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By MohonkPreserveNeighborsAssoc.
Aug 3, 2010

The Mohonk Preserve Neighbors Association is an advocacy group for adjacent neighbors of the Mohonk Preserve. The Mohonk Preserve Neighbors Association was formed in direct response to the confrontational tactics used by the Mohonk Preserve. In the event a dispute with the Mohonk Preserve we can offer help in the following areas:

Surveying
Legal representation
Title
Ancient document research
Maps

There are at least two cases before the courts right now. In both cases Mohonk Preserve is the Plaintiff. For those of you not familiar with the legal terms, that means that the Mohonk Preserve is suing their neighbors. We will post the outcome of these trials here and on our facebook page when the judges have written their respective decisions. Since climbers make up a significant percentage of revenue generated, we are asking that you stop donating to the Mohonk Preserve if the ruling favors the Defendants. As various cases finish we will be posting documents, transcripts, photos, maps and other useful data for the public to view. Thank you for your support.

The Mohonk Neighbors Association


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By Jonathan Ward
From San Francisco
Aug 4, 2010
Me leading pitch 4 of Rewritten.

I thought the Neighbors Association didn't like climbers. Has that changed?


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By RockinOut
From NY, NY
Aug 4, 2010
Gear

If the ruling favors the defendant, stop donating to the mohonk preserve....

How does that make sense? If the preserve is fighting FOR the land and access that climbers use wouldn't climbers want to donate money to help the Preserve and their case? A judge ruling in favor of the defendant shouldn't determine who climbers should donate to....does this seem backwards to anyone else?


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By Jake D.
From Northeast
Aug 4, 2010

they are grasping at straws like there's no tomorrow.. they are getting shot down on here, RC.com, and gunks.com. they are posting articles that are many years old in a way that makes them seem recent and it's pretty pathetic.

bought a year pass for the gunks this year.. STFU MPNA haha


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By MohonkPreserveNeighborsAssoc.
Aug 5, 2010

An article from the New York Times

Buying Land, Crying Foul; Preservationists Accused Of Overzealous Tactics In Bid to Keep Land Wild
By JOSEPH BERGER
Published: June 2, 1998
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HIGH FALLS, N.Y. Karen Pardini and Michael Fink, two middle-aged children of the back-to-the-land 1960's, had long had their eyes on a largely untamed patch in the Shawangunk Mountains.

So when the land became available in 1986, they cobbled together a down payment to buy 211 acres and began fixing up a tumbledown barn. For eight years, they camped out in woods and took pleasure in their land, sometimes hiking to a ridge at the end of their property to savor the soaring views of the Catskills.

Then one day, as Ms. Pardini walked along the road that cuts across her property, she noticed pink and yellow ribbons put up by a local surveyor. Someone else, she realized, coveted her property.

It eventually turned out there was a claimant, and it was not a wily real estate speculator but a land preservation group, the Shawangunk Conservancy. The conservancy, one of 1,100 such groups nationwide that pride themselves on their ethics by buying from willing sellers with unclouded titles, had long desired the land as a missing link in a 50-mile chain of ridgeland that it wants to render forever wild for the pleasure of hikers and climbers.

The group produced two unorthodox deeds that, it argued, proved that it now had possession of almost half of the land Mr. Fink and Ms. Pardini thought they owned.

In the long, nasty quarrel that followed, a judge ruled in March that the conservancy's deeds were worthless and said Ms. Pardini and Mr. Fink could sue for fraud. As a result, the conservancy and other groups that preserve land in the Shawangunks have found themselves on the defensive. Even some other land preservationists have accused the conservancy of overzealous tactics.

''Land conservation for many people is a crusade,'' said David Church, executive director of the New York Planning Federation, which advocates sound land use. ''And well-meaning or not, what you discover on a crusade is that the means are justified by the ends.''

The conservancy is appealing the judge's decision. Keith LaBudde, its president, says it acquired the disputed land in legal and upright fashion because Ms. Pardini and Mr. Fink never authentically owned it. He rejects the idea that his group should have passed up the disputed land rather than distress people who bought the land in good faith.

''Environmentalists are supposed to be featherheads, is that it?'' said Mr. LaBudde, a 63-year-old retired professor of computer science. ''I think what you do is pursue with rigor, you look at all the facts and approach it in a businesslike way.''

The dispute has had some wider ramifications as well. Though the conservancy is a small, 10-year-old organization, it works to acquire land with much richer and better known organizations in New York like the Mohonk Preserve and the Open Space Institute. Together, the three groups have assembled more than 10,000 acres in the breathtaking Shawangunks, which stretch from the Delaware River almost to the Hudson and are the setting for the popular and historic Mohonk Mountain House resort near New Paltz.

The Pardini-Fink dispute is not the first in which residents in the New Paltz-High Falls area have felt mistreated by preservationists. At least two other landowners say that within the last 10 years they were pressured to give up long-held mountainside properties after they were barred from using the rights of way to the land. The Mohonk Preserve eventually acquired the properties. The preserve denies that it acted improperly and says that the disputes were complicated by such factors as conflicts with neighboring landowners.

At bottom, Mr. Fink and Ms. Pardini accuse the conservancy of trying to steal their land by tactics more fitting a real estate operator than an upright environmental group. ''Everybody knew it was our property,'' Mr. Fink said in a recent interview. ''Just because the bike wasn't in the backyard and tied up doesn't give you permission to take it.''

Ms. Pardini had long craved the land. Almost 15 years before she and Mr. Fink made the down payment, Ms. Pardini camped out at Smitty's Dude Ranch here. It had a bar popular with hippies and was owned by an engaging character, Wilbur Smith, who kept his land in his wives' names.

