Welcome to a new feature – guest bloggers! In the coming months I plan to have a variety of guests that can contribute to our understanding of photography, nature, our environment, and anything else that goes Beyond the Lens. I am honored and tremendously grateful to welcome my first guest, Ned Sullivan, President of Scenic Hudson, the leading environmental organization dedicated to the Hudson Valley. Many of the hiking trails, mountain top vistas, and Hudson River shorelines that I enjoy and photograph extensively are the result of the conservation work they have done over that past 40 years. Thank you Ned, and stay tuned for more exciting guests in the future.
Just about every museum in America features Hudson River School paintings, and one of the great joys for me is encountering canvases depicting landscapes that have been protected by Scenic Hudson. I get a particular thrill out of 19th-century views of Storm King Mountain – the northwest gateway of the Hudson Highlands that our founders saved from a massive power plant. Paintings by George Inness often provide windows on the spiritual dimensions in nature – the greatest lure for me in the outdoors. Frederic Church is master of magisterial panoramic vistas of the Catskill Mountains visible from Olana, his home and studio near Hudson. Scenic Hudson has preserved more than 1,200 acres of farms and forests prominent in the foreground of these sublime works.
Scenic Hudson conserves places like these – and creates parks so people have access to them – because they’re irreplaceable national treasures, an essential part of our heritage, and we want to ensure artists always will be able to capture their magic.
We’ve seen firsthand how the Hudson River and its shores continue to be a powerful source of inspiration – for young and old. The art contest for youngsters Scenic Hudson sponsored in 2007 drew hundreds of works that vividly and imaginatively caught the essence of the river and our parks as only a child could. Last year, the 2,500 images entered in our photography competition not only showcased the valley’s beauty in all lights and seasons, but highlighted its fragility and the urgency to step up our work.
We’re doing just that through our campaign to Save the Land That Matters Most – the most ambitious land-protection initiative in Hudson Valley history. Launched in 2007 to provide a lasting commemoration of the Quadricentennial of Henry Hudson’s 1609 voyage of discovery, this historic partnership with fellow land trusts, governments, businesses and individuals seeks to protect 65,000 acres of the utmost scenic, ecological and agricultural importance. These lands not only are the key to creating economically vibrant communities, but they ensure we have clear air and water and healthy local food supplies. They supply habitat for 85 percent of our state’s wildlife species. And just as important, they make us feel good, they nourish our soul.
Robert Rodriguez Jr plays an essential role in our campaign and its ongoing success. Since the outset, he’s been chronicling the landscapes we’ve conserved. Better than any amount of words, his stunning images of rocky shorelines, rolling meadows, primeval marshlands and unforgettable views convey why we couldn’t let these properties fall prey to developers’ bulldozers.
One of the goals of Saving the Land That Matters Most is to provide more places to connect with the valley’s natural splendor. Earlier this month, Scenic Hudson broke ground on our newest park. Located in Columbia County’s Town of Stockport, Harrier Hill Park affords spectacular panoramic views of the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains and excellent opportunities for watching the myriad bird species attracted to adjacent grasslands. It also provides a crucial link for a trail that will offer five miles of hiking through this and other nearby protected lands. I invite you to the park’s grand opening this fall – and to all of our free, fun events. You can find more information about these here.
Writing about landscapes like those admired from Harrier Hill Park, Thomas Cole, the founder of the Hudson River School, wrote: “Nature has spread for us a rich and delightful banquet.” Scenic Hudson is committed to ensuring that people will always be able to savor the Hudson Valley’s never-ending feast.