As discussed in Chapter 1, Livable Built Environment, the Town’s most visible environmental asset is its bucolic character. The Town’s natural setting has been preserved through careful land use planning, environmental conservation and the designation of open space lands. New Castle’s open spaces and areas of open space character (due to large industrial properties and large residential properties) provide immense benefits to the community. They support natural ecosystems and serve as a habitat for the region’s biodiverse animal and plant populations. They provide settings for residents to interact with the natural environment, to gather, and to engage in both passive and active recreation. Lastly, they shape the Town’s natural, peaceful and pristine character. It is important that open spaces are protected and managed so that they continue to provide these benefits.
Of the Town’s 15,000 acres, approximately 4,418 can be categorized as open space according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). The NYSDEC’s definition of open space includes agricultural lands; cemeteries; local, County and State parks and parkway lands; nature preserves; private recreation; vacant or undeveloped lands; and water supply lands. Large lots that exist among New Castle’s low-density residential areas that are not included in the DEC’s definition of open space, such as school campuses, Con Edison lands and other institutional properties, also contribute significantly towards the Town’s bucolic open space character. These lands were the subject of much discussion in the TDP, as it was recognized that it was critical to maintain the open space character of these lands in order to preserve that of the Town. This Plan carries forth this idea and recommends that the Town’s Open Space Management Plan be updated not only to maintain established open spaces, but also to maintain the character of lands that provide open space benefits but are not officially defined or designated as such.