Parcel Includes Site of Former Rip Van Winkle House
State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today that New York State has acquired 50 acres of property in the town of Catskill, Greene County. The lands will become part of New York’s Forest Preserve. DEC acquired the property for $1 from Edward Maby. The property had been in the Maby/Mabie family since 1896.
“Forests are crucial to the future of our planet and one of our greatest natural treasures that we must preserve and protect,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “We are committed to enhancing the historical sites and recreational opportunities across the state for children and families. This addition to the Catskill Forest Preserve will continue to increase the tourism industry and strengthen the economy of the area.”
"The acquisition of this Catskill property will improve public recreational access in the area and includes remnants of the historic Rip Van Winkle House," Commissioner Seggos said. "DEC expresses our sincere gratitude to Mr. Maby and his family for this generous contribution to the Forest Preserve that New Yorkers and visitors will be able to enjoy for generations to come."
The parcel is now part of the Windham Blackhead Range Wilderness Area in the Catskill Forest Preserve. The parcel contains a northern hardwood forest with maple, beech, and birch trees dominating the landscape, along with pockets of hemlock trees. Animal species that can be found on the site include white-tailed deer, black bear, bobcat, porcupine, and fisher.
Recreational opportunities on the parcel include hiking, hunting, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. The site contains about 1,400 feet of frontage on the Old Catskill Mountain Turnpike, which DEC maintains as a hiking trail that leads to the former Catskill Mountain House site at North-South Lake campground. Foundations of the historic Rip Van Winkle House site can be found along the trail.
The Rip Van Winkle House was built in 1867, and served as a resting place for people traveling to the Catskill Mountain House near North Lake. When the Catskill Mountain House opened in 1826, visitors made the arduous 12-mile journey from Catskill by horse-drawn coach. The last three miles wound steeply up the east side of South Mountain along Mountain House Road, a privately-owned turnpike that followed an old trail. The Rip Van Winkle House was built on the turnpike to serve as a respite for visitors making the long trek to the Catskill Mountain House. In 1892, the Otis Company built an inclined railway up the mountainside to the Catskill Mountain House, which made the journey less onerous, and thus began the steady decline of the Rip Van Winkle House, which was abandoned in about 1902, and burned down around 1918.
Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, the State has pursued an aggressive land protection agenda. The Governor has sustained the State's Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) at $300 million per year for the past four years. Several EPF programs provide tens of millions of dollars for the conservation of open space. During the Governor's tenure, DEC has acquired more than 130,000 acres, creating and adding to State Forests, Wildlife Management Areas, Unique Areas, and other lands that provide wildlife habitat, sequester carbon, help ameliorate flooding, protect water supplies, and provide abundant public recreational opportunities.
"Catskill Mountainkeeper applauds the Department of Environmental Conservation and Governor Cuomo for their dedication to expanding the Catskill Forest Preserve," said Ramsay Adams, Catskill Mountainkeeper's executive director. "New York's commitment to growing this natural treasure is admirable, and speaks to the state's commitment to preserving special places. The Preserve is also one of the biggest economic drivers for this region—every effort to enhance access and expand the Preserve is also an effort to grow our economy."
Jeff Senterman, Executive Director, Catskill Center, said, “This acquisition represents an exciting combination of natural, recreational and historical elements that make for an excellent addition to the Catskill Park’s Forest Preserve. Mr. Maby’s generosity ensures the protection of this important land for future generations of New Yorkers.”