Open Space Planning

Open Space Banner

Open space conservation planning has been actively discussed in Bethlehem for over a decade. It was identified as a goal in the 2005 Comprehensive Plan, and has been raised in Town Board discussions and by a number of advisory committees.  To keep the community informed about the town’s ongoing open space planning process and efforts, this page is dedicated to relevant town documents, presentations, public engagement opportunities and related information as it becomes available. Please sign up for the town’s monthly e-Newsletter and Notify Me features to stay up-to-date on both the town’s conservation efforts and opportunities to get involved.

  • The town board that advises open space efforts is the 5-member voluntary Conservation Easement Review Board. The public is welcome to attend the CERB’s meetings (dates, agenda and minutes are recorded on the CERB webpage).
  • Questions about how to get involved in open space conservation? Please reach out to the town’s Open Space Coordinator, Karen Shaw, at, or 518-439-4955 x 1106.

Final “Bethlehem Open Space Plan: Conservation Criteria Implementation

As open space land in its natural state provides a myriad of benefits to us all, the town will employ the tools within this document, and others as they are developed in the future, to continue to work to balance appropriate development with open space conservation, with the goal of protecting Bethlehem’s community character, scenic qualities, and ecological and economic values.

The town's stated purpose of open space planning is "to ensure that future consumption of land for development is balanced with the conservation of land for its open space value". With this in mind, and after receiving and incorporating public comments, the town has finalized an Open Space Plan that includes:

  1. An updated, town-wide open space inventory and database, as illustrated in four Open Space Conservation Values Maps (included in the plan and also linked separately below);
  2. A list of data-driven Conservation Criteria (25) with which to evaluate open space land for its conservation values; and,
  3. An effective, flexible, data-based method - the GIS Conservation Analysis Tool - to evaluate, numerically score, and prioritize the conservation of open space land.

The ongoing use and implementation of these plan components by the Town Board, Planning Board, Planning Department Staff, and the Conservation Easement Review Board, will prepare and guide the town in responding to landowner inquiries about conservation opportunities, as well as inform the town’s development review and design process. Further, it will inform the use of limited financial resources and direct future funds to the conservation of open space land that will have the most beneficial impact town-wide. Having this open space plan in place will also support town applications for state, regional and federal grant funding for conservation implementation.

Key to the success of the conservation tools described in this plan is ongoing public engagement and involvement. Town staff and town boards are dedicated to working with the public, with interested individuals, and with land trusts and other entities to strengthen partnerships that support land conservation efforts that benefit both the landowner and the community.

Interested in learning about conservation opportunities for your land? Please contact Karen Shaw, Open Space Coordinator, at, or 518-439-4955 x 1106. Thank you!

Final Open Space Conservation Values Maps

(these maps are also found and described within the above Open Space Plan)

What are these maps and their purpose? The first step in identifying and prioritizing open space lands in town was to conduct an open space inventory that included natural and cultural resources in Bethlehem. Using data collected from over 20 public data sources (including town, state and federal); inputting more than 70 data sets into a GIS mapping system; and reviewing community open space values stated in past surveys, focus groups and public meetings; the town developed the above four Open Space Conservation Values maps. These maps, along with field verification when needed, will be used on an ongoing basis to help inform town conservation decisions.  Reviewing these maps, and the relationships they show, is a useful step in considering any land in town for conservation purposes. The many open space values and benefits illustrated within these four maps are summarized in the Open Space Plan linked above.

To view the presentation delivered by town planning staff at the 2017 Open Space Conservation Public Workshop, please see the following:

Final Community Character Value Map

Conservation Easement Exemption Program for Bethlehem Landowners with 5 or more acres of open space

  • The Conservation Easement Exemption Program, overseen by the 5 member Conservation Easement Review Board, is intended to conserve open space lands, help maintain the character of the Town, and provide financial incentives and assistance to those landowners willing to forego development and maintain open space. Property owners with five (5) or more acres of land who commit to conserving their land as open space for a minimum of 15 years (and up to perpetuity) can receive an exemption on their property assessment resulting in a reduction in property taxes corresponding to the length of their conservation commitment.  Landowner applications for the program are accepted on a rolling basis; if you own 5 or more acres in town, please consider applying.  The Planning Department is happy to answer any questions you may have (518-439-4955 x 1157).

Scenic Bethlehem Photo Survey

This summer, residents were asked to participate in a Scenic Bethlehem Photo Survey and we received over 300 photos of scenic and open places in town that are special to residents; examples may be viewed in the Scenic Bethlehem Photo Survey 2017 album on the town’s Facebook page,  These photos will be mapped as part of the town’s ongoing Open Space Planning efforts.  Thank you to all who participated.

The town has mapped a sample of the photos received through this public project. Click on the image on the right to view the general "scenic views" locations, as suggested by participants and sample photos.


Hudson Kayak Eco-tour

On August 10th, 2017, fourteen kayak and river enthusiasts paddled with Town Board member and ecologist, David VanLuven, on Bethlehem’s Vlomankill and the Hudson River to learn more about the waters and wildlife in our town, and how this relates to current open space planning. We had a beautiful night and saw a bald eagle, a green heron, an osprey and the waterfall on the Vlomankill. This free public event was very popular, so look for this to be a continuing environmental education activity in the future.Kayak Tour August 20, 2017

Town documents regarding open space planning

Examples of Open Space Plans

How can I enjoy Bethlehem’s open spaces and get involved?