By Sona Mason, West Hudson Program Coordinator
“It’s better than a Christmas present.”
That was a comment made by John Leigh—Trail Conference volunteer coordinator, Orange County resident, and Renaissance Faire enthusiast—upon hearing the Gaming Commission’s announcement December 17 that no casino would be built at Sterling Forest or Woodbury.
His view was echoed by many: hikers concerned about the impact on trails and access in the parks; nearby residents worried about traffic and cultural impacts; anyone living within the Ramapo watershed, the protection of which was a major reason for the preservation of what is now Sterling Forest State Park; and “Rennies,” the extended Renaissance Faire community, who worried that the “improvements” promised by the Genting Corporation would replace the idiosyncratic Faire with a Disney-fied strip mall.
An enormous, collective sigh of relief was breathed by many groups, most of them, including the Trail Conference, advocating against the Tuxedo casino under the umbrella of the Sterling Forest Partnership. Many of those taking the lead in defending the park were responsible for preserving it in the first place.
At Woodbury, where Caesars proposed a massive casino development adjacent to Harriman State Park, the Trail Conference and local residents put up spirited opposition.
The good news was especially welcome here at the Trail Conference, since the new trail we are building just a stone’s throw away from the proposed site, in the Doris Duke Wildlife Preserve part of Sterling Forest, would have been negatively impacted by the traffic, noise increase in the area, not to mention the blight on our viewshed.
The final leg of the Doris Duke Trail is planned to be built in 2015, and will incorporate views of New York City on the distant horizon from the ridge top. A massive casino resort in the foreground, with its accompanying bustle and blaring open-air concerts would simply not have added to the “getting away from it all” experience that hikers seek. Not to mention that increased traffic would have made access to the trails more difficult and dangerous with inebriated revellers driving around at all hours.
A heartfelt thanks to all the individuals who pressed on at researching documents, participating in endless meetings, writing letters, standing up and speaking when they would rather be resting up after a full day’s work. Their countless hours of dedicated effort in pushing back against the casino proposals was rewarded.
The forest will remain a forest. The watershed intact. The solitude of walking in the forest, peaceful.
A Christmas present indeed.