Buying Land, Crying Foul; Preservationists Accused Of Overzealous Tactics In Bid to Keep Land Wild
Published: June 2, 1998
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(Page 2 of 2)

In 1983, Ms. Pardini, a midwife and teacher of African dance, met Mr. Fink, who made a living selecting trees for lumber. They fell in love and talked about one day buying ''Smitty's'' land. In 1986, they raised enough for the $300,000 purchase by asking their parents and a sister to mortgage their homes. Eight years later, they saw the ribbons put up by Norman Van Valkenburgh, the surveying consultant for both the conservancy and the Mohonk Preserve.

Mr. Van Valkenburgh, a former director of lands and forests for the state's Department of Environmental Conservation, has a crusty appreciation of land disputes, writing mystery novels about such conflicts with titles like ''Murder in the Catskills.'' Poking around in deeds for land the conservancy might buy up for preservation, he wrote a letter in 1994 to Mr. Smith's first wife, Mary Lue, telling her ''it may come as a surprise,'' but she still owned 30 acres of Fink-Pardini land. A 1965 deed by which she conveyed the land to his second wife ended with a comma in the middle of a sentence, omitting the pages that described two parcels. Mr. Fink and Ms. Pardini said it was a 30-year-old clerical error. Mr. Van Valkenburgh said, ''How did I know it was a clerical error?''

The conservancy paid Mary Lue Smith $5,000 for her title. But in an affidavit in the Fink-Pardini case, Mary Lue, who eventually remarried Wilbur Smith as his third wife, said Mr. Van Valkenburgh and the conservancy's counsel, Robert K. Anderberg, ''misled and tricked me and my husband'' into accepting $5,000. She said they had implied that the land was unclaimed and landlocked. Mr. Van Valkenburgh replied that he showed the Smiths deeds and maps.

The conservancy also tried to claim another piece of Fink-Pardini land using another deed with an aberrant pedigree. In 1982, two outdoorsmen, Wayne F. Kelder and his brother-in-law, Lars Hagen, bought 40 acres of ridgeland for $7,000 from the heirs of a woman whose own acquisitions were based on fuzzy deeds dating from 1911, 1928, 1937 and 1946. The boundaries were highly questionable, defined only by the adjoining owners rather than by the usual manner of distance and angle from the nearest roads.

Although Mr. Kelder and Mr. Hagen admit they had only a sketchy idea of where their land was, they spent 13 years hunting and cutting wood on the property without protests, never realizing it was owned first by the dude ranch and then by Ms. Pardini and Mr. Fink.

The accumulation of conflicting claims persuaded Mr. Hagen and Mr. Kelder to sell the land to the conservancy for $37,500 rather than become mired in costly litigation. Mr. LaBudde said he ''never had any suspicion'' the land was owned by Ms. Pardini and Mr. Fink. Nevertheless, he added, ''We recognized we were buying a problem.''

One issue the dispute has exposed is that deeds and tax maps can be hazy in mountainous woodland where owners are cavalier about boundaries. The location of the Kelder-Hagen claim is so uncertain that Mr. Van Valkenburgh believes the conservancy can use it to assert ownership of 136 acres of Pardini-Fink land.

Mr. Van Valkenburgh believes that the Kelder-Hagen land is actually the next parcel to the south. Yet, he maintains, the conservancy can claim the land the outdoorsmen lived on by a legal principle known as adverse possession, which entitles an occupant to ownership of someone else's land if after many years there are no protests.

In March, Justice Vincent P. Bradley of State Supreme Court in Ulster County rejected the conservancy's deed for the Hagen-Kelder parcel as worthlessly vague and its deed for the Pardini-Fink land as exploiting an obvious clerical error.

Ms. Pardini and Mr. Fink are not celebrating the judge's ruling. They have spent $36,000 on legal fees and fear that in the appeals process, the conservancy may have the resources to wear them down. Twelve years after buying their land, they still live in a house in Kingston, 10 miles away, because the money and time spent on the dispute have stalled plans to make the barn habitable. Mr. Fink and Ms. Pardini have been told they could get $2 million for their land. But they say they will not sell.

''What could you buy with the money that could replace this?'' Ms. Pardini asked, gazing out over her land.

Photo: Karen Pardini and Michael Fink on their land in High Falls, N.Y. A judge has ruled in their favor in a claim by a land preservation group to some of their property. (Chris Maynard for The New York Times) Map showing the 136 acres claimed by the Shawangunk Conservancy and the lands of Pardini and Fink: The property interrupts a chain of preserved Shawangunk ridgeland. (pg. B7)


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By MohonkPreserveNeighborsAssoc.
Aug 5, 2010

From the Chronogram:

Pirates of the Shawangunks
Planet Waves for August 2001 | By Eric Francis
......To get the most out of this story, you'll need to be familiar with two concepts, and then the rest should be obvious, or if not, unbelievable. The first is "land conservancy" and the second is "adverse possession."

......A land conservancy is a nonprofit organization created to preserve what is left of nature. In New York's Hudson Valley -- particularly along the Shawangunk Ridge and in the neighboring valleys -- there are a number of them, including the Mohonk Preserve, Friends of the Shawangunks, the Rondout Land Conservancy, and others. Their charge is to protect undeveloped land perpetually, and make it available to the public for limited use, such as recreational or educational purposes.

......Land conservancies, like 501-C nonprofit organizations, are exempt from paying real estate taxes and corporate taxes. They get their money through public donations and from huge trusts, like Open Space Institute and the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund. They acquire much of their land from people who have homes neighboring an existing preserve, who either willingly sell their land to a conservancy, or will it to them. Willing is a big deal for a conservancy; in their PR materials, they like to use the word a lot, such as "willing seller."

