Our Environment, Animal Tips & the Great Outdoors

Scenic Hudson: Harnessing the Inspirational Power of the River

By Published On: May 14th, 2020

Ned Sullivan, president of Scenic Hudson, and his staff educate about and advocate for the Hudson River and the surrounding valley. He described the organization’s mission and accomplishments at a recent presentation organized by Noble Horizons.

A recent hike in Connecticut’s northwest corner took him to a height where he could see the interconnectedness between New York and Connecticut. It reminded him that we are “bound together” by issues affecting residents in both states.

Formed in the early 60s, Scenic Hudson has grown in its mission to preserve land and farms and create parks that connect people with the majesty of the Hudson River. Part of that involves combatting threats to the river and the area’s natural resources and collaborating with government, businesses, non-profits, and citizens to accomplish their goals.

Part of this connection to citizens stems from the 1965 Scenic Hudson Decision, which ensures that citizens have a right to be heard in environmental decisions that affect their area. For Sullivan, “It democratized the environmental movement.”

Scenic Hudson has protected the river from encroachments by large power companies who would deface a mountain, flood a forest, and pump water from the Hudson. It helped citizens “stop the plant,” a coal-fired cement manufacturing plant that St. Lawrence Cement proposed near Hudson, NY some years ago. It would have severely degraded air quality from here to Maine, created adverse environmental and health issues, and devastated the economy. These efforts culminated in “a shared victory” for Scenic Hudson and affected stakeholders.

Today, its “stop the plant” efforts have turned to the Danskammer Energy Project proposed in Newburgh, a proposed 550-megawatt gas-powered plant fueled with fracked gas. According to Sullivan, this plant is projected to emit 25 times the toxic air pollutants. These
are the same pollutants that contribute to climate change and are responsible for respiratory ailments that make people vulnerable to COVID-19. These pollutants could affect air quality from the Hudson Valley to the northwest corner of Connecticut and beyond.

Its efforts as an environmental watchdog have kept an eye on General Electric’s clean-up of PCBs in the Hudson River – in parallel with efforts to ensure the company cleans up its toxic pollutants in the Housatonic River.

Sullivan emphasizes the collaborative nature of Scenic Hudson’s work. Their successful model includes:

  • Partnerships that allow everyone to have a meaningful impact. Efforts to gain access to decision-makers and influencers. Coordination and leadership of disparate stakeholders. Gathering people with diverse talents and passions
  • Their Hudson Valley Defense Fund addresses what Sullivan calls a dilution of federal environmental regulations. Strategies include identifying regulations that are most aligned to the Hudson Valley goals and investment in measures to protect critical rules and funding sources.
  • While striving to stop or modify proposals that would harm the Hudson Valley and River, Scenic Hudson is responsible for starting key measures that ensure enjoyment and celebration of all that the Hudson and environs have to offer. For the past 57 years, it has
    protected over 40,000 acres, created 65-plus parks and preserves, and conserved 18,000 acres that cover over 125 family farms.
  • The organization is now turning its attention to assisting farmers, forest, and wetland owners. It’s helping them embrace regenerative agricultural and land management methods that sequester carbon and enhance the soil.

Scenic Hudson has created or collaborated in parks and trails throughout the region. These include: 

  • Hudson River Skywalk that connects Olana and the Thomas Cole House (founder of the Hudson River School), surrounded by land protected by Scenic Hudson.
  • Esplanade Park in Yonkers
  • Larkins Plaza in Yonkers, which “daylighted” the Saw Mill River formerly obscured by a parking lot and is now the home to the
  • Hudson River Museum
  • Riverwalk Park in Tarrytown
  • Scenic Hudson Park at Irvington
  • Long Dock Park near Dia Beacon (another Scenic Hudson collaboration)·
  • Walkway Over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie

Scenic Hudson weaves through the valley, much like the river it protects. It picks up people and resources, carries them along in a purposeful current, and deposits them in fertile places where they effectively preserve and protect vital natural resources.

To learn more about Scenic Hudson please visit www.scenichudson.org