A small stream of water flowing downhill and into a pond.

Open Space Institute to Expand Access to Shawangunk Ridge Forest

Image Credit: Greg Miller

TOWN OF WAWARSING, NY (Oct. 23, 2023)— The Open Space Institute (OSI) today announced the acquisition of more than two miles of the Ontario and Western (“O&W”) railbed in the Town of Wawarsing in Ulster County. OSI’s acquisition will provide new recreational access to OSI-protected areas of the Shawangunk Ridge State Forest, a forest OSI helped create in the 1990s. The permanent protection of the railbed also furthers OSI’s goal to transform the fragmented O&W railroad corridor into a contiguous, 57-mile shared-use greenway trail, as outlined in the organization’s Growing Greenways: West of Hudson Greenway Trails Vision Plan (“Growing Greenways Plan”).

OSI purchased the 2.4-mile “Spring Glen” railbed, which starts one mile south of the Village of Ellenville, for $175,000. Totaling 28 acres, the railbed forms a 100-foot-wide corridor, making it ideal for transformation into a recreational rail trail. Now permanently protected by OSI, the Spring Glen railbed property was one of the longest and last-remaining, privately-owned stretches of the O&W rail corridor.

The railbed property is adjacent to the 1,500-acre Shawangunk Ridge State Forest and runs past picturesque streams, rugged cliffs, and Buttermilk Falls, which is also known locally as Horseshoe Mine Falls.

“From vision to implementation, OSI is laser-focused on advancing our commitment to protecting the land and trails that Hudson Valley communities love,” said Bob Anderberg, senior vice president and general counsel at OSI. “OSI is already on track to complete several foundational O&W rail trail projects from our Growing Greenways Plan by year end. With the Spring Glen acquisition, OSI is proud to have protected or improved major sections of the O&W Railroad corridor.”

“This project will create an off-road southern connection from Sullivan County into Ulster County, inviting residents and visitors to explore and enjoy the beauty of our area’s natural landscape,” said Terry Houck, Supervisor of the Town of Wawarsing. “Trail and park projects are very effective in attracting private and public investments to our area, stimulating our local economy, and providing recreational opportunities. Thank you to OSI for protecting this former rail property that funnels into the Nevele Hotel property and has the potential to increase the appeal of our region as an outdoor recreation destination if connected to other nearby trails.”

With the acquisition of the Spring Glen property, nearly 75 percent of the O&W rail corridor has been acquired for public use.

The O&W Rail Trail is an integral part of OSI’s Growing Greenways Plan. The plan presents a vision to connect eight existing Hudson Valley trail networks, including the arterial O&W, to create an interconnected, multiuse trail network spanning more than 250 miles and connecting more than 50 communities throughout Ulster, Sullivan, and Orange counties.

Once completed, the unified trail system will create new community linkages, expand non-motorized transportation options, improve public access to nature, support public health, boost local economic activity and tourism, and advance more equitable access to the outdoors for everyone.

When reconnected and restored, the O&W Rail Trail will serve as the backbone of the Growing Greenways trail system, stretching from the City of Kingston in Ulster County southwest to the City of Port Jervis in Orange County. The O&W Rail Trail also has the potential to become a southwestward extension of the NYS Empire State Trail, connecting communities between the Hudson and Delaware rivers.

OSI’s current O&W Rail Trail work also includes:

  • Launching the O&W Comprehensive Feasibility Study, which will include a detailed corridor inventory and assessment, stakeholder and community outreach, engineering and construction analysis, cost estimating, and trail routing and access alternatives. Funded in part by a $500,000 New York State Environmental Protection Fund grant, the study will help OSI prioritize the most beneficial projects needed along the O&W corridor. The study is expected to be completed by winter 2024.
  • Reconstructing more than five miles of the O&W Rail Trail in partnership with Ulster County and the towns of Rochester, Wawarsing, and the Village of Ellenville. OSI is improving a 3.2-mile trail section between Accord and Kerhonkson, and a 2.1-mile section stretching north from the Village of Ellenville toward Port Ben. The trail improvement projects are expected to be completed by the end of 2023.

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