......Next: adverse possession. This is a method of acquiring property that is akin to squatter's rights, or acquisition by trespassing. The classic adverse possession case is if you build a barn and half the barn is on your neighbor's land, but your neighbor doesn't notice or doesn't care. If 10 years go by, you can make an adverse possession claim to the land on which your barn sits. You occupy it, you built an improvement, and maybe your deed isn't clear about the boundary line. If you win in court, the land is yours. It is an extremely rare method of land acquisition, and it's not friendly.

......Now, here is the story of how a land conservancy called Friends of the Shawangunks is fighting with its neighbors, Karen Pardini and Michael Fink, to acquire their land by adverse possession. Friends of the Shawangunks works directly with Mohonk Preserve, and in fact was created in the 1960s as an "advocacy organization" for Mohonk. Today, it sells most of the land it acquires to Mohonk.

......In 1994, Friends of the Shawangunks, with the assistance of Mohonk, sued two of its neighbors, Karen Pardini and Michael Fink. Karen and Michael are the current owners of the old Smitty's Ranch on Clove Road. This now-closed High Falls bar and hotel was an Ulster County landmark for generations. The lawsuit is an extremely complicated tale, but in brief, Friends and Mohonk, according to court exhibits, made a claim to land they knew they didn't own. The suit was going quite poorly for them, and in fact a judge later dismissed all the original elements and said that Karen and Michael could sue Friends of the Shawangunks for fraud.

......The conservancy felt it needed to get Karen and Michael's land another way, so in 1995, it purchased a strange old deed from two area men, Wayne Kelder and Lars Hagen. In 1982, Kelder and Hagen had purchased an ancient deed at an estate sale for $7,000. The deed contained no address, no metes and bounds, no exact acreage, and not so much as an approximate road location. The estate sale deed dated back to an even older World War II-era tax sale deed, which in turn went back to a 1911 "quitclaim" deed. At minimum, you could say that this is a very shaky chain of title. The funniest part is that in 1911, the same piece of land was conveyed twice: once when it was taken by the state for taxes, and again when the prior owners, after losing it, "sold" it to a logger. So, there was the real land, and the phantom deed which originated with the 1911 purchase by the logger.

......It appears as if the creators of the original phantom deed altered the description of the land in such a way that it didn't match the real property or the real deed that was on file with the county. In fact, no other deed in the county has descriptions/adjoinders which align with this one.

......At the time Kelder and Hagen purchased the phantom deed at the estate sale in 1982, neither the current deed nor any of the prior ones were on record with the county as far back as the 1940s. Nobody could actually find the land on the ground, including Hagen, Kelder, or the mystery deed's previous owners, the Osterhaut family. In more modern times, no title searcher has been able to locate the phantom parcel of land.

......Kelder and Hagen filed their deed with the county attached to a map encompassing about a third of the property already owned by Karen Pardini and Michael Fink -- the old Smitty's Dude Ranch. The Kelder and Hagen deed had nothing to do with Karen and Michael's land; the real land to which their phantom deed once pertained (nearly a century ago) was more than a mile away.

......If you're wondering why everybody is after the Smitty's Ranch property, it's that it's no ordinary piece of real estate. It's a secluded, lush forest with the spring-fed Coxing Kill running straight through its center. There is a five-tier waterfall. Most of the 204 acres are undeveloped; there's just a house and a barn. It's commercially-zoned, making it extremely valuable. And, best of all, it's adjoined by Mohonk Preserve on three sides. No neighbors! Except, of course, for Mohonk -- and the land in question is directly in view of the tower at the Mohonk Mountain House.

......Meanwhile, Norman van Vaulkenburgh, the joint-surveyor and land-acquisition official employed by both Friends of the Shawangunks and Mohonk Preserve, was aware of the supposed Kelder and Hagen claim when he was searching for land in the Clove Valley that could potentially be preserved, back in the early '90s. Their claim was something of a joke, because the deeds referred to nothing, nowhere, and everyone knew it.

......Van Vaulkenburgh conducted an extensive search for the alleged Hagen/Kelder parcel, and in a confidential 1993 report to the Friends of the Shawangunks, obtained by Chronogram, he concluded that Kelder and Hagen had no claim to any land anywhere in the vicinity, nor did any of their predecessors listed in the various deeds for "many years" before. "In conclusion, we can find no basis of the claim of ownership by Hagen and Kelder," van Valkenburgh wrote in his report to Friends of the Shawangunks, which was certified with his land-surveying license and official seal.

......Then, two years later, in 1995, in the middle of their failing lawsuit against Karen and Michael, van Valkenburgh and the Friends of the Shawangunks reversed themselves on the issue of whether the phantom Kelder and Hagen property existed. For $37,500, Friends purchased from them the very claim which van Valkenburgh had previously said didn't exist! With that in hand, Friends went back to war with Karen and Michael.

......But in a 1997 decision, State Supreme Court Judge Vincent Bradley ruled that the Hagen-Kelder deed had "no relevance" to Karen and Michael's property because the "Hagen/Kelder quitclaim deed description does not, in fact, cover any of defendants' property and is also void for vagueness."

......This did not stop the Pirates of the Shawangunks. If the Kelder and Hagen deed was pure fluff, then they would take the land by the only remaining method, adverse possession. The conservancy, in its court papers, claimed that Kelder and Hagen had hunted and chopped wood for a full decade on the land, a form of trespassing which they feel gave them the right to steal it from its owners.

