NEW PALTZ, NY— July 27, 2015 —The Open Space Institute (OSI) and Mohonk Preserve have unveiled the proposed route of the “River-to-Ridge” trail, the highly-anticipated scenic and recreational off-road trail leading directly from downtown New Paltz to the Shawangunk Ridge. In developing the route, now available for review, the groups gave careful consideration to such matters as avoiding sensitive wetland areas; accommodating neighboring farming operations; identifying designated parking options; and choosing proper trail materials and design.
The proposed six-mile loop trail will be accessible free of charge when it opens in 2016. Hikers, cyclists and others will enjoy an eight-to-ten foot wide path of gravel and grass that meanders through farm fields and over gently rolling hills, and allows direct access to 90 miles of recreational carriage roads and trails at the Mohonk Preserve and the Minnewaska State Park Preserve. The trail will also enable cyclists to safely bypass the narrow, congested shoulder of Rt. 299, currently the primary road leading from New Paltz to the preserves.
“River-to-Ridge will be a terrific asset for the community and an important anchor to an ever-expanding, premier network of recreational trails in the eastern US,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s President and CEO. “OSI appreciates the public support and positive feedback we have received since we announced plans for the River-to-Ridge Trail and thank our partners for their continued commitment to this exciting community project.”
“In addition to being a beautiful loop trail, the River-to-Ridge Trail will provide a great option for the many hikers, walkers, runners, cyclists, and cross-country skiers who want to access the extensive carriage road and trail networks in the Mohonk Preserve Foothills and on the ridge,” said Mohonk Preserve Executive Director Glenn Hoagland. “We are happy to be working with our colleagues at OSI to create and steward this great addition to the growing, connected regional trail system in the Hudson Valley.”
Since 2013, Mohonk Preserve and OSI have been working with the Town of New Paltz and the New Paltz Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee to develop recreational access options from the town to the Mohonk Preserve Foothills, culminating in a grant from Hudson Valley Greenway to study trail options.
In February, OSI completed the New Paltz-Foothills conservation corridor—fulfilling one of the top goals in the Town of New Paltz Open Space Plan—when it acquired the $2.1 million, 135-acre “Watchtower” property, long recognized as the downtown’s bucolic backdrop. The parcel joined the other scenic farmland properties, totaling 1,200 acres, OSI has protected in the area along the route of the River-to-Ridge Trail: the 856-acre Mohonk Preserve Foothills tract, which was subsequently sold to Mohonk Preserve, the 144-acre Van Alst farm, and the Studley farm on Butterville Road.
Just days after the Watchtower transaction was finalized, OSI and Mohonk Preserve worked with the adjacent Wallkill View Farm and its supportive owners, the Ferrante family, to open it for public cross-country skiing and allow local residents to take advantage of last winter’s excellent snow conditions.
Preparing for Public Access
Since February, OSI and Mohonk Preserve have conducted strategic planning and outreach to neighboring property owners in developing the preliminary trail map, which will go before the New Paltz planning board this summer.
After the proposed trail receives public input and is approved by the New Paltz Planning Board, the groups will secure the appropriate permits for OSI to begin construction of the trail and associated footbridges, kiosks and culverts.
Once in place, OSI will lead, with the cooperation of the Mohonk Preserve, patrolling of the new trail. The groups will also ensure that it is maintained for public use and that it best balances the interests of recreational users and area residents, and allows the successful Wallkill View Farm to continue to thrive.
Parking will also be in place for trail users at one of the existing trailheads on Springtown Road; at the Sojourner Truth Park parking lot southeast of the Carmine Liberta Bridge in New Paltz; near the Village Water Treatment Plant; and at the end of Pine Road. In the future, Mohonk Preserve is planning to offer additional off-road parking in the Mohonk Preserve Foothills.
All projects associated with the trails will be privately funded by OSI and its partners, with no additional costs to the town or county. OSI will continue to pay real property taxes on the approximately 350 acres it owns between the river and the ridge where the trail will run. Where the River-to-Ridge Trail’s Foothills Loop merges onto Mohonk Preserve land, a special marked loop through the foothills landscape will be available at no fee before the trail goes uphill into Mohonk Preserve.
Building a Premier Recreational Trail
Looking ahead, OSI is working with a number of public and private partners to build on the success in expanding a recreational trail network in the Shawangunk region. Ultimately these trails will connect into a nearly 116-mile network to include the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, O&W Rail Trail and the proposed Catskill Mountain Rail Trail.
The centerpiece of this regional trail system is the 90-mile-long network of Victorian-era carriage roads located within Minnewaska State Park Preserve and Mohonk Preserve on the Shawangunk Ridge. Over the past several years, OSI has fundraised and completed restoration on the Hamilton Point Carriage Road and is currently rebuilding the Castle Point Carriage Road as it runs from Lake Minnewaska to Lake Awosting at Minnewaska State Park Preserve. OSI is also in the planning and engineering phase of restoring the High Point Carriage Road and a portion of the Old Smiley Carriage Road, with the goal that users will be able to travel on carriage roads from New Paltz all the way to Sam’s Point at the southern end of Minnewaska State Park Preserve.
Mohonk Preserve has also fundraised for and restored over half of its 33-mile portion of the historic Shawangunk carriage roads system, including five bridges; the Undercliff, Overcliff and Laurel Ledge Carriage Roads; Bonticou and Cedar Drive and others, and is in the process of restoring the Trapps Carriage Road and Trapps Bridge over route 44/55 linking to Minnewaska State Park Preserve. Through grants from the Hudson River Valley Greenway, Nyquist Foundation of New Paltz and the Butler Conservation Fund at OSI, Mohonk Preserve was recently able to restore the lower Duck Pond Road and White Oak Path to enhance access in the Mohonk Preserve Foothills.
The River-to-Ridge Trail marks another milestone in the long legacy of Shawangunk Ridge carriage roads and trails that have provided pathways to nature for over a century. Through the joint efforts of OSI, Mohonk Preserve and other conservation partners, these enhanced pathways will continue to serve the community for generations to come.