Open Space Planning

Open space 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.  Due to interest in the community to learn more about open space planning we are providing links to the recent Town Board discussions and related documents.

This page will be updated as further information becomes available.

SCENIC BETHLEHEM PHOTO SURVEY:  Get out your cameras!

Find promotional flyer here – print, email, and share with friends!

View a map of Bethlehem’s Open and Natural Spaces (map is large – you can zoom in to see streets, paths, etc.) You can find your favorite open spaces on the map to plan your photography outing.

The Town of Bethlehem invites residents to get out their cameras and photograph Bethlehem’s natural scenic beauty this spring and summer! Bethlehem is working on identifying scenic views and natural open spaces that are important to the character of our town.  People have different ideas about which scenic views and open spaces are important to them, so we want to hear (and see!) from as many residents as possible.  The photo survey is part of an ongoing effort to identify the town’s open space resources and to adopt an open space plan that could be used as one tool to help protect the town’s community character, natural resources and open space. Thank you for participating!

  • Email your digital photos of scenic views and natural open spaces by July 28th to kshaw@townofbethlehem.org
  • In the subject line, write: Scenic Bethlehem Photo Survey
  • In the body of the email, please provide:
    1. Your name, address and telephone number;
    2. Location or cross-streets where the photo was taken, and;
    3. A brief explanation of why this photo shows something important to you.

Ideas for photos might include: a scenic road your family loves to bike on, a forested area that you drive by on your way to work, an open field that is blanketed with summer wildflowers, a meandering local stream, or a farm field that is dotted with grazing cattle – it’s up to you!

When taking your photos, please be safe and be aware of any traffic around you.  Also, please respect private property – do not enter property if you are unsure of whether it is open to the public; take photos from a public road, sidewalk or path. Note: by emailing your photos to the survey, you give the Town of Bethlehem permission to use and display photos digitally or in print form, without credit, for planning and public education purposes.  Thank you!

Selected photos may be displayed at town meetings, in public places, and on the town’s Facebook page (be sure to “Like” Bethlehem’s page at www.facebook.com/BethlehemNY/ to see featured photos)!

Public Participation Dates for open space planning – we are looking for your input!

  • June 14th Town Board meeting (6:00 PM at Town Hall), a series of draft open space values maps will be presented to initiate a public comment period over the summer and fall.  After the presentation, these maps will also be available on this webpage for your review and comment.
  • July 1st – 31st at the Bethlehem Public Library: The draft open space values maps will also be displayed for comment all month.
  • July (date TBD) Town Board meeting: Join us for a presentation of “Bethlehem’s Natural Areas and Wildlife” given by staff at the Hudson River Estuary Program.
  • August 5th at the Delmar Farmers Market - Visit us at the market’s community table, where town staff will have draft open space values maps available for comment and discussion.
  • September and October (dates TBD): In the early fall, the town looks forward to active participation in two public workshops to be held in September and in October, where revised open space values maps will be used to develop the town’s open space plan.

Please read Bethlehem’s Natural Areas and Wildlife Summary, prepared by Ingrid Haeckel, Conservation and Land Use Specialist at the Hudson River Estuary Program!

Wildlife habitats, or natural areas, such as streams, wetland, forests and fields in Bethlehem, are not only important to support abundant fish and wildlife, but also provide many vital benefits to human communities – keeping our drinking water and air clean, keeping our temperatures cooler, filtering pollutants and absorbing floodwaters.  These natural areas also provide places for recreation and scenic views.  Did you know that Bethlehem habitats and open spaces support three species of “threatened” birds (a ranking next to “endangered” on the Endangered Species List): the Bald Eagle, Henslow’s Sparrow, and Least Bittern?  Bethlehem’s wetlands and ponds also provide refuge for three species of “special concern”: the Wood Turtle, Jefferson Salamander, and the Long-tailed Salamander.  Some of our streams also support trout as well as migrating baby “glass eels”.  To learn more about these and other creatures, and the places in town that support them, read the report – it’s full of helpful maps, too!

Recent Town documents regarding open space planning

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 (439-4955 x 1157).

Earlier Town documents and efforts

Examples of Open Space Plans

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