors, Muroski is also sharing his knowledge of native plantings and sustainable landscaping practices to Westchester Community College’s Lady Bird Johnson Native Plant Center where he is an occasional instructor. He also maintains a popular blog site, “Living Landscape Journal.”

Nature Landscapes’ installation portfolio includes stone walls and paths, perennial gardens and nature-friendly water features.

Before YouTube arrived on the scene, he also created videos on native plantings and edible landscaping. They attracted the attention of such media outlets as HGTV and the LIME radio on Sirius Satellite Radio network, and even Paul Newman and his organic chef Michel Nishan. Newman employed Muroski to install native edible landscapes around his new Connecticut restaurant “The Dressing Room.”

For the past four years, Muroski has been a member of the Pawling Conservation Advisory Board. “Whenever there is a property development project in the area, we go in and assess what needs to be done to minimally impact the land and water resources. We comment on stormwater regulations and how these rules relate to the project, soils and other environmental issues.”

This past October, Native Landscapes won a 2013 Best of Hudson Valley award from Hudson Valley magazine. Naturally, the category was “Best Place to Design your Garden with Native Plants.”

For the past 20 years, Tom Crain, based in Akron, Ohio, has been a regular contributor to B2B publications, including many in the green industry. You can contact him at tecrain@goingreenguy.com.

Turf Magazine – February, 2014

This article can be found: http://turfmagazine.com/article-10468.aspx