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Save the Ridge effort succeeds
Awosting Reserve parcel to remain forever wild

By Jeremiah Horrigan
Times Herald-Record
March 14, 2006

Gallery: Minnewaska expands with 2500 acre addition

Gardiner - The yearslong battle to "Save the Ridge" - 2,500 acres of pristine wilderness at the base of the Shawangunk Ridge - ended not with a bang but a news conference yesterday as state and local officials announced the $17 million transfer of the land to the state.

State Parks Commissioner Bernadette Castro made it official at the hastily-called event: The acreage that landowner John Bradley had hoped to transform into an exclusive enclave of 350 high-priced new homes would remain the exclusive province of its original, nonpaying denizens.

The mood was festive at the news conference, with dozens of environmentalists, residents and local politicians milling about and congratulating each other. Even politicians eager for the spotlight acknowledged in their public remarks that the impetus for the purchase came from opposition groups such a Save the Ridge. You could still see a smattering of red-and-white "Save the Ridge" signs on the quiet country roads that led to the news conference site.

"We finally won this one," Patty Lee Parmalee, chairwoman of the group, said before the conference began. "I can't begin to say how many hundreds of people spent time on this effort, how many thousands of hours of work went into it."

The land purchase was made by the nonprofit Trust for Public Land, which closed the $17 million sale on Friday and immediately transferred ownership to the state, according to project manager Philip Nicholas. The land will become part of the 16,000-acre Minnewaska State Park.

From the start, Bradley and his investors in Awosting Reserve LLC and Chaffin Light Associates, the developers Bradley hired, failed to hit it off with Gardiner residents. Even after Bradley fired Chaffin Light and promised a smaller development, opposition at Planning Board and town meetings remained fierce.

Bradley and his investors were forced to fight on another front after he fired Chaffin Light in 2004 and the company sued. Awosting Reserve lost the suit and a judge ordered the property to be sold. The initial asking price last fall was $35 million.

"I don't trust them," Bradley said at the time about the Trust for Public Land. "I don't want to see this land going into state hands. They will ruin it."

Other private developers, including actor Robert De Niro, tried to buy the land, according to Nicholas, but in the end, the Trust for Public Land's bid prevailed.

Bradley did not return a request for comment yesterday. He still owns about 230 acres at the site, Nicholas said.