O&W Rail Trail Foordmore to Unity Hall

Open Space Institute Launches O&W Trail Corridor Study

Image Credit: Greg Miller

HUDSON VALLEY, NY (April 17, 2024)— The Open Space Institute (OSI) today advanced its Growing Greenways plan with the launch of the O&W Trail Corridor Study. The study marks a major step in an OSI-led effort to transform the fragmented former O&W Railroad corridor, including sections of the historic D&H Canal towpath, into a contiguous, 57-mile shared-use greenway trail reaching from the City of Kingston in Ulster County southwest through Sullivan County to the City of Port Jervis in Orange County.

The study will provide OSI and partners with a detailed inventory of existing trail conditions, and trail routing and access alternatives, informed by robust stakeholder and community outreach. The effort will also include trail engineering and construction analysis, cost estimating, and project prioritization.

Community engagement and feedback is essential to creating a comprehensive vision for the O&W Rail Trail and D&H Canal towpath. As part of the study, OSI has developed an online survey to evaluate local needs and identify emerging recreation, conservation, and economic development opportunities along the corridor.

Area residents, businesses, and communities along the trail are encouraged to participate in the public input process by completing the survey in English or in Spanish here. OSI will also host open house events and conduct interviews with local organizations and community leaders. The open house events will take place on May 1 in Ellenville, May 6 in Mamakating, and May 14 in Port Jervis. To learn more about the project and open house events, visit: www.openspaceinstitute.org/O&W

The information collected during the study will provide the knowledge and community feedback needed to plan a world-class trail system that benefits residents and visitors.

“From planning to community outreach and design, OSI is leading the effort to reimagine and repurpose the entire O&W rail trail, including the D&H Canal,” said Peter Karis, OSI’s vice president of Parks and Stewardship. “OSI has been planning, protecting, and improving trails in the area for more than a decade. We now have an opportunity to accomplish so much more, together. This is a true community effort and it’s going to take the collaboration of multiple towns, counties, and partners to clarify the vision and make it a reality.”

When reconnected and restored, the O&W Rail Trail will serve as a southwestward extension of the NYS Empire State Trail, connecting communities between the Hudson and Delaware rivers. The project was also outlined as a priority in the 2020 New York State Greenway Trails Plan.

The O&W Rail Trail Corridor Study is supported in part by a $500,000 grant from the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation through Title 9 of the Environmental Protection Act of 1993.

OSI has hired regional consulting firm Greenman-Pedersen, Inc., to provide assistance for the study, which is expected to be completed in 2025.

O&W Trail Corridor Study

Learn more about the project, attend an open house event, and take the survey!

Learn More

About Growing Greenways

OSI’s Growing Greenways Vision Plan is a detailed blueprint to connect and improve eight existing rail trail and greenway systems, including the arterial O&W, creating a multiuse trail network spanning more than 250 miles and linking dozens of communities throughout Ulster, Sullivan, and Orange Counties. Once completed, the unified Growing Greenways trail system will greatly improve public access to nature, expand recreational opportunities, and help promote local economic activity and tourism. Learn more about the Growing Greenways plan here.

Renovations along the lengthy O&W Rail Trail are key to the success of the Growing Greenways initiative: once trail improvements are completed, the fragmented former railroad corridor will be transformed into a connected, 57-mile greenway trail, forming the backbone of the Growing Greenways trail network.

Since announcing the Growing Greenways plan in 2023, OSI has already notched some impressive conservation and trail improvement victories along the O&W, including the purchase of 2.4 miles of railbed running along the Shawangunk Ridge State Forest in Wawarsing that will be added to the trail; the improvement of more than five miles of existing trail in Accord and Ellenville; and trail upgrades, including the replacement of a pedestrian bridge, in Port Ben.

About OSI

The Open Space Institute is a national leader in land conservation and efforts to make parks and other protected land more welcoming for all. Since 1974, OSI has partnered in the protection of more than 2.5 million at-risk and environmentally sensitive acres in the eastern U.S. and Canada. OSI’s land protection promotes clean air and water, improves access to recreation, provides wildlife habitat, strengthens communities, and combats climate change, while curbing its devastating effects.

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