Save the Lakes is a member of the Shawangunk Ridge Coalition.


Successful conservation development has been realized elsewhere in the Hudson Valley through the partnership of private investment, state and local government, nonprofit organizations and committed volunteers. Land has been preserved as parkland accessible to all; public and private interests have worked together when the opportunity presented itself. By developing local resources in a "home-grown" way, community character is maintained at the same time that viable, sustainable development supports the long-term economic prosperity of the region. Property taxes are not driven up by development models that funnel profit from the local economy into the pockets of investors who have never even visited the area.

The Roundout Valley farmers are right to declare: THINK LOCAL FIRST. We believe that to be equally true for economic opportunity and appropriate development.


Recently, the Open Space Institute was pleased to announce the acquisition of the trellis bridge over the Rondout Creek in Rosendale, as well as the rail bed up to the point of the Williams Lake property line. The Williams Lake section of the rail-trail is the "missing link " - the last section needed to complete a recreational corridor running from New Paltz through Rosendale to Kingston. This is the lynchpin of an exciting vision for the region, an ongoing initiative to increase tourism while protecting both the environment and regional character. Williams Lake and Fourth Lake, along with the trails and caves spread throughout the beautiful Binnewater Aquifer - are situated at the very midpoint of the corridor.

Williams Lake and its surroundings teem with wildlife, including the endangered Indiana Bat, whose hibernacula caves dot the rugged terrain. Sensitive wetland habitats shelter the endangered Northern Cricket Frog. The lakes, wetlands, rock outcroppings, trails and caves are of inestimable value not only geologically and as wildlife habitat, but as recreational open space - a role they filled in local life for generations as private property open to the paying public.

Given the enthusiastic public response to the opening of Poughkeepsie's Walkway Over the Hudson, it is easy to see that a viable, sustainable economic future is at stake: instead of hikers, bikers, swimmers and skiers visiting the area in greater numbers and supporting all manner of local business, the developer's plan isolates Williams Lake and Fourth Lake behind security gates, and re-routes the rail-trail far from its historic rail bed.

A host of wonderful recreational sports activities will be lost, with regional implications. The property boasts some of the most challenging and entertaining mountain-biking in the East. There is increasing pressure on Minnewaska State Park to sanction mountain-biking off the carriage paths - some of this pressure could be alleviated if Williams Lake's trails were open and available for OTB enthusiasts. Day-use amenities at Williams Lake have traditionally included swimming, fishing, hiking, caving, sports-training, picnics, sauna and x-country skiing. Available recreational open space is an essential asset for communities competing to lure new business to their locale.

There are very real alternatives to the gated overdevelopment of Williams Lake should this unfortunate plan fail. There are a variety of possible public-private partnerships that would preserve Williams Lake as a regional asset rather than an off-limits island onto itself, just as other such partnerships have succeeded elsewhere in the Hudson Valley. Rather than allow profit to be siphoned away from the area into the pockets of absent investors, efforts can and do succeed in keeping the economic benefit of local assets circulating in the local economy.

Would Rosendale benefit economically if the lakes and trails of the Williams Lake property were to become protected open space, administered in a sustainable way, and accessible to visitors and the public?

Yes.  Ecotourists - hikers, cross-country skiers, cyclists, swimmers, fisherman, spelunkers, climbers - represent a significant source of revenue to community businesses. And unlike sequestered spa guests, they are proven supporters of local, community life.

  • Consider our most prominent local example, the Mohonk Preserve. Back in 1993 when the last study was conducted, Mohonk Preserve was a tourist destination for 100,000 visitors per year. Today, the number exceeds 150,000.

  • Visitors spent between $2.6 million and $3 million per year in the local communities. At the time, it was estimated that the overall impact of the Preserve approached $5 million per year, considering their employment of local people and their work with local vendors.

  • It was estimated that visitor spending supported 75 tourism related jobs in Ulster County.

  • Almost 10% of visitors stayed at least one night in area motels, bed and breakfasts, or campsites, representing (in 1993) between $700,000 and $900,000. At the time, these visitors accounted for approximately 13,500 room nights per year in area motels and campsites.

  • Other purchases (gas, gifts, clothing, books, crafts, outdoor gear etc.) totaled between $500,000 and $600,000 per year.

  • Keep in mind that these numbers are not only almost 20 years old, they also do not include the contribution to our region made by The Mohonk Mountain House, which, by the way, welcomes onto its grounds the hikers of the Preserve. Upscale, yes, but it is also both a setting of great natural beauty and a living example of a nice quality-of-life open for all the community to enjoy.

  • According to Kerlinger and Hoagland: "Without the economic incentives of ecotourism, lands may be subdivided for housing developments or condominiums. Both eliminate habitat for wildlife and make the area less scenic. In addition, these alternatives are usually less attractive economically than ecotourism because, unlike parks and preserves, people move into houses and condominiums. Once they do, they require services (schools, police, fire, etc.) and infrastructure (roads, bridges etc.) This leads to greater spending by the local government and higher property taxes."

CLICK TO OPEN THE PDF ECOTOURISM A Growth Industry for Rural Communities

  • Over the years residents of Ulster County have worked together on many occasions to assure that the natural, scenic treasures of the area are preserved for the community, rich and poor alike.

  • In the 1980s local residents organized with the support of state and national environmental groups to stop the Marriott Corporation from building a luxury resort at what is now Minnewaska State Park.

  • More recently, Save the Ridge did the same to save Tillson Lake and the surrounding area when a gated community was proposed along the Shawangunks in Gardiner.
Save the Lakes is a member of the Shawangunk Ridge Coalition.