NEW PALTZ, NY — February 20, 2015 —The Open Space Institute’s recently acquired “Watchtower property” and a collection of surrounding preserved acreage will be available free of charge for cross-country skiing starting Saturday, Feb. 21, allowing the public to take advantage of the season’s excellent snow conditions on the newly-conserved “Wallkill Flats” landscape.
Cross-country ski loop trails have been set and groomed and will be maintained as long as conditions are favorable.
“OSI is excited to make the Wallkill Flats available for public use so quickly after conserving the property. This year’s snow cover offers a terrific opportunity for area residents to grab their cross-country skis and explore this beautiful landscape,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s President and CEO. “We thank our partners, the Mohonk Preserve and Black River Environmental Improvement Association, who led the way in working out the logistics of this plan and followed through with the setting and grooming the cross-country ski trails.”
“As an organization with a long history of offering winter recreation, we are happy to be teaming with our colleagues at OSI to expand opportunities for local cross-country skiers,” said Mohonk Preserve Executive Director Glenn Hoagland. “In addition to managing grooming of seasonal trails on OSI’s newly acquired property, the Preserve is also offering additional groomed trails around our Spring Farm Trailhead and on the Trapps Carriage Road.”
The seasonal trails begin just west of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail (a short walk across the Carmine Liberta Bridge) at the intersection of Route 299 and Springtown Road, then head north along the Wallkill River to the New Paltz Boat launch parking area. Skiers will then veer west on the trails, crossing Red Barn Road and over the Butterville Hills via the Watchtower property. The trail then loops back onto itself after crossing the Red Barn Farm property.
Cross-country skiers are asked to park at one of the following locations:
- Route 32 Park-and-Ride (north of the Village of New Paltz, with direct access to the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail)
- Sewer Plant Lot (adjacent to Huguenot Street, and a short walk to Carmine Liberta Bridge)
- New Paltz Boat Launch Parking Area (adjacent to Springtown Road)
Realizing one of New Paltz’s top conservation goals, OSI earlier this month announced the acquisition of 135-acre Watchtower, long recognized as the bucolic backdrop to New Paltz and one of the first and best views for travelers heading west along Rt. 299 from the town. With the property’s preservation, New Paltz residents will be able to enjoy a premier recreational corridor allowing them to walk, hike, bike or ski from downtown straight to the Shawangunk Ridge, avoiding a former detour on the narrow, rutted shoulder of heavily-trafficked Rt. 299.
The preservation of the Watchtower property is crucial to realizing ambitious goals in New Paltz and Ulster County to create the premier network of recreational trails on the east coast, attracting visitors to ski, hike, bike and enjoy an unparalleled network of carriage roads and rail trails that spans the width and length of the county. A proposed recreational use plan for the property is under development and will be shared with the public for review and comment this spring.
A planning process to establish permanent public access for the land is ongoing. The design process for the final trail network on the property will invite public input.