......Who exactly is doing this? The links between Friends of the Shawangunks, Mohonk Preserve and other organizations like Open Space Institute are well-established. One is a man named Robert Anderberg, who has been intimately involved with all three organizations for many years. Another is Norman van Valkenburgh, who does all the surveying for Friends and Mohonk. Another is Keith LaBudde, president of the Friends of the Shawangunks; he married into the Smiley family, founders of Mohonk Mountain House, which in turn created the Mohonk Preserve.

......Mohonk Preserve's executive director, Glen Hoagland, when I interviewed him, denied any involvement in the lawsuit, stating that the two conservancies, while sharing many of the same people, are technically separate. But there is rather amazing documentation that emerged in the course of the case that both corporations acted as one entity in commiting some of the more outrageous acts for which they will soon face a separate lawsuit for fraud.

......The current 'adverse possession' lawsuit against Karen and Michael is now in its final stages; this summer, the trial over whether Pirates of the Shawangunks can preserve land by adverse possession is slowly unfolding. Though Judge Bradley already threw out their case, an appeals court sent it back to State Supreme Court for a trial on the specific issue of whether the adverse possession claim was valid. [Note on June 6, 2002: The case was finally dismissed for complete lack of merit, and all appeals are exhausted.]

......Even if it is, does this open the door to a new method of land conservation -- glorified trespassing? Hunting and cutting trees on land you don't own, then claiming it as yours?

......We shall see.++


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By MohonkPreserveNeighborsAssoc.
Aug 5, 2010

Here's a third article from the Freeman in Kingston, keep in mind the names of the players involved as these articles will give you a good historical perspective on what is soon to come. This article is from 2010


By WILLIAM J. KEMBLE
Correspondent

ROSENDALE Town resident Sue Boice Wick is asking officials to explain how the town can claim 77 acres will be sold for $340,000 for use by Mohonk Preserve when deeds cite much smaller property sizes.

Wick, a title examiner, spoke during a telephone interview last week after learning the town would sell property to the New York City-based Open Space Institute, which would then donate the land to Mohonk Preserve.

"I don't find them holding title to that much property and their sketch map that's included ... has two separate pieces," she said. "One is 47 acres (of a 51.97-acre parcel), which does belong to the town, and the other is a 30-acre parcel that is claimed and assessed to Stephen Larsen and it's not the piece that they need to connect to Mohonk."

Wick contends the Town Board resolution passed on June 10 to sell the property did not clearly identify the owners.

"There is nothing in the ... documents that indicate that the town of Rosendale has any right to claim, much less convey this 30 acres," she said.

"What it boils down to is that the town should not be selling its neighbor's land," Wick said. "This project needs to go back to the drawing board, be properly researched, corrected, and represented in a legitimate manner."

Town Supervisor Patrick McDonough said the 77-acre figure is correct and does not include Larsen's property, which is a separate sale being handled by Open Space Institute and Mohonk Preserve. He acknowledged that the size of the town property is listed with Ulster County at 51.97 acres but expects it to be declared larger when a survey is completed by Open Space Institute.

"It was showing as 47 acres in some town records but based on the title description it's probably more like 77 acres," he said. "As soon as a survey is done, which OSI is doing as part of this process, we'll know for sure exactly what it is."

Wick said the confusion appears to be part of a routine used by Mohonk Preserve to improperly obtain land titles.

"They are in the habit of doing this type of land deal where they piggyback a piece of property on another deed," she said.

"They take people to court if they don't just let go," Wick said. "They took my grandmother's (3.6 acres of) land. They gave it back though ... after they reduced it by 20 percent."

Mohonk Preserve spokeswoman Nadia Steinzor said the organization has had some boundary disputes in court but contends there were no legal issues surrounding the parcel own by Wick's grandmother.

"The preserve has never tried to acquire it or take it or anything to that affect," she said. "We have done surveys in that area and back in the '90s there was a question about the property but we never went out to try and get it."

Mohonk Preserve Executive Director Glenn Hoagland said the dispute arose from a survey done by the group as part of routine property transactions and was intended to clear up records.

"Due to our survey work we discovered in the mid-1990's that parcel had been incorrectly mapped by the Ulster County tax map mappers as belonging to the preserve," he said. "As soon as we found out that 3.6-acre parcel held by her grandmother was mapped to us but we didn't have a deed to it we went to her and said, 'Did you know you owned this property?'"

Hoagland said steps taken by the preserve to protect its properties include making sure public records are correct.

"That ownership of record is found in the Ulster County Clerk's office," he said. "Now the Ulster County tax map is different. They don't represent accurate ownership, they're just maps, and from time to time we have found that the Ulster County tax maps can be incorrect. So we have to make sure ... that we're matching what the tax maps say to what we have deeds to."


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By MohonkPreserveNeighborsAssoc.
Aug 5, 2010

One last one from the Woodstock Times to round out the historical perspective:

By any means
State judge blasts mid-county land conservancy
over scheme to claim private land

By Eric Francis
An investigative report reprinted from Woodstock Times, Dec. 4, 1997


THE CLOVE VALLEY in High Falls is one of Ulster County's most enchanted spots. At its heart lies a mostly undeveloped 200-acre tract of forests, trails and a majestic stretch of the pristine, spring-fed Coxing Kill, with a five-tier waterfall. Commercially zoned, yet surrounded on three sides by permanently protected lands, the property in recent years has been the focus of an intense land-preservation battle involving several non-profit organizations, one of which is in the process of acquiring land from the New Jersey border north to Albany.

