RHINEBECK — Winnakee Land Trust announced its purchase of 335 acres of land in the Town of Red Hook, enabled with funds from the CWIA/EPF Water Quality Improvement Project Grant administered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). The primary purpose for the acquisition is to protect the public water supply from the Saw Kill through a public-private partnership with the Town of Red Hook called The Saw Kill Water Quality Protection Project.

According to Winnakee leadership, the nonprofit’s purchase of the land for The Saw Kill Water Quality Protection Project protects the Saw Kill, a water course that is a source of drinking water for Bard College, which serves approximately 2,800 students, faculty and staff. Ownership of land bordering the Saw Kill ensures no development or harmful practices will take place on the lands, which could negatively impact the public water supply. Winnakee leaders noted the importance of this protection as reflected in a biological assessment that determined further buildout along the banks of the Saw Kill would likely result in harmful effects from significant increases in stormwater runoff, septic system contamination and other nonpoint sources of pollution.

Said Bob Davis, Executive Director of Winnakee, “This purchase additionally helps safeguard water quality for the Tivoli Bays Wildlife Management Area, which the Saw Kill flows into. This site, managed by NYS DEC, is part of the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve, which serves as a field laboratory on estuarine research, stewardship and education. It is also designated as a NYS Important Bird Area.”

“Bard College is grateful to the Winnakee Land Trust for its foresight to protect this important watershed,” said Bard College President Leon Botstein. “We look forward to exploring future educational opportunities with Winnakee around sustainable management practices for keeping this watershed safe for generations to come.”

The newly acquired lands were assessed by Hudsonia, whose executive director, Erik Kiviat, says “the Saw Kill properties are noteworthy in that almost 40% of the area is wetland and includes vernal pools and pool-like swamps important for amphibian breeding. Also, the site supports several bird and reptile Species of Greatest Conservation Need.”

Carl Meyer, Board President, added, “In addition to protecting a vulnerable watershed, this purchase presented a collaborative opportunity to partner with the Town of Red Hook to create a recreational asset potentially inter-connecting the Red Hook, Bard and Tivoli communities and providing access to the Empire State Trail System.

“Another unique and important feature of this project is the partnership of Winnakee with the Town of Red Hook. The Red Hook Community Preservation Board provided funds for the purchase of a conservation easement on the lands now owned by Winnakee, which enabled Winnakee to meet the match requirement under the terms of the DEC grant. The Town of Red Hook’s easement allows for passive public recreational access to the Saw Kill lands, subject to DEC and Winnakee approval,” added Meyer.

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