Open Space and Natural Features

Harmony with Nature:

Open Space and Natural Features

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.

Open Space and Areas of Open Space Quality
Open Space and Areas of Open Space Quality

New Castle’s land­scape is rich in envi­ron­men­tal resources. There are twen­ty-one New York State des­ig­nat­ed wet­lands dis­persed through­out the Town, which span a total of 849 acres. Oth­er, small­er wet­lands have been iden­ti­fied and mapped as part of the Nation­al Wetland 

The Town’s topog­ra­phy ranges from a low of approx­i­mate­ly 190 feet above sea lev­el to a high of approx­i­mate­ly 770 feet above sea lev­el. About 39% of the land in New Cas­tle (5,799 acres) con­tains steep slopes. Of these areas, 3,660 acres have slopes of 15 – 25% and 2,139 acres have slopes greater than 25%. The most sig­nif­i­cant con­cen­tra­tions of steep slopes are locat­ed on the west end of Town. The preser­va­tion of the nat­ur­al veg­e­ta­tion on these slopes has become increas­ing­ly impor­tant for the pur­pos­es of lim­it­ing ero­sion and flooding.

The Town’s topo­graph­ic and envi­ron­men­tal fea­tures serve as a habi­tat for a range of flo­ra and fau­na, many of which are part of a unique ecosys­tem referred to as sea­son­al for­est pools or wood­land ver­nal pools. A wide vari­ety of amphib­ians thrive in these sea­son­al for­est pools and wet­land ecosys­tems. The Town’s species include deer, coy­otes, Cooper’s Hawk, Sharp-Shinned Hawk, and var­i­ous fish species such as bass, trout, bluegill, and crap­pie. The New York State Depart­ment of Envi­ron­men­tal Con­ser­va­tion (NYS DEC) and the Unit­ed States Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice main­tain lists of threat­ened and endan­gered species, some of which may be found with­in the Town’s bor­ders .These bio­di­verse species rely on the health of the Town’s nat­ur­al land­scape, while the upkeep of the land­scape itself depends on the sur­vival of the species that make it their home. The Town of New Cas­tle rec­og­nizes the val­ue of our nat­ur­al envi­ron­ment and the fact that it is not whol­ly with­in the Town’s con­trol. As can be seen through var­i­ous region­al stud­ies, nat­ur­al sys­tems do not fol­low munic­i­pal bound­aries. As an exam­ple, in 2004, the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Con­ser­va­tion Alliance pro­duced the Cro­ton-to-High­lands Bio­di­ver­si­ty Plan (CHBP) to pro­mote the con­ser­va­tion of the rich bio­di­ver­si­ty of nat­ur­al habi­tats and wildlife found in north­ern Westch­ester. A por­tion of New Castle’s west end was includ­ed with­in the CHBP. A Town-wide bio­di­ver­si­ty plan has yet to be devel­oped in New Cas­tle. This Plan rec­om­mends the devel­op­ment of a Town-wide Bio­di­ver­si­ty Man­age­ment Plan that includes among oth­er things, iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of inva­sive species and their impacts as well as a Nat­ur­al Resource Index to aid in a more sys­tem­at­ic approach to the preser­va­tion and sup­port of the Town’s nat­ur­al ecosys­tems and habitats.