The Town’s Environmental Conservation Commission (ECC) is (quoting the Town’s website) “an all-volunteer commission dedicated to discussing and implementing ways to protect the natural resources of the town.” Four new members were appointed to the ECC earlier this year by the Town Board (Mike Hartner, Misha Fredericks, Joan Parker, and Neil Rindlaub). They join three veteran members (Roberta Clements (former Chair), Janet Kern, and William Trifilo). At the first meeting of the newly formed ECC in February 2021, members all shared a deep appreciation for the beautiful landscape in which we live and a sense that our beautiful landscape, and the wildlife it sustains, is fragile and can easily be spoiled.
One of the concerns of the ECC is that with the arrival of COVID in everyone’s lives, we face a fresh wave of downstate people who want to live in homes in the country and work remotely. House prices have risen and vacant land is a hot commodity for building new ones. ECC Members hope to play a role in guiding the growth of our town in ways that minimize the environmental impacts and preserve the open vistas and quality of life that we all cherish.
Among the things the ECC is now working on is defining its role in relation to Gardiner’s Open Space Commission (OSC). The OSC has the responsibility of protecting undeveloped land and other natural resources, overseeing and managing the conservation easements that have protected the Kiernan and Hess farms from development, and looking for ways to protect additional large parcels. Meanwhile the ECC functions more as an advisory body. Its purpose is to provide input — especially to the Town Board and Planning Board — as they make decisions that affect our landscape. ECC particularly focuses on how town decisions might affect the ecologically sensitive slopes of the Shawangunk ridge, zoned as “SP2” and “SP3”.
Recommendations offered by the ECC are based on facts not just feelings. To help accomplish that, they have a new tool called the Natural Resources Inventory (NRI). For those of you who are curious about the environment and enjoy maps, you can view the NRI at www.townofgardiner.org/natural-resources-inventory The NRI is a set of 23 large scale PDF maps, with an amazing wealth of detail regarding such features as Gardiner’s surface and bedrock geology, water resources and aquifer recharge areas, forested lands, and wildlife habitats. Going forward it should help the ECC make meaningful comments as to whether, for instance, there is sufficient water available to support a development proposed for a specific area, or whether that area supports endangered wildlife.
When asked how residents of Gardiner can support the ECC, new Chairman Michael Hartner replied, “People can review the Natural Resource Inventory online to see if it accords with their knowledge of the area, e.g., the location of ponds, habitats, historical sites, etc. It’s very interesting and educational just to review the maps, though it’s a little tricky to stay oriented as you zoom in and out. The maps contain a wealth of information and input from townspeople that can help to keep them up-to-date.” He also suggested residents can “let an ECC member know if you observe any activity that could be harmful to the environment, such as an oil slick in a stream, construction without a permit, or something of that nature.” To learn more about the ECC or how to contact them, visit www.townofgardiner.org/environmental-conservation-commission