But last week a state Supreme Court judge dismissed an attempt by a land conservancy closely associated with Mohonk Preserve to assume ownership of this privately-held property on the Shawangunk Ridge. In an unusually stern decision issued Monday, November 24, Justice Vincent G. Bradley also wrote that the owners of the property, Karen Pardini and Michael Fink of Kingston, who fought for more than three years to protect their land, "clearly have standing to assert a fraud claim" against the conservancy.

The story that led to Bradley's judgment is a complicated tale of legal maneuvering and deceptive behavior that calls into question the tactics and the ethical standards of several organizations involved in land preservation efforts in this county. It also raises the larger issues of whether unscrupulous means are justified in achieving what most people would see as the worthy goal of protecting undeveloped land.

In successfully defending their property, Fink and Pardini accused Friends of Shawangunks, a tiny, local land conservancy, of having "engaged in a conspiracy or scheme to defraud [and] to deprive them of their property by means of false and fraudulent misrepresentations," adding that the organization used "coercion, economic duress, deceit and misrepresentations to improperly acquire lands [for themselves] and for other groups or organizations under the guise of pursuing a public interest."

A four-month investigation by Woodstock Times has found that the land-grab scheme by Friends of the Shawangunks did not occur in a vacuum, but were set, instead, against the backdrop of a much larger effort being spearheaded by the Open Space Institute (OSI), which is based in Manhattan and which works closely with Mohonk Preserve and Friends of the Shawangunks.

All three groups, OSI, Friends of the Shawangunks and Mohonk Preserve are connected through Robert K. Anderberg, an attorney who serves as general counsel to both OSI and Friends, and who brokers land acquisitions for Mohonk Preserve. Anderberg is also a former long-time trustee of the preserve. The three organizations frequently work together on land acquisitions on the Shawangunk Ridge. But unlike the other two groups, which have a local focus, OSI conducts its efforts statewide; Anderberg said the group acquired 50,000 acres of land in New York state in 1997 alone. All three organizations operate as tax-exempt, non-profit corporations, and solicit donations from both the public and private foundations.

In 1994, under Anderberg's legal guidance, Friends of the Shawangunks, which operates as a land acquisition agent of Mohonk Preserve, sued Fink and Pardini, claiming that land the couple bought in 1987 really belonged to the Friends conservancy. Yet both internal documents of the conservancy and Mohonk Preserve indicate the suit was filed with the full knowledge that neither organization had a valid claim to the land, the former Smitty's Ranch property on Clove Valley Road in the Town of Rochester, near High Falls.

In its newsletter, Friends of the Shawangunks describes the area of the Fink-Pardini property as a "critical part of the viewshed from many points in Minnewaska Park and the [Mohonk] Preserve. One of the key objectives of Friends of the Shawangunks is to achieve protection of as much of this ridge as possible in whatever way seems most practical and effective."

The Fink-Pardini property is located along the 100-mile-long corridor that is the focus of OSI's conservation efforts. And the property is considered by Mohonk Preserve to be a prime target for acquisition and expansion of the preserve's parklands, which surround the property on three sides. Records indicate that the three work so closely together, that once any one of them holds title to a piece of land, the others considered it to have been protected from development.

To make its claim to the Fink-Pardini land, Friends of the Shawangunks first purchased what the court determined were worthless deeds from people who had no real claim to the property, then sued the couple, claiming to hold title based on those deeds. Fink and Pardini believe the conservancy's real strategy was to litigate them until they went broke, forcing them to surrender their property.

Ending the three-year legal battle, Bradley wrote, "Despite the procedural complexity" of the various claims and counter-claims supported by thousands of pages of maps, deeds, motions and testimony, "the underlying facts are fairly straight-forward." Bradley threw out the conservancy's claim on summary judgment, ruling there were no factual disputes that could possibly require a trial. He then took the unusual step of suggesting that Fink and Pardini had standing to bring a separate fraud action, providing them with a specific case law reference under which they could sue.

Commenting on the court's decision, Keith LaBudde, executive director of the Friends of the Shawangunks said Bradley had "misread the information in the case. He doesn't understand the facts." He said his organization's lawyers were reviewing the decision and considering whether to file an appeal. "My attorney tells me we've never won a court decision in Ulster Country Supreme Court," LaBudde added. "We've won a lot of decisions, but they've always been on appeal."

Glenn Hoagland, the executive director of Mohonk Preserve, said there is no direct connection between his organization and Friends of the Shawangunks, noting the two organizations have separate incorporation papers and different board members.

Both organizations were founded in 1963. And while the board members are different, Mohonk Preserve and Friends of the Shawangunks are both connected to at least three individuals who played leading roles in the Fink and Pardini land case. One is Anderberg, who, according to the newsletters of both the preserve and Friends of the Shawangunks, takes an active role in Mohonk's affairs. The others are Norman Van Valkenburgh, a licensed land surveyor working both in-house for Mohonk and under contract for the Friends of the Shawangunks, and LaBudde, the son-in-law of the late Daniel Smiley. Smiley was the founder of the Mohonk Preserve and the long-time chief financial officer of the Mohonk Mountain House. LaBudde presently sits on the preserve's Land Stewardship Committee.

According to LaBudde, Mohonk Preserve recently helped Friends of the Shawangunks pay its "lawyer bills" by buying a parcel of land from Friends for about $30,000. The lawsuit against Fink and Pardini is the only legal action in which Friends of the Shawangunks is currently involved, or has been for some time.

