Conservation Projects

The Essex Quarry Nature Park – Conservation & Trail Project

CATS is pleased to announce that we’ve officially preserved 35 acres in the Town of Essex, N.Y., on land that features 400 million-year-old fossils—once part of the world’s oldest coral reef—as well as a globally rare type of forest.

The Essex Quarry Nature Park is located on the southern edge of the hamlet, just a short distance from the Lake Champlain Ferries Essex/Charlotte, Vt. landing.

The Nature Park will include hiking trails and educational signs and is on the site of the former Essex Quarry that operated from the late 18th century to just a few years ago. Stone carved from the quarry walls was used in many of the buildings in Essex and was shipped south by lake and river barge, where it was used in the construction of the State House in Albany and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Today, the site showcases a combination of natural, geological, paleontological and historic features. These include fossils from an oceanic reef that dates back to a time when New York and Vermont were actually on separate continents thousands of miles apart.


The eastern part of the property features a rare natural community that was identified by Steve Young, an ecologist with NY State’s Natural Heritage Program as a “Limestone Woodland.” It occurs on shallow soil above limestone bedrock and, while it occurs extensively along Lake Champlain, it is rare on the planet and in the rest of New York.

Now that the property has been permanently protected CATS staff and volunteers will develop hiking trails for both walking and cross country skiing. Interpretive signs will be installed to inform visitors about the limestone woodland, geological features, fossils, and historical uses of the quarry.  The Park is within easy walking distance for Essex residents who can enjoy healthy physical activity on its trails. For people visiting Essex, it will provide an informative trail they get to by traveling through the village with many patronizing local businesses.

The quarry’s current owners wanted it to become a permanent park for the people of Essex and approached CATS to find a way to make that happen. They have generously discounted the purchase price of the property for CATS. The purchase cost along with other transaction and trail development costs—which includes a kiosk, parking area, and signs—bringing the total project cost to $165,000.

CATS is thrilled to have completed Phase One of this project; preserve the land. Now, as CATS begins Phase Two of this project, we are continuing to raise money through private donations and grants to build the Essex Quarry Nature Park.  Click here to learn more about this exciting project. 

If you’d like to donate to this exciting community project, you can send a check in any amount to Champlain Area Trails, PO Box 193, Westport, NY 12993, and write “Essex Quarry” in the memo line. CATS is also offering naming opportunities within the nature park for donations of $1,000 and above. 

As an alternative to writing a check, you can make a secure online donation here

Thank you!



corbeau creekCATS First Project – The Johnson Farm and Forest; 77 acres – On December 30, 2011 CATS completed its first land protection project when Ray and Lola Johnson donated a conservation easement to protect their beloved property in Clinton County.  Our partnership with the Johnsons conserved productive farmland, biologically diverse woodlands, a large wetland, and the shoreline of Corbeau Creek, an important tributary of the Great Chazy River. Read full press release here

2012-12-20 12.07.38DeNeale Property/Essex Highlands; 319 acres – On December 27, 2012 Dick and Leanna DeNeale donated a conservation easement to CATS that conserves their 319 acres property on Rt. 22 between Essex and Willsboro, fulfilling their long-held dream of conserving their forest, protecting clean water, and ensuring the farmland stays in farming.  The easement also provides for a hiking/skiing trail which will showcase the forest and be part of a trail CATS envisions that links Willsboro to Essex. The property is in an area called the “Essex Highlands,” which is the first ridge people see when traveling to New York on the Essex Ferry and provides beautiful scenery for those driving along Lakeshore Road and Route 22.  It is an area of productive farmland, healthy forests, and scenic vistas.Read full press release here

beaver bend boquetWildway Passage/Beaver Bend Properties; 99 acres – March 9, 2013 CATS purchased two parcels of land from the Lewis Family Farm that conserve important wildlife habitat and provide for public hiking trails. The larger 87-acre tract, located between Lakeshore and Angier Hill Roads in Westport, is the key woodland parcel linking Split Rock Mountain Wild Forest and Coon Mountain Nature Preserve.  This secures essential habitat connectivity in the Split Rock Wildway wildlife corridor that connects Lake Champlain to the Adirondacks.  The transaction also involved a 12-acre property in Essex with extensive frontage on the Boquet River.  It contains riverside forest, riparian wildlife habitat, and an old farm field reverting to woods.  Conserving these lands will protect the habitat and remove the threat of runoff from logging and farming too close to the river. Read full press release here

Duca Conservation Project, Essex, NY; 122.9 acres – In April of 2016, CATS purchased a coservation easement on property owned by Tom Duca in Essex, NY.  The property is roughly triangular-shaped with 3530 feet (0.66 miles) of frontage on Sherman Road.  It has one 110-acre lot and four smaller 3.2-acre subdivided lots. The area, zoned 5.5 acres per building right, has twenty-two building rights.  The property is mostly forested with a 25-acre field, divided by a small brook, in the northeast quarter.  The property is part of the Split Rock Wildway connecting Split Rock Wild Forest and the Westport Woods portion of the Adirondack Mountains,  The property is also a key section of the proposed CATS trail that connects the Westport Train Station to Coon Mountain and on to Essex because it provides the only route that can cross the railroad tracks running through the Champlain Valley.

Saving Land | Making Trails