In the News:
Nadine Lemmon wins open space award

by MIKE TOWNSHEND on October 9th, 2011

New Paltz Times

lemmon_oct2_450px(Left) Wallkill Valley Land Trust Executive Director Christine DeBoer and 2011 Conservation Award honoree Nadine Lemmon at last Sunday's award reception held at Rock and Rye Tavern in New Paltz. (Photo by Lauren Thomas)

When Nadine Lemmon first moved to Gardiner in the mid-1990s, some of the first people she met just so happened to be the folks from the Wallkill Valley Land Trust. The conservation group took a keen interest in her right away for a simple reason — she’d purchased a house with a pre-existing conservation easement.

Lemmon wasn’t allowed to build on that easement and the Land Trust wanted to make sure she didn’t do anything contrary to the agreement. But that procedure — which could have been seen as a hassle for some homeowners — turned out to become her biggest link to the town itself.“The Land Trust has been my longest friend in Gardiner,” the outgoing town councilwoman explained.

Back then, Lemmon was unfamiliar with country life, so the move to the rural farm town in southern Ulster County was a new experience. The people involved with the Wallkill Valley Land Trust not only helped to introduce her to town, but they shaped her views in a way that eventually helped spawn her run for elected office.“They taught a city slicker like me about land use,” she said.

Last weekend the Land Trust and its members held a special party at Rock and Rye Tavern in New Paltz in honor of Lemmon and her work to preserve open space — especially her work to establish the town zoning law in 2008 and her work in preserving working farms. The Wallkill Valley Land Trust’s executive director, Christine DeBoer, thanked Lemmon during the ceremony, praising her accomplishments, her grace and poise in office.“Nadine, you produce such great effects in our area, and we look forward to what you do next,” DeBoer said.

After almost seven years on the Town Board, Lemmon will not run for re-election since she’s in the process of moving to Albany. The move away from Gardiner seems to be a bittersweet one for the councilwoman, who told her audience that she’d miss life in town.“Don’t give up on Gardiner,” the councilwoman told her crowd. Lemmon said that she was worried that November’s election could shift the political landscape in such a way that the 2008 zoning law would be radically amended.“That Town Board is one vote away from having those laws unraveled,” she said.Prior to getting on the Town Board in 2004, Lemmon also sat on the Land Trust’s board, was active with a group called GARD (for Gardiner Association for Responsible Development) and she had been a staunch advocate of limiting development on the Shawangunk Ridge.

While people in the land conservation circle felt that they’d saved the ridge, Lemmon cautioned that the fight was not over since some development is in the works for part of the mountain range. She urged people to continue to support the Wallkill Valley Land Trust. When asked how she felt about receiving the 2011 Conservation Award, Lemmon seemed genuinely taken aback. Councilwoman Lemmon said she felt that she was only one person in a large group of people who worked to preserve Gardiner-based organic cattle ranch Kiernan Farm and to fight for open space.

The event drew a crowd of approximately 60 people, including fellow Gardiner Town Board member Warren Wiegand, SUNY New Paltz President Donald Christian and New Paltz Town Justice Jim Bacon.Wallkill Valley Land Trust has held the special ceremony for seven years now, and past winners of the award include New Paltz Supervisor Toni Hokanson and Gardiner Supervisor Joe Katz. The conservation group itself currently protects about 1,600 acres of land in the area. Right now, one of the big projects they’re working on is fixing up the Rosendale railroad trestle, which would eventually become part of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, extending the pathway by 11.5 miles. In total, that project would cost 1.1 million and could be completed in spring of 2012.

Lemmon is leaving Gardiner because she accepted a job with the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, which has her working in Albany. Her new job has her finding ways to improve state policies on transportation — and how to make it sustainable.

To learn about or pledge support to the Rosendale rail trestle project, head to www.trackthetrestle.org.