YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Teatown Lake Reservation is honoring Geoffrey Thompson, a Croton resident and owner of Thompson's Cider Mill, for a 13-year effort in helping acquire "The Croft," a 58-acre tract of wilderness at the center of the environmental education center's open space preserve.
Thompson was honored at Teatown's Night-in-the-Woods gala dinner, held at the Sleepy Hollow Country Club in Scarborough. In recognition of Thompson's efforts to see The Croft preserved, a newly opened hiking trail that winds around Vernay Lake is named "The Geoffrey Thompson Croft Trail."
Thompson called the property "Teatown's front yard" and said, "but it's an incredibly environmentally sensitive property. If it was just a rectangle of woods, that would be a lot harder thing to sell, but it's part of that chain of lakes."
Vernay Lake, on The Croft, drains into Teatown Lake, which drains directly into the Croton Reservoir, a supply of drinking water.
Thompson called the land acquisition a "labor of love" and said, "For whatever twist of fate, I've ended up being very associated with Teatown for 40 years now."
The parcel was owned by Gerard Swope Sr., president of the General Electric Co. in the 1920s and 1930s. It was divided into two sections after his death in 1957. His family donated 191 acres to create the nature education center in 1963, and 70 acres were sold separately as a private residential property to Phil E. Gilbert.
Thompson organized the effort to reunite the property that became available after Gilbert’s passing in 2008. Thompson helped bring together a combination of funding sources, including the Open Space Institute, private donations from Teatown members and friends, and Westchester County.
The latter purchased a permanent conservation easement on the 58 acres of open space, while Teatown agreed to assume responsibility for management of the trail networks at three adjacent county parks, including John Hand, Bald Mountain, Kitchawan Preserve and the Briarcliff-Peekskill Trailway.
Thompson grew up in Croton-on-Hudson and is a lifelong area resident. In addition to owning Thompson and Bender, a public relations firm based in Briarcliff Manor, he has owned and operated Thompson’s Cider Mill and Orchard for the past 36 years on land adjacent to Teatown. The land has been an orchard for 125 years.