-- To preserve forested limestone terrain, historic quarry and lime kilns for ecological management and community engagement--
The Kingston Land Trust (KLT) has protected six acres of forest and an historic quarry and lime kilns in the City of Kingston’s hamlet of Wilbur. The land acquired by the nonprofit organization provides important ecosystem services, has historic significance, offers picturesque views, and has great potential for passive recreation. This site is in an area identified as a priority for conservation in the City of Kingston’s recently adopted Open Space Plan.
The land has a variety of tree species, ranging from majestic sycamores and sugar maples in the lower areas to hardy eastern red cedars growing from the cliffs. The rocky terrain supports plants such as the regionally rare purple cliff-brake fern and provides habitat for endangered bat species. A dramatic canyon exhibits impressive geologic formations and provides stunning overlooks, including over the Rondout Creek.
In the 1850s, Wilbur became a center of activity for shipping bluestone and quarrying limestone for natural cement. The canyon was quarried and limestone was processed in the lime kilns that remain along Wilbur Avenue. After this industry ceased, the land re-naturalized until 2019, when it was purchased by a private entity that cut down more than 100 trees and began excavating the slope with the intention of creating a developable lot.
The concerns of Wilbur residents about the future of this land drove the KLT’s efforts to acquire the land to ensure that it would not be further disturbed. “This dignified forest and rugged former quarry, high on a mountainous hill behind our homes, has always been treasured by the residents of Wilbur. The KLT responded to the needless ecological devastation and our collective remorse with deft leadership, valuable partnership, and sensitivity to our dire situation. Thank you, KLT, from the bottoms of our hearts -- and also from the utter top of that fantastic and now protected site,” says L.K. Noller, who has lived in Wilbur for 22 years. This acquisition was funded by the KLT’s Protect Our Outdoors fund, a contribution from the Northeastern Caves Conservancy, and private donations from Kingston residents.
While the KLT works to clean up and mitigate the recent disturbance to the land and manage it ecologically, the land will be closed to the public. In 2021, the KLT will begin a community engagement process to explore possibilities for future recreational use and historic interpretation. Community members who would like to get involved should contact the KLT at firstname.lastname@example.org or 845-877-5263.
“This success story comes on the heels of two other significant pieces of land that the Kingston Land Trust protected in 2019, the Pine Street African Burial Ground and a small neighborhood forest on Gross Street along the Kingston Greenline. We are thrilled to now bring this beautiful, larger and more wild land under our stewardship. This effort is an example of well-planned open space protection that will allow the public to appreciate and engage with the remaining natural areas that make Kingston and its setting unique.” says KLT Conservation Coordinator Greg Shaheen.
An additional 8.2 acres of land contiguous with the 6 acres of KLT land was recently protected by The Northeastern Caves Conservancy (NCC). This land, which contains a large natural cave, was donated by Valerie Connors, wife of the late Dennis Connors. Mr. and Mrs. Connors have been longtime Wilbur residents and are known for the many ways they have given back to the Kingston community. In his last days, Mr. Connors expressed a wish for these adjoining lands to be protected. Bob Simmons of the NCC states, “The Northeastern Cave Conservancy is so grateful to the Connors for their generosity, friendship, and longstanding commitment to the conservation of this parcel and cave. This donation not only protects one of the more significant caves in Ulster County, but more than 1,700 feet of limestone escarpment above the Rondout Creek as well. We look forward to working with the KLT to make these two contiguous properties into an amazing asset for Kingston.”
The conservation projects of both the KLT and the NCC add up to more than 14 acres within what the City of Kingston’s Open Space Plan calls the “Rondout Uplands,” one of three areas identified in the Plan as containing particularly important terrestrial biodiversity resources. The Kingston Land Trust was a partner in the development of the Open Space Plan, including the Natural Resource Inventory foundational to the Plan, community engagement in English and Spanish, and technical recommendations for the protection of Kingston’s natural resources in balance with responsible and equitable development. According to Julie Noble, Sustainability Coordinator for the City of Kingston and chair of its Conservation Advisory Council, “The protection of this piece of land that is home to crucial intact forest habitat is a critical action which directly supports Kingston’s Open Space Plan’s Conservation Targets. The target in the ‘Rondout Uplands’ is ambitious to reach, but the Kingston Land Trust has taken the initiative and is a leader in taking bold steps towards environmental protection. I look forward to continuing to collaborate with the KLT to realize the City’s open space vision.” The Open Space Plan was unanimously adopted by the Kingston Common Council on November 10, 2020 as an addendum to the City’s Comprehensive Plan 2025.
To make a contribution to the KLT’s Protect Our Outdoors fund to preserve and care for land in and around Kingston, visit donorbox.org/protect-our-
The Northeast Caves Conservancy is committed to the conservation, study, management and acquisition of caves and karst areas. To learn more, visit cave conservancy.org.
To view the Open Space Plan for the City of Kingston, visit kingston-ny.gov/nri.