OSI takes steps to ensure long-term protection of Wallkill Flats

NEW PALTZ, NY— November 3, 2015—As efforts continue to enact a long-term protection plan of the agricultural lands located between the Village of New Paltz and the Shawangunk Ridge, the Open Space Institute will be installing low-impact, agricultural wood post and wire fencing in certain vulnerable road locations in the Wallkill Flats.

The fencing is intended to preserve the agricultural functionality and aesthetic of the land, and ensure the protection of certain environmentally sensitive areas located within the property from unauthorized motorized vehicle access. It will also allow for OSI and Mohonk Preserve’s pilot cross-country ski program, successfully initiated this past February, to be explored again should winter conditions allow. All planned fencing has received the necessary permits from the Town of New Paltz and is compliant with local zoning.

“The fencing is another incremental step we are taking to protect the land and ensure the public’s enjoyment of this wonderful landscape,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s President and CEO, who noted that the fence installation was prompted by on-site staff and adjacent neighbors expressing concern about increased unauthorized use by snowmobiles and other all-terrain vehicles and trucks that have been sited on and around the property.

“Through direct outreach and public announcements, OSI has been committed to engaging the community with regard to future plans for these newly protected agricultural lands west of the Wallkill. During that time we heard overwhelming support for the planned River-to-Ridge Trail. At the same time, concerns have been raised pertaining to preserving ongoing farm operations and the protection of environmentally sensitive areas, and for these reasons, the decision was made to install sections of rustic, agricultural-style fencing in a number of strategic locations,” Elliman explained. “These fences are not intended to keep the public from enjoying passive use of the property, but rather to protect the viability and inviting nature of these lands for all to benefit.”

“This is an important step in managing the land to support the agricultural uses that will continue there and also complement the proposed River-to-Ridge Trail,” said Glenn Hoagland, Executive Director of Mohonk Preserve. “The fencing program will immediately help to keep agriculture viable, and, if approved, help make River-to-Ridge safer for cross-country skiing, hiking, running, and cycling.” 

A permanent plan for the River-to-Ridge Trail, which remains available for review here, is currently under review and awaits final approval from the Town of New Paltz Planning Board. The proposed six-mile loop trail will be accessible free of charge when it opens in 2016. Hikers, cyclists and others will enjoy a ten foot wide gravel path that meanders through farm fields and over gently rolling hills, allowing direct access from the Village of New Paltz to the 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 route leading from New Paltz to the preserves.

Fencing installation work will begin in early November along Springtown Road, Route 299, Lewis Lane, Charles Lane and Butterville Road, and will be completed by Thanksgiving. A map detailing the fencing plan is available for review here.

Realizing one of New Paltz’s top open space and farmland conservation goals, OSI in February announced the acquisition of 135-acre Watchtower property, long recognized as part of the bucolic backdrop to New Paltz and one of the first and best views for travelers heading west along Route 299 towards the Gunks.

Following the Watchtower acquisition, OSI and Mohonk Preserve announced plans for the River-to-Ridge Trail, a premier recreational connection corridor allowing New Paltz residents and visitors to walk, hike, bike or ski from downtown straight to the Shawangunk Ridge, avoiding a commonly-used detour on the narrow, rutted shoulder of heavily-trafficked Rt. 299.

The project is crucial to realizing ambitious goals in New Paltz and Ulster County to create the premier network of recreational trails on the east coast, attracting visitors to enjoy active recreation along an unparalleled network of rail trails and carriage roads that spans the width and length of Ulster County.

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