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Open Space Institute Begins Restoration of Minnewaska’s High Point Carriage Road

Ulster County, NY (April 21, 2022)— Building on its four-decade commitment to protecting and improving Minnewaska State Park, the Open Space Institute (OSI) today announced that a restoration of the High Point Carriage Road at Minnewaska State Park Preserve is underway. The project will reestablish recreational access in a part of the Park Preserve that has not been accessible to the majority of users for more than 25 years. Once the High Point Carriage Road restoration project is completed, OSI will have achieved a longstanding organizational goal of connecting the interior of Minnewaska State Park Preserve to Sam’s Point, linking the park’s two visitor centers, and fully restoring more than 15-miles of the park’s popular carriage roads.

The $1.2 million High Point Carriage Road restoration project is on-track to be completed by the end of the summer in 2023.

Improvements to the High Point Carriage Road include a mix of restoration and full reconstruction, including a 1,200-foot realignment, new bridges, and enhanced drainage installations. The suite of critical upgrades will repair the washed out, rocky, and uneven surfaces of the existing carriage road, improve the flow of stormwater in the area, and widen the current path to accommodate multiple user groups, including walkers, hikers, runners, bikers, cross-country skiers, and equestrian patrons.

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High Point Carriage Road April 2022
Image Credit: Annie Bergelin

Additionally, the restored carriage roads play a critical role in helping park staff and emergency responders act during crisis. The carriage roads serve as emergency access routes that weave throughout the park, and during wildfire events the carriage roads act as “fire breaks” and are barriers that slow the progression of fire.

"OSI's commitment to the restoration of Minnewaska’s carriage road builds on decades of work to protect the spectacular landscape and make it more accessible and enjoyable for the public,” said Kim Elliman, OSI's president and CEO. “Over the years, we have proudly restored more than 15 miles of carriage roads, doubled the park's size through the addition of more than 12,000 acres, and most recently helped build the Lake Minnewaska Visitor Center. We are proud that our park improvement work here is ensuring the land is both protected and welcoming to the public.”

State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, "Minnewaska State Park Preserve is an unforgettable destination, offering incredible views and vast open spaces – and the park carriage roads are vital to park experience. I am grateful to the Open Space Institute for its continued work to improve the carriage roads and help visitors to explore all that Minnewaska has to offer.”

“The restoration of the High Point Carriage Road will be a significant contribution to all the important work OSI has undertaken to restore Minnewaska State Park Preserve’s historic carriage road network,” said PIPC Executive Director Joshua Laird. “The Palisades Interstate Park Commission is grateful for OSI’s years of dedicated effort to expand Minnewaska and to protect the Shawangunks as a special place of nature and scenic beauty.”

“The historic carriage road network within Minnewaska is a tremendous resource that offers miles of recreational opportunities for visitors while protecting the sensitive resources within the park preserve, aides in search and rescue operations, and forest fire management. One of my biggest priorities since my tenure began at Minnewaska has been to restore the entire carriage road system, and the progress that we have made to date would not have been possible without our tremendous partnership with OSI,” said Minnewaska State Park Preserve Park Superintendent Erik Humphrey. “The current restoration of the High Point Carriage Road will create a functioning carriage road connection from the Sam’s Point Area to the Lake Awosting Area of Minnewaska State Park Preserve with improved recreational opportunities. I look forward to working with OSI in the years to come to complete the High Point Project and the remaining carriage roads in need of restoration.”

After a competitive bidding process, OSI has contracted with Mombaccus Excavating from Kerhonkson, NY to complete the High Point Carriage Road restoration. As the project progresses, the public is reminded that the site is an active construction area and is asked to respect road closures and stay clear of construction equipment.

OSI’s High Point project is part of a larger, ongoing effort to restore major sections of Minnewaska’s 35-mile Victorian era carriage road system. Over the last several years, OSI has fundraised for and completed restoration of 4.6-mile Castle Point Carriage Road, the 2.9-mile Hamilton Point Carriage Road, portions of the Lake Awosting Carriage Road, 3.6 miles of the Old Smiley Carriage Road, and several small carriage road sections on Mohonk Preserve.

Originally built to serve 19th century horse-drawn carriages, Minnewaska’s crushed stone carriage roads are unique in that they support many different user groups, allowing people of all ages, abilities, and recreational interests to enjoy a truly remote outdoor experience. OSI’s carriage road restoration projects are improving the experience of the park for new and existing visitors – and in doing so, better dispersing visitors to the area and protecting the region’s hiking trails and precious natural resources.

The carriage road restoration projects have been completed in partnership with the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and Mohonk Preserve.

OSI has invested over $4M since 2014 towards the restoration of Minnewaska’s carriage roads. The work has been completed thanks to the generous support of Lucy Rockefeller Waletzky, the Butler Conservation Fund, the Interlaken Foundation, Friends of the Shawangunks, and other generous donors. These private contributions have also leveraged over $1M in grants from the state's Environmental Protection Fund.

Three additional sections of Minnewaska’ carriage roads, including the western 3.1-milesection of the Smiley Carriage Road, and the remaining 2.4 miles of the Lake Awosting Carriage Road, require attention before the carriage road system can be considered fully restored. OSI also indicated that it is pursuing additional partnerships, private funds, and grants to fully achieve the final phase of its ambitious plan.

About OSI’s work at Minnewaska State Park and Surrounding Trails

Just 90 minutes from Manhattan, Minnewaska State Park Preserve is a recreational mecca visited by nearly half a million people every year. Situated atop the Shawangunk Ridge in Ulster County, the 23,000-acre park preserve features dozens of panoramic views of the Hudson Highlands, Catskill Mountains and the farmland of the Wallkill and Rondout Valleys. With 35 miles of historic carriage roads and nearly 40 miles of footpaths, the park welcomes a wide range of hikers and bikers. Minnewaska also features impressive sky lakes and waterfalls and is a world-class rock-climbing location.

Over the past four decades, through a series of expansions spearheaded by OSI, Minnewaska is now the third-largest state park in New York. Committed to protecting the Shawangunk Ridge and improving public access to protected lands, OSI has more than doubled the size of Minnewaska State Park preserve; rebuilt over 15 miles of Minnewaska’s historic carriage roads; and most recently, OSI raised more than $3 million toward the design and construction of the Minnewaska Visitor Center, which opened in 2020.

OSI’s restoration of Minnewaska’s carriage road system is part of a larger regional vision being pursued by OSI and many other partners to connect rail trails, carriage roads and regional hiking trails along and around the Shawangunk Ridge.

In 2009, OSI partnered with the Wallkill Valley Land Trust to acquire 9.5 miles of the Rosendale and Ulster sections of what is now the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail. OSI raised $1.5 million to restore the Trail's Rosendale Trestle and completed a $1.1 million renovation of the northern stretch of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail in 2020. In 2011, OSI partnered with the Wallkill Valley Land Trust to acquire the 118-acre Joppenbergh Mountain in the Ulster County hamlet of Rosendale. The mountain sits along the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail near the north end of the Rosendale Trestle.

The Wallkill Valley Rail Trail adjoins OSI's popular 6-mile River-to-Ridge loop trail, on the eastern side of the Shawangunk Ridge in New Paltz. The River-to-Ridge Trail, which welcomed more that 177,000 people in 2021, meanders through farm fields and over gently rolling hills, connecting New Paltz directly to the Shawangunk Ridge, with over 90 miles of recreational carriage roads and trails at the Mohonk Preserve and Minnewaska State Park Preserve, the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, and the Empire State Trail.

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