The legal distinction of separate corporations enables Friends of the Shawangunks to use what it describes as "aggressive" land acquisition tactics. Mohonk "felt constrained legally and as a good neighbor from assuming this role in fighting the various development threats in the Shawangunks," LaBudde wrote in the spring 1995 issue of Friends of the Shawangunks newsletter. For this reason, "Certain individuals associated with [Mohonk] played key, behind-the-scene roles in establishing Friends of the Shawangunks as the badly needed advocate for the Shawangunks."

Virtually all property acquired by the Friends of the Shawangunks eventually ends up either managed or controlled by Mohonk Preserve. And Hoagland, Mohonk's executive director, said his organization would have taken over the Fink-Pardini land had the title dispute in Bradley's court been resolved in favor of a "willing seller."

One advantage of this arm's-length arrangement is that it can shield Mohonk Preserve from direct legal liability if a land acquisition project should backfire. The Preserve, which owns about 6,200 acres of land, has considerably more to lose than Friends of the Shawangunks, which presently has no land assets other than a nature preserve consisting of about 22 isolated acres. The Fink-Pardini property is the largest single parcel on the northern Shawangunk Ridge not currently held by Mohonk. It is within walking distance from Lost City and a mile downstream from Split Rock, two of Mohonk's most popular visitor attractions. The eastern side of the Shawangunk Ridge is home of the world-famous rock-climbing area known as the Trapps, making the whole area one of the best known geographic locations in the Northeast. Local zoning would allow Fink and Pardini to re-open and expand the hotel and ranch facilities that could compete with Mohonk Mountain House and be visible from the summits of the preserve.

While the conservancy's lawsuit technically covered 136 of the 200 acres owned by Fink and Pardini, "those located uphill from the Coxing Kill," Van Valkenburgh, the surveyor, said in a recent interview that the conservancy was really after "the whole farm, whatever they owned."

According to the record of the case, the Friends of the Shawangunks' legal strategy involved obtaining two "quitclaim" deeds from individuals who had no real claim to the Fink-Pardini land. Once Friends obtained these deeds, the group filed suit claiming it actually owned the land.

When a quitclaim deed is used, the buyer is purchasing any interest the seller may hold in the land; if the seller has no interest, the deed is worthless.

The Friends' first quitclaim deed was obtained from Mary Lue Smith, a former owner of the ranch property. She had been married to Wilbur "Smitty" Smith. But in 1965, she transferred the land to Smitty's second wife.

Mary Lue Smith was approached in 1994 by Van Valkenburgh, who offered to pay her $5,000 on behalf of the conservancy for what he described as 30 acres of "landlocked" and "inaccessible" property that he led her to believe was different from the land she had conveyed years earlier. "I realize all this may come as a surprise," Van Valkenburgh wrote to her in making his offer.

Smith admitted she was "surprised" someone thought she still owned land, but she agreed to meet with Van Valkenburgh. He went to her home with the quitclaim deed and a check for $5,000, accompanied by Anderberg. According to Smith, Van Valkenburgh described the lawyer only as a notary who would witness her signature.

In her affidavit in support of Fink and Pardini, the 75-year-old Smith testified Anderberg and Van Valkenburgh "misled and tricked me into having me execute the paper " for a parcel that included road frontage and was part of the larger property she had conveyed years earlier.

With the Smith quitclaim deed in hand, Friends of the Shawangunks then attempted to prove Mary Lue Smith had retained an interest by pointing to a copying error in the 1965 deed, which omitted a description of the 30 acres. But Mohonk Preserve had been aware of the clerical error for 20 years, and Bradley said it was "patently obvious" the deed was in error and that the mistake didn't change the amount of land that had been transferred when Smith sold Smitty's Ranch in 1965. The judge rejected the conservancy's claim to the 30 acres. It may be that the Friends conservancy had its own doubts about whether the Smith deed would hold up in court. But whatever the reason, in 1995 Friends of the Shawangunks amended its challenge to Fink and Pardini to include a second quitclaim deed to a larger portion of the property, one that overlapped the land the conservancy said it already owned under the quitclaim deed from Mary Lue Smith. This second deed was obtained in 1995 from Ulster County residents Wayne Kelder and Lars Hagan.

Kelder and Hagan had gotten their deed from Kelder's neighbor, Roger Osterhoudt, for $7,000 at an estate sale in 1982. Osterhoudt, in turn, had inherited the deed from his parents, who had purchased it from the county at a tax sale in 1946. Titles to old tax sale properties are notoriously difficult to confirm, and this one was no exception. The Osterhoudts had never filed their deed with the county, and had never actually located the parcel of land, which was identified only by adjoining owners, without metes and bounds, an address, lot number or even a road location. The parcel is described in the deed as "35 acres, more or less."

Though Osterhoudt has said he never showed the location of the land to Kelder and Hagen, and no surveyor or title searcher ever had found it, the two men assumed their deed pertained to land somewhere in the vicinity of the Fink-Pardini land. They then attached to their deed their own hand-drawn map encompassing not 35 acres, but more than 80 acres of the Fink-Pardini property.

They filed their new deed with the county, along with the hand-drawn map and with three prior deeds in the chain of title dating back to 1928, none of which had ever been filed with the county. Hagen and Kelder never informed any of their neighbors of their claim to the land, and they were not seen on the land by neighbors until around 1993.

At that time Friends of the Shawangunks was researching land on the ridge for possible acquisition, and Van Valkenburgh, working for Friends under contract from the land surveying firm Brooks & Brooks, conducted an "extensive search" for the Kelder-Hagen parcel and for the chain of title. In a confidential 1993 report to the conservancy, he concluded the two men had no claim to any land anywhere on the ridge, nor did any of their predecessors listed in the various deeds for "many years" before. "In conclusion, we can find no basis of the claim of ownership by Hagen and Kelder," Van Valkenburgh wrote in a report certified with his land surveying license and an official seal.

