Clean Water Protected Forever: The Forest Reserve in Smallwood

Public trails & community classroom events

natural habitatwaterhikers

We’re excited about our ongoing partnership with the Smallwood community, and look forward to hosting programs and educational events on the Forest Reserve.

Melinda Meddaugh, former Land Protection Coordinator for Delaware Highlands Conservancy

With assistance from the Common Waters Fund, the natural-resource-rich, 134-acre Forest Reserve at Smallwood in Bethel, NY is now permanently protected with a conservation easement held by the Delaware Highlands Conservancy.

The Conservancy worked with the Bethel Local Development Corporation and the Town of Bethel to protect this community treasure.

“The Smallwood Forest Reserve permanently protects the source of clean drinking water for the community of Smallwood. This public park will also feature hiking trails and excellent opportunities for year-round outdoor recreation such as kayaking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing,” explains Melinda Meddaugh, former Land Protection Coordinator for the Conservancy. “We’re excited about our ongoing partnership with the Smallwood community, and look forward to hosting programs and educational events on the Forest Reserve.”

Two streams, White Lake Brook and Lybott Brook—tributaries to the Swinging Bridge Reservoir—join together on the property, which also features numerous wetlands. Scenic vistas can be viewed from Ballard Road, Mohican Trail, Tomahawk Trail, and Golf Park Road. Healthy forests filter water that eventually reaches the Delaware River, the clean water source for millions of people in New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia.

The benefits of protecting natural areas like the Forest Reserve at Smallwood are numerous, both for current and future generations. Communities with open spaces are great places to live, work, and play, with a high quality of life and healthier residents who spend time outdoors. Protected forests provide habitat for a variety of wildlife, and attract visitors which generates tourism revenue and strengthens the local economy. Scenic views and protected areas enhance property values, and intact landscapes can also provide a buffer from disturbance events such as floods.

The ribbon cutting to announce the property’s protection was held on Sunday, October 20th, 2013 and was attended by representatives of the town of Bethel, the County, and the Smallwood community. The Forest Reserve is a model for public / private partnerships and civic engagement with many stakeholders, policymakers, and community organizations taking part in the process, which grew from a grassroots effort started by the Preserve Smallwood Country Life to protect the environmentally sensitive area from a planned 200-townhouse development. The Town of Bethel will now work to develop a management plan for the Forest Reserve at Smallwood property.

If you would like to participate, please contact Erin Lynch at the Town of Bethel at 845-583-4350 x12 or For more information on the entire project, view the Forest Reserve at Smallwood Fact Sheet.

The Conservancy’s New York office is located on 119 protected acres of farm and forestland, also in Bethel, and with the help of an Environmental Initiatives grant from Sullivan Renaissance, is in the process of being turned into an “outdoor classroom” with hiking trails, teaching gardens, orchards, and meadows.

The Conservancy regularly hosts educational programs on the site, and looks forward to hosting events on the Forest Reserve property as well.

All photos by David B. Soete.