NEW PALTZ, NY (July 27, 2021)— The Open Space Institute, in partnership with Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the Town and Village of New Paltz, announced a plan to improve a 3.5-mile section of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, a key link in the Empire State Trail in Ulster County. The trail segment runs from Cragswood Road in the Town of New Paltz, south through the Village to the Empire State Trail trailhead at Sojourner Truth Park.
The OSI-led and managed trail improvement project will remove the aging trail surface and install a new 10-foot-wide bicycling and walking path, install drainage improvements to prevent trail erosion, and make safety improvements including installing signage and marked crosswalks at eight locations where the trail crosses public roads.
The announcement of this new trail renovation builds on a $1 million project OSI completed in 2020 to improve the northern 9.5- mile stretch of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, which is also part of the Empire State Trail route, in the Towns of Ulster and Rosendale.
"The Wallkill Valley Rail Trail is a favored recreational destination for thousands of Hudson Valley residents and visitors every year," Governor Cuomo said. "The trail is well-used by cyclists, walkers and runners for local trips and is a critical link in the 750-mile Empire State Trail connecting Albany and New York City, Canada and Buffalo. Refurbishing this vital connection will help trail users of all abilities to have a better experience for years to come."
"With more and more people looking to connect with nature, it is critically important to make outdoor destinations safe, welcoming, and available to the public,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s president and CEO. “Having already restored 9.5 miles of the northern stretch of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, protected and restored the Rosendale Trestle, and created the River-to-Ridge Trail in New Paltz, OSI is excited to continue our work in this landscape to build connections between people and land."
The 3.5-mile trail segment was originally constructed several decades ago and needs rehabilitation. The work will start in July and be completed by October. Trail users may encounter short-term trail closures on some weekdays to accommodate construction; no trail closures will occur on Saturdays, Sundays, or Holidays.
This section of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail is owned by the Town and Village of New Paltz, and the Wallkill Valley Land Trust holds conservation easements over the trail corridor. The Hudson River Valley Greenway has committed $900,000 to complete the project.
The project will implement recommendations set forth in the "Wallkill Valley Rail Trail Community Opportunity Plan," issued by Ulster County and the Village and Town of New Paltz in 2020. The plan, which included a robust public engagement and comment process, highlighted the need to upgrade this highly popular trail segment.
State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, "With this project to enhance the Empire State Trail in New Paltz, we are ensuring a safer and more enjoyable experience for everyone who uses this portion of the trail to walk, run or bike. Ulster County offers extraordinary opportunities for outdoor recreation, and I'm grateful to see so many partners coming together to care for this important asset."
Senator Mike Martucci said, "I'm excited to see these improvements to the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail moving forward. The new walking and bicycling path will help to drive tourism to our area by revitalizing and improving this important section of the scenic Empire State Trail. This is a win for our environment and our local economy."
Assembly Member Kevin A. Cahill said, "Trails protect our fragile ecosystem and also provide engines of economic activity. The necessary investment into the most heavily traveled portion of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail in the Village and Town of New Paltz will provide benefits to the community and businesses along its route for years to come. As one of the first of its kind in the region, the WVRT provides a model for future endeavors throughout the State, while continuing to serve as a recreational gateway to the many world-renowned attractions we are fortunate to house locally."
New Paltz Village Mayor Tim Rogers said, "Our community cherishes our sections of Wallkill Valley Rail Trail and Empire State Trail. We are excited and grateful that Governor Cuomo and New York State are improving these trail surfaces, helping with drainage issues, and bringing all trail and road crossings up to current standards for safety and ADA accessibility."
New Paltz Supervisor Neil Bettez said, "Governor Cuomo's vision for the Empire State Trail, combined with the stellar support of the Hudson River Valley Greenway, the Wallkill Valley Land Trust, and OSI, continues to make New Paltz an outdoor recreation destination for visitors and residents alike. These trail improvements are deeply appreciated, and we are so grateful to have these resources dedicated to improving our community."
Hudson River Valley Greenway Executive Director Scott Keller said, "We are pleased to continue our partnership with OSI and the Town and Village of New Paltz by providing this funding to help restore the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail to pristine condition. The Trail has been a valued part of the Greenway Trail System since 2001 and attracts visitors from across New York State and beyond."
Executive Director of the Wallkill Valley Land Trust Christie DeBoer said, "There will be short-term disruptions, but the long-term benefits of the work are remarkable. It includes creating a trail that is wider, safer, and well-drained. These improvements will also enhance the user experience of the trail while providing essential habitat and natural resource protection."
The New Paltz trail section is part of the Empire State Trail, a 750-mile bicycling, walking, and running route that runs from New York City through the Hudson and Champlain Valleys to Canada, and from Buffalo to Albany along the Erie Canalway Trail. Detailed information including trail segment descriptions and an on-line map depicting the trail route, designated parking areas, and nearby attractions is available on the project website here.
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 last year completed a $1.1 million renovation of the northern stretch of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail. The Wallkill Valley Rail Trail adjoins OSI's 6-mile River-to-Ridge loop trail which traverses more than 360 acres of land protected for OSI.