OW Port Ben hero

Open Space Institute’s “Growing Greenways” Plan Advances with Restoration of Long Path Section of O&W Rail Trail

HUDSON VALLEY, NY (March 21, 2024)— The Open Space Institute today announced the completion of improvements to a 650-foot section of the Ontario and Western (“O&W”) Rail Trail, including the replacement of a pedestrian footbridge. The project enhances public recreational access in a section of the O&W Rail Trail that is also part of New York State’s Long Path, a 357-mile hiking trail extending from New York City to Albany County.

Owned by the Town of Wawarsing, the newly improved trail section is located at the end of Towpath Road in Port Ben and provides scenic views overlooking the Rondout Creek. With the OSI-managed project completed, the restored trail section and bridge are now open to the public.

Trail improvements included grading and resurfacing of the trail path and the removal of an old, deteriorated bridge structure. OSI redesigned and constructed a replacement bridge wider than the original, making the crossing ADA-compliant for the first time in decades and allowing users to safely bypass a streambank.

The project was funded by a New York State and Municipal Facilities grant awarded to the Town of Wawarsing. The grant covered the majority of construction costs, with OSI donating project management expertise and support for design and construction. The trail construction work was completed by P.E. Colucci Excavating, Inc.

“OSI was already actively restoring nearly five miles of the O&W rail trail in nearby areas. By partnering with the Town of Wawarsing, OSI helped deliver significant trail improvements on a shorter timeline,” said Peter Karis, OSI’s vice president of Parks and Stewardship. “This project is just one part of OSI’s larger vision to improve and connect trails in the Hudson Valley for the benefit of residents and visitors, alike.”

“This is an incredibly exciting day for the Ellenville/Wawarsing community and for Ulster County, and I want to thank the Open Space Institute for pioneering this effort in partnership with the Town of Wawarsing to restore this stretch of the O&W Rail Trail and build a new pedestrian footbridge that is truly accessible for people of all abilities,” said County Executive Jen Metzger. “When I served in the State Senate, I secured $100,000 in state funding for this project, and it is gratifying to see the work completed. The trail will be an enormous benefit to the quality of life of our residents and to the local economy.”

“The Town of Wawarsing appreciates everything OSI has done for the O&W Rail Trail over the years,” said Town of Wawarsing Supervisor Terry Houck. “Trail projects are very effective in providing recreational opportunities, stimulating our local economy, and attracting additional private and public investments to our area. We are very pleased to work with OSI for multiple environmental and conservation projects that protect and improve our town and the region.”

"This is a wonderful addition for the local community and for the Long Path. The project is improving public recreational access to a beloved regional trail. We greatly appreciate all of the work OSI has done to help protect the Long Path. The Long Path is continuously improved by OSI's work from the Palisades all the way into the Adirondack Park," said Andy Garrison the Regional Trail Committee Chair for the Long Path and a volunteer for the New York New Jersey Trail Conference.

The Port Ben trail section is north of several OSI-improved sections of the O&W Rail Trail and connects to a part of the O&W owned by OSI. These trail upgrades play a vital role in advancing OSI’s Growing Greenways: West of Hudson Greenway Trails Vision Plan (“Growing Greenways Plan”).

OSI is working to connect eight existing Hudson Valley trail networks, including the arterial O&W, with the goal of 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 trail system will 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 continuous, 57-mile greenway trail running from the City of Kingston to the City of Port Jervis, forming the backbone of the Growing Greenways trail network.

Since announcing the plan, OSI has already notched some impressive conservation and trail improvement victories, including the purchase of 2.4 miles of railbed running along the Shawangunk Ridge State Forest that will be added to the O&W Rail Trail and the improvement of more than five miles of existing O&W Rail Trail.

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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