But two years later, in 1995, in the middle of the lawsuit against Fink and Pardini, both Van Valkenburgh and the conservancy reversed themselves on the issue of whether Kelder and Hagen had owned the land. For $37,500, the conservancy purchased an "interest" in the deed Van Valkenburgh had previously said didn't exist, and then claimed to the court that it owned the land in the hand-drawn map. This, as the suit progressed, Friends of the Shawangunks expanded its claim from 30 acres to 80 acres and then, finally, with no additional justification, to 136 acres, without ever having clear title to any part of the property.

In his decision, Bradley ruled that the Hagen-Kelder deed had "no relevance" to the Fink-Pardini property, citing Van Valkenburgh's assertion in his report from two years earlier. According to Bradley, "The 1982 Hagen/Kelder quitclaim deed description does not, in fact, cover any of defendants' property and is also void for vagueness."

Bradley added, "Van Valkenburgh's change of heart is indeed dubious in view of the fact that no other surveyor was able to locate the parcel."

As Friends of Shawangunks ponders whether to appeal Bradley's decision, Fink and Pardini are now exploring their options, including how to recoup the high costs of their long legal battle.

There is no way yet to predict where the two sides will end up, but the direction of the Friends of the Shawangunks seemed clear as of the organization's spring 1997 newsletter, which appeared before Bradley had issued his ruling. In that publication, Friends of the Shawangunks promised its members it would begin "an aggressive campaign to acquire more open space in the Shawangunks. Land acquisition is a main priority for us.


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By JohnWesely
From Red River Gorge
Aug 5, 2010
Gunking

It should be noted that under no circumstance will the MPNA prove that they are a legitimate organization made up of real people. As such, I am not sure if Guideline #1 applies to them or not.


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By Ben Cassedy
From Denver, CO
Aug 5, 2010
IP

Thanks for posting all those articles.

I hope your neighborhood association loses, by the way.


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By MohonkPreserveNeighborsAssoc.
Aug 5, 2010

Ben,

Thanks for reading the articles.

Mohonk Preserve Neighbors Association


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By JohnWesely
From Red River Gorge
Aug 5, 2010
Gunking

JohnWesely wrote:
It should be noted that under no circumstance will the MPNA prove that they are a legitimate organization made up of real people. As such, I am not sure if Guideline #1 applies to them or not.


Notice how they selectively avoided my previous reply.


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By Curt Shannon
Aug 6, 2010

This fraud (MohonkPreserveNeighborsAssoc) is apparently claiming that there are two pending cases where the Mohonk Preserve is plaintiff against local landowners, but has failed to provide any evidence whatsoever to support his claim. He has further failed to even summarize the nature of the lawsuits that supposedly exist between the MP and the local landowners. On RC.com he has either purposely or stupidly conflated and confused the relationships between the Mohonk Preserve, the Mohonk Mountain House and the Friends of the Shawangunks in order to cast a poor light on the Preserve and hopefully gain sympathy for his bizarre cause. He has further declared that the Mohonk Mountain House has not served in any way to preserve lands along the Shawangunk ridge, but instead has merely been the largest land developer in the area. While I'm trying to not be a jerk, this guy is a true lunatic.

Curt


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By oldfattradguuy
Aug 6, 2010

Smitty's was a hole and eyesore in the '70s and '80s and the Clove Valley and Ulster County would be better served if the land was part of the Mohonk Preserve. The only redeeming point of Smitty's was that it was a good place to see what the New Paltz bar girls looked like naked or topless before you hit on them at night in town. The junkies liked it for the availability of smack.

This is analogous to the State taking over the Philips property at Minnewaska, the land is now preserved and will not be developed.


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By Jason Lantz
Aug 6, 2010

Curt Shannon wrote:
This fraud (MohonkPreserveNeighborsAssoc) is apparently claiming that there are two pending cases where the Mohonk Preserve is plaintiff against local landowners, but has failed to provide any evidence whatsoever to support his claim. He has further failed to even summarize the nature of the lawsuits that supposedly exist between the MP and the local landowners. On RC.com he has either purposely or stupidly conflated and confused the relationships between the Mohonk Preserve, the Mohonk Mountain House and the Friends of the Shawangunks in order to cast a poor light on the Preserve and hopefully gain sympathy for his bizarre cause. He has further declared that the Mohonk Mountain House has not served in any way to preserve lands along the Shawangunk ridge, but instead has merely been the largest land developer in the area. While I'm trying to not be a jerk, this guy is a true lunatic. Curt


I think curt has it.... this is just one more reason to send a donation to the Mohonk Preserve.
www.mohonkpreserve.org/index.php?member


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By Ryan Kelly
From work.
Aug 6, 2010
My kinda simian

Curt Shannon wrote:
While I'm trying to not be a jerk, this guy is a true lunatic. Curt


I believe - and an Admin can weigh in on this - that so long as you're not intentionally trying to be a jerk, you're still in compliance with Guideline #1.


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By MohonkPreserveNeighborsAssoc.
Aug 9, 2010

Curt Shannon wrote:
This fraud (MohonkPreserveNeighborsAssoc) is apparently claiming that there are two pending cases where the Mohonk Preserve is plaintiff against local landowners, but has failed to provide any evidence whatsoever to support his claim. He has further failed to even summarize the nature of the lawsuits that supposedly exist between the MP and the local landowners. On RC.com he has either purposely or stupidly conflated and confused the relationships between the Mohonk Preserve, the Mohonk Mountain House and the Friends of the Shawangunks in order to cast a poor light on the Preserve and hopefully gain sympathy for his bizarre cause. He has further declared that the Mohonk Mountain House has not served in any way to preserve lands along the Shawangunk ridge, but instead has merely been the largest land developer in the area. While I'm trying to not be a jerk, this guy is a true lunatic. Curt



Here is a list of civil actions listed in ulster county with the Mohonk Preserve:

Notice in every case the Mohonk Preserve is the Plaintiff.

