Photo Credit: Jerry Monkman

Take a Hike on National Trails Day!

Wallkill Valley Rail Trail Brett Cole

NEW YORK, NY - May 29, 2014 -Saturday, June 7 is National Trails Day, and, once again, big things are happening on the rail trail front in the Hudson River Valley.

Ulster County Executive Mike Hein and the Open Space Institute announced in April the launch of a privately funded trail planning study for the Ashokan Reservoir section of the Ulster County Rail Trail Project. The planning study has been commissioned by OSI and will focus on the 11.5-mile segment of the County-owned Ulster & Delaware Railroad corridor that runs along the northern shore of the Ashokan Reservoir.

Our partnership with the county builds on the recent agreement between Ulster County and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection to help fund and facilitate the conversion of the Ulster & Delaware corridor running through DEP lands into a non-motorized rail trail.

What this means for the public is access to these lands without the requirement of a permit for the first time in over 100 years. Hikers and bikers will traverse unspoiled fields and forests while taking in incredible views of the Catskill High Peaks.

The Hudson River Valley Greenway has also awarded the town of New Paltz a grant to develop a plan for an almost 1 mile pedestrian public access trail in the agricultural “Flats” area from the Wallkill River near downtown New Paltz to the intersection of Lewis Lane and Red Barn Road, near the Wallkill View Farm Market.

This trail would enhance opportunities for recreation, business activity, and safe, alternative transportation in an area where there is currently no safe pedestrian or bicycle access. The trail will run along the southern border of the Van Alst farm, which OSI protected in 2011, and provide a safe route along Route 299 for walkers, hikers and bicyclists traveling from downtown New Paltz toward the Mohonk Preserve Foothills and the Shawangunk Ridge.

Just down the road, New Paltz Town Board members have agreed to apply for a federal grant that would help create a bicycle path along Henry W. Dubois Drive. Biking advocates believe the path will serve as vital a link between the Hudson Valley Rail Trail and the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail.

Speaking of, last summer, OSI and the Wallkill Valley Land Trust reopened the restored Rosendale trestle, and just a few weeks later, announced the completion of the full 24-mile Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, which now runs through the towns of Gardiner, New Paltz, Rosendale and Ulster, and on to Kingston.

Known by some as the Walkway Over the Rondout, the 117-year old trestle is offers breathtaking views of the Shawangunk Ridge, Joppenbergh Mountain and the Binnewater Hills, while the trail leads you through some of the Ulster County’s most gorgeous country.

Elsewhere in the region, the Long Path is one of the Hudson Valley’s most-traveled trails, meandering northeasterly from the George Washington Bridge in Manhattan, and then connecting preserved landscapes in the Hudson Highlands and Schunnemunk state parks before reaching the Shawangunk Ridge State Forest in Ulster County. From there, it continues north, bisecting the 5,400-acre Sam’s Point Preserve and Vernooy State Forest, also 5,400 acres, and both protected by OSI.

The Path currently ends at John Boyd Thacher State Park, where OSI added 188 acres in 2006, although it may one day run all the way to the Canadian border.

In 2010, OSI acquired a small but strategic 2.32-acre parcel that filled a gap in the Long Path Trail in the Sullivan County town of Mamakating, connecting Roosa Gap and Wurtsboro Ridge state forests.

The O&W Rail Trail is named for the railroad that carried freight from New York City to northwest sections of upstate New York from the latter part of the 1800s to 1957. The Kingston to Port Jervis branch of the Trail extends for 65 miles, stretching the entire length of the Shawangunk Ridge.

OSI has protected several strips along the Trail, in the towns of Wawarsing and Mamakating, but its major contributions on the O&W are the vast landscapes it has preserved along its path.

Beginning at the north end of the O&W, one passes the Paul and Davis farmlands, both of which OSI preserved. Further south, the O&W intersects the Long Path near the aforementioned Sam’s Point Preserve and Vernooy State Forest.

Along with the Shawangunk Ridge State Forest, Sam’s Point and Vernooy State Forest contain some of the most striking, dramatic landscapes in New York—gleaming white cliffs, deep rock crevices and cascading waterfalls. Together, the preserves are part of a huge, intact ecosystem that spills out over more than 10,000 acres of back-country wilderness.

As one veers off the main trail onto these unspoiled lands, they will find yet another trail system, a well-preserved series of paths hiding within the forests themselves.  

Finally, the O&W passes the Basherkill Wildlife Management Area—one of OSI’s first conservation projects, a 3,000-acre freshwater wetlands preserve that is the largest in southern New York. For now, the Trail ends at the city of Port Jervis, just after passing the Huckleberry Ridge State Forest, a 1,510-acre forest located near the New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania border.

OSI’s vision is to protect and enhance a unified rail trail network that will one day run from southern Dutchess County, through Ulster and Orange counties to New Paltz, Walden, Kingston, Ellenville, and the Catskill High Peaks—more than 140 miles of recreational rail trail in all.

We hope the people of the Hudson Valley will be able to travel from one town to another, passing through state parks and forests, wildlife management areas, and nature preserves—all on a trail system that provides safe, enjoyable access to the natural world. We hope to see you out on the trails!







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