WAWARSING, NY (June 27, 2017)—The Open Space Institute (OSI) has acquired a key portion of the O&W Rail Trail, protecting a 12-mile stretch of the trail as it runs through the Rondout Valley. A priority acquisition in the New York State Open Space Plan, the property furthers the growing rail trail network in Ulster County.
Previously owned by the Central Hudson Gas & Electric Co., the 19-acre “Wawarsing” parcel runs past protected lands of the Minnewaska State Park Preserve. The new property also includes several thousand feet of the bank of the Rondout Creek, railbed of the former railroad and canal, and the remains of an historic boat basin that once served the D&H Canal.
“The growth of rail trails in the Shawangunk Region is opening unparalled recreational opportunities to local residents and beyond, and improving access to renowned landscapes,” said Kim Elliman, OSI's president and CEO. “We thank Ulster County, the town of Warwarsing, Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation and all our partners for efforts to improve the O&W Rail Trail for public use and enjoyment.”
The goal for the O&W Rail Trail is to create a multi-use recreation corridor which will run through much of Ulster County’s varied scenery — extensive farmland, forest, and wetlands – as well as its numerous hamlets. Portions of the former railbed located in the Towns of Hurley, Marbletown, Rochester and Wawarsing are already in public use and have become highly popular linear parks.
When completed, the rail trail will connect the Village of Ellenville to the hamlets of Port Ben, Kerhonkson, Accord, High Falls, Cottekill, and the City of Kingston. The longer range vision is to connect the rail trail in Kingston to the Catskill Mountain Rail Trail, the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, and Kingston Point Trail in Kingston, allowing for a unified rail trail network that will span much of Ulster County.
“OSI’s acquisition of the railbed located on Berme Road in the Town of Wawarsing is very timely,” said Hank Alicandri, who serves as the head of the Ellenville-Wawarsing Intermunicipal Parks and Recreation Commission. “With the recent donation by the Napanoch Correctional Facility to the Town of Wawarsing of a permanent trail easement crossing the prison property, we are collectively closer to the reality of a recreational rail trail running through the heart of the Rondout Valley and showcasing all of its natural beauty.”
The Wawarsing piece is the fourth important stretch of railbed acquired by OSI in the last eight years. The other three include:
- 11.5 miles of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail (acquired in partnership with the Wallkill Valley Land Trust, and including the acquisition and renovation of the historic Rosendale Trestle as a pedestrian walkway over the Rondout Creek);
- 9.1 miles of the O&W railbed in the Catskill towns of Liberty and Fallsburg (in partnership with the Center for Discovery); and
- 4 miles of railbed in the Town of Mamakating, which OSI donated to the town last September and which now forms an integral part of the Town’s extensive rail trail and canal trail network.
This acquisition is also part of a larger regional vision being pursued by OSI and many other partners which will connect rail trails, carriage roads and regional hiking trails. For instance, on the eastern side of the Shawangunk Ridge in New Paltz, OSI is constructing the River-to-Ridge Trail, a 6-mile loop trail that will travel along the Wallkill River and through scenic farmland to the Mohonk Preserve and the foothills of the Shawangunks, giving hikers, cyclists and cross-country skiers a bucolic way of getting from downtown New Paltz to the preserved lands on the Shawangunk Ridge.
Since the mid-1980’s OSI has protected more than 28,000 acres of open space on the Shawangunk Ridge in Ulster, Sullivan and Orange Counties; more than 4,500 acres of productive farmland in the two valleys that straddle the ridge; and, with its conservation partners, more than doubled the size of the Minnewaska State Park Preserve.