1. Index #77-226 oct 7 2003. Mohonk Preserve is the plaintiff and lost.

2. Index #04-525 March 17 2004-2010. Mohonk Preserve is the Plaintiff. This case has just finished and we are awaiting a decision.

3. Index# 05-1722 5-16-2005. Mohonk Preserve is the Plaintiff. This settled.

4. Index#09-2747 2009. Mohonk Preserve is the Plaintiff. This case is current.


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By Rui Ferreira
From Longmont, CO
Aug 9, 2010

Speaking of confrontational tactics, I would not be surprised if this is the same organization responsible for the No Trespassing signs posted in the Near Trapps...


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By JSH
Administrator
Aug 10, 2010
JSH @ home <br /> <br />photo courtesy of Gabe Ostriker

Speaking of confrontational tactics, I would not be surprised if this is the same organization responsible for the No Trespassing signs posted in the Near Trapps...

They are vanishingly different, if they are different at all.

As I pointed out on rc.com, thus far all of the "MPNA"'s postings carry the hallmarks of Kent. One of those hallmarks, Mr. Wesely, is indeed selectively avoiding or evading direct simple questions (see my post on rc.com). Despite his initial denials, he has now revealed that he is a core member of the group, which apparently numbers 7 people.

Rui, this is the same Kent + neighbors whose attempt to blackmail the climbing community into protesting the Gardiner zoning laws that diminished imaginary inflated real estate values of his and others' land, carried the threat that he would "close the Nears" if we didn't fall in line and do what he asked. He expected climbers to follow his beliefs and desires, but underestimated the individual opinions of climbers - who are also property owners with previous experiences around zoning laws, conservationists who don't want to see a subdivision below the Nears, represent a wide political spectrum in terms of taxation beliefs, and indeed think independently. As a result, 50 feet of the Nears are now indeed marked "no trespassing". For more backstory you can search either Gunks or rc.com under "clos* the Nears" ...

One may indeed ask why Kent (pardon me, the "MPNA") thinks climbers would so readily shoot ourselves in the foot, access-wise, and boycott the very organization that chooses to provide climbing access to us. It's a similarly strange, almost evangelical, tactic and expectation as we saw in the previous iteration; as is the choice to selectively target the climbing community to carry out their wishes.

As admins, we have no set definition of "jerk", but pointing out that the expectation of climbers to act against their own interests might be called lunacy seems fairly straight-up to me, however biased I might be.

I have to say that I have been and continue to be quite taken aback at the lack of dealing in good honest faith, by presenting the "MPNA" as anything but a mask of Kent (the "Caped Crusader" on rc.com) and as any kind of legitimate or broad organization, and at the previous iteration that was essentially blackmail for access to 50' of the Nears. I don't automatically assume that large moneyed organizations are ideal participants, but neither do I assume that their smaller neighbors are innocent Davids up against a terrible Goliath. Kent's and the "MPNA"'s behavior speaks for itself.


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By Frank K
From Bishop, CA
Aug 10, 2010

and this is why the east coast will always suck compared to the west. everyone thinks they fucking own it.


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By Dana Marie
From Cold Spring
Aug 10, 2010
by the river <br />

Frank K wrote:
and this is why the east coast will always suck compared to the west. everyone thinks they fucking own it.


Amen Brother


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By Ryan Kelly
From work.
Aug 10, 2010
My kinda simian

Frank K wrote:
and this is why the east coast will always suck compared to the west. everyone thinks they fucking own it.


Would you care to elaborate on this? It seems a pointless and baseless comment.


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By JSH
Administrator
Aug 10, 2010
JSH @ home <br /> <br />photo courtesy of Gabe Ostriker

The underlying truth of Frank's statement is that the records of who owns what go back so far and so disorganizedly here in the backwoods of the East, that title disputes really are common and difficult.

(I can't comment on superiority, but .... it's 95 and humid today; and the weekend is "50% chance" of rain. You do the math!)


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By RockinOut
From NY, NY
Aug 10, 2010
Gear

So why doesn't the couple that the MPNA are taking to court, or even a few climbing locals, squat on some obscure parcels of land and call it their own? Hunt, log, build a cabin on a piece of land then take 'em to court for squatters rights


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By MohonkPreserveNeighborsAssoc.
Aug 10, 2010

JSH wrote:
The underlying truth of Frank's statement is that the records of who owns what go back so far and so disorganizedly here in the backwoods of the East, that title disputes really are common and difficult. (I can't comment on superiority, but .... it's 95 and humid today; and the weekend is "50% chance" of rain. You do the math!)



Julie,

The MPNA is shocked by the profound ignorance of this statement. Would you care to explain how land title is so disorganized and disputes are common? Thanks

The Mohonk Preserve Neighbors Association


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By Ryan Kelly
From work.
Aug 10, 2010
My kinda simian

RockinOut wrote:
So why doesn't the couple that the MPNA are taking to court, or even a few climbing locals, squat on some obscure parcels of land and call it their own? Hunt, log, build a cabin on a piece of land then take 'em to court for squatters rights


I'm not going to bother looking up the laws for New York, but "squatters rights" or adverse possession laws in the US are rarely as sensational as the stories that are told.


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