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Open Space Institute Secures $1 Million in New York State Grants for Recreational Improvements in Orange and Essex Counties

Image Credit: greg miller

ALBANY, NY (Jan. 11, 2023)— The Open Space Institute (OSI) has been awarded $1 million to increase public access to the outdoors at two popular New York recreational destinations, Schunnemunk State Park in Orange County and along the emerging Adirondack Rail Trail in Lake Placid.

The state grants are leveraging private dollars being raised by OSI to design and build a new multi-use trail at Schunnemunk State Park and a new trailhead in the Village of Lake Placid for the Adirondack Rail Trail. The grants were awarded by the New York State Regional Economic Development Councils and funded through the state’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). Each of the grants require a 50 percent private funding match.

The projects will establish new public access to trails, expand year-round recreational opportunities, and better welcome and orient new and experienced visitors to the areas.

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Schunnemunk Meadows
Image Credit: Greg Miller

Schunnemunk Meadows Trail – Orange County

OSI has been awarded $500,000 towards the construction of a new 2.7-mile multi-use trail and major improvement to the Otterkill Road trailhead at Schunnemunk State Park. The trail will meander through the park’s spectacular meadows and hay fields that run along the Moodna Creek. The project will expand recreational access to a section of OSI-protected land that was recently added to Schunnemunk State Park, and create an accessible, four-season outdoor recreation experience in the western Hudson Highlands to accommodate walkers, runners, hikers, bikers, anglers, cross-country skiers, and snowshoers. As part of this project, OSI will be partnering with cadets from the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point to design and build a bridge along the trail. The project was listed as a top priority in OSI’s Highlands West Trail Connectivity Plan and will support regional connectivity of trails, including the emerging Schunnemunk Rail Trail. Initial major support for the project’s design was provided thanks to the leadership of Lucy R. Waletzky, M.D. With the critical investment of state funding, OSI has secured $1.2 M towards the $1.7 M vision for Phase 1 of the trail and will continue private fundraising efforts to bring the plan to fruition.

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Adirondack Rail Trail at Lake Placid.
Image Credit: Bill Amos

Lake Placid Trailhead – Essex County

OSI has been awarded $500,000 for the design and construction of a new trailhead and park space to be located at the eastern end of the Adirondack Rail Trail (ART) in the Village of Lake Placid. The project will include parking, visitor orientation, bathrooms, and a park-like entry to the highly anticipated 34-mile, multi-use ART, currently being developed by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC). The ART is expected to be the region’s newest premier, year-round recreation destination connecting the Villages of Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, and Tupper Lake, all while providing unparalleled public access to the Adirondack wilderness. This OSI project will build a primary trailhead for the ART, an amenity critical for accommodating and orienting visitors to this new trail. OSI is currently seeking to acquire the trailhead parcel and then design and build the Lake Plaid Trailhead and parking area. The critical support of the EPF brings OSI significantly closer towards its overall project fundraising goal of $1.55 million to support acquisition of the site itself and trailhead’s strategic design-build process.

“We thank members of the New York State Regional Economic Development Councils for their support to these two transformative trail projects. These grants, awarded to OSI after a competitive process with a focus on positive economic impact, underscore the important role outdoor recreation and trails play as economic drivers,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s president and CEO. “OSI is proud to leverage our expertise to accomplish projects that are improving outdoor experiences for residents and visitors and ultimately encouraging more people to get out and enjoy New York’s premier state parks and trail systems.”

The grants build on OSI’s commitment to match state funding dollar-for-dollar and leverage private and local funding through OSI’s Parks program. These projects, planned for two of New York’s most popular tourism landscapes, will expand and deepen visitor experiences at the parks and trails through enhanced orientation and accessibility.

The projects are located in areas where OSI has a long land conservation history, which includes partnering with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to create Schunnemunk State Park and working with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to protect more than 55,000 acres in the Adirondacks.

The grants were funded through the state’s EPF, which saw a record year in 2022. “Thanks to Governor Hochul and the New York Legislature’s leadership, the Environmental Protection Fund was increased to $400 million this year, setting a new, higher standard for reliable environmental funding in New York State,” Elliman added.

The EPF supports and protects parks by providing critical funding for stewardship, public access, open space land protection, and municipal parks. Through the EPF, New York is bolstering the extensive network of land trusts that provide support for environmental and open space programs.

About OSI

The Open Space Institute (OSI) protects scenic, natural, and historic landscapes to provide public enjoyment, conserve habitat, and sustain communities. Founded in 1974 to protect significant landscapes in New York State, today OSI has been a partner in the protection of nearly 2.3 million acres in North America.

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