An old tract, newly important

| 29 Apr 2016 | 02:36

Wickham Woodlands are those 600 acres of new Warwick parkland which include a pristine lake, wetlands, trails and many species of fish, amphibians, turtles and nesting birds. Eagles have been seen recently. It is an old place taking on a new importance.

Local historian Sue Gardner has researched its history. Until 1702, it was part of Lenapehoking, the lands of the Minsi Tribe. Many artifacts have been found near the lake. It was a farm ‘til 1912 when the City of New York bought it for a million dollars as a “colony” for men addicted to alcohol and drugs. In 1933, it became the New York State Training School for Boys, a social experiment in handling delinquent young men. By the 1970s this kind of country-life rehabilitation was not as effective as it once was and the facility reinvented itself once again as a NYS minimum security prison with an in-house carpentry and building program and community-service programs in the Warwick area. It closed in 2011.

The Town of Warwick negotiated successfully and quickly to acquire the property before it started decaying. There are now several different players in this next life: The parklands are adjacent to eight sites for light industrial development, an all-season sports complex and a planned hospitality center for visitors to the Hudson Valley from China. The public lands still have several buildings for possible use: the nineteenth century Manor House, a large Dutch barn, and smaller outbuildings.

The town has a citizens’ advisory committee to field suggestions and requests for the use of the public space. I am on that committee and look forward to the creative friction that makes both heat and light for this wonderful property. If you have any ideas about how we can be good stewards of this land or what active or passive uses we might encourage, please let us know.

I urge you to visit. See the lake. Wander the trails. It’s on State School Road off Route 13/Kings Highway between Warwick and Sugar Loaf. Daniel Mack