The Croft, a 59-acre open space parcel at Teatown Lake Reservation, is rich in wildlife and it offers an isolated tranquil beauty that is rare in a major metropolitan area.
One of its highlights is the 9-acre Vernay Lake – the spring-fed body of water which lies between Shadow Lake upstream and Teatown Lake downstream. The three-lake system drains directly into the New York City-owned Croton Reservoir, a major source of the region’s drinking water supply.
On Wednesday, Teatown Lake Reservation officials announced the acquisition of the property, which will remain protected for future generations.
"There are not many large tracts of land out there, so it is incumbent on us whenever it makes sense—financially and environmentally—to protect them from development," Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino said. He applauded Teatown’s leadership for its nearly 15-year effort in seeking to protect the open space parcel. "The Croft is a perfect example of one that does make sense."
The Croft was purchased for $3.5 million through a combination of Teatown’s funds, $1.295 million in financing by the Open Space Institute and provate donors. A bridge loan from the Norcross Foundation helped pay for the balance of the purchase.
Of the 59 acres of The Croft, 57 are located in the southwest corner of the town of Yorktown with two acres in the adjacent town of New Castle.
Through Teatown’s partnership with the New York New Jersey Trail Conference, the East of Hudson Community Trails Program, the reservation has already assumed responsibility for maintaining the extensive hiking trail network with the assistance of volunteers provided through the partnership program.
Teatown first partnered with Westchester County in 2004 when the education center acquired Shadow Lake Preserve, a 50-acre tract fronting on Route 134,
"That was the first partnership by the county with a private environmental group," said Geoff Thompson, former long-time chairman of Teatown. "Now with The Croft, Teatown is pleased to be significantly expanding its mutually beneficial relationship with Westchester County.”
The addition of The Croft gives Teatown management responsibility for three county-owned parks – the Kitchawan Preserve, John Hand/Bald Mountain Park and five miles of the Briarcliff-Peekskill Trailway. That amounts to about 2,000 acres of permanent open space.
"The legislature has remained committed to investing in safeguarding and protecting our open spaces and undeveloped land in Westchester," County Board of Legislators Chairman Ken Jenkins said. "This is an historic moment we can all be proud of which will assure future generations will benefit from this vital link in the county’s open space network.”
Officials said Teatown worked closely with Yorktown in integrating The Croft’s open space into the extensive open space network of the town. They said the town approval of the subdivision of two residences on the property into separate lots was an important first step in the overall process that led to the protection of the open space component.
Following the Croft acquisition, Teatown now owns or manages more than 1,000 acres and is the privately owned and operated environmental and education center and nature preserve in Westchester County.
The property's history dates back to the early 1900s when it was developed by Arthur Vernay, a prominent antiques dealer. It was acquired in 1922 by General Electric president Gerard Swope, Sr. who expanded the property into a country estate where he lived until his death in 1957.
His heirs subsequently gave the bulk of the estate, including the stable complex, in 1963 to create the Teatown Lake Reservation.
The 72 acres on the east of Spring Valley Road that included the Swope family home and a farmhouse were sold to Phil E. Gilbert, Jr., who lived at The Croft until his death in 2008. Gilbert’s heirs had hoped for the conservation of the property as part of Teatown.
Teatown Lake Reservation is a nonprofit, environmental organization with an 875- acre nature preserve and education center located in the Lower Hudson Valley in the towns of Yorktown, Cortlandt, and New Castle.
Teatown’s mission is to conserve open space and to educate and involve the regional community in order to sustain the diversity of wildlife, plants and habitats for future generations. Teatown is devoted to conserving biodiversity, teaching ecology and promoting sustainable living.