The Open Space Institute unveils ‘Saving the Shawangunks’ story map

Shawangunk Ridge. Photo provided by OSI

ULSTER COUNTY — Over the past four decades, the Open Space Institute (OSI) has led the way in protecting scenic landscapes, dramatic waterfalls, and windswept cliffs in the iconic Shawangunk Ridge, while also increasing public access to these now-conserved lands. Today, that story comes alive through OSI’s new “Saving the Shawangunks” Story Map, which presents a time-lapsed, interactive guide to land protection on the Ridge. The new multimedia project highlights the Ridge’s unique history and habitats, as well as the effort to improve the public experience on the land — including efforts to build a new Visitor Center for Minnewaska.

“Saving the Shawangunks,” which can be viewed here, tells the story of this conservation, from efforts to stop the construction of a massive hotel and condominium development, to present-day efforts to expand Minnewaska and restore and create carriage roads and trails. Harnessing the power of maps, video, photography, and narrative text, the Story Map platform presents a new way to understand the iconic Shawangunk landscape visited by some 700,000 people every year.

“OSI is proud to debut the ‘Saving the Shawangunks’ Story Map. The project not only details the conservation history of the Shawangunk Ridge, it also delves into the wildlife and rare plants that call this place home,” said Kim Elliman, president and CEO of OSI.

In presenting the Story Map, Elliman expressed appreciation to a number of partners who have played significant roles in protecting the Shawangunk Ridge, including New York State Parks, The Butler Conservation Fund, the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, Mohonk Preserve, The Nature Conservancy, Friends of the Shawangunks, Wallkill Valley Land Trust, Palisades Parks Conservancy, and the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference.

Over the past four decades, OSI’s land protection efforts along the Shawangunk Ridge in Orange, Sullivan, and Ulster counties amounts to more than 33,000 acres — a total more than twice the size of Manhattan. OSI is also expanding parkland, creating trails, preserving local viewsheds, and protecting venerable farmland and wildlife habitats. This work includes supporting the creation of a local rail trail network, creation of the celebrated River-to-Ridge Trail; leading the reconstruction of Minnewaska’s Victorian-era carriage roads; and, in partnership with the Wallkill Valley Land Trust, restoring the Rosendale Trestle.

Featuring cinematic drone photography of the land’s dramatic cliffs, crystal clear sky lakes, and roaring waterfalls, the new Story Map touches on the history and unique habitats of the land — while also exploring a highly anticipated new, four-season visitor center. To learn more about the effort to create the Visitor Center, visit:

“Saving the Shawangunks” is the sequel to OSI’s “Saving the Southern Cumberlands,” which was the ArcGIS featured Story Map of September 2018, and has received nearly 10,000 views.

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