Bluestone Wild Forest
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OSI to Begin Trail Construction on Property Adjacent to Bluestone Wild Forest

Photo Credit: Greg Miller

Towns of Kingston and Woodstock—The Open Space Institute (OSI) today announced the final plan for trail construction at a 208-acre property it purchased earlier this year which links two previously unconnected sections of the Catskill Park’s Bluestone Wild Forest: Jockey Hill to the east and Onteora Lake to the west.

The trail construction is set to begin in September and be completed in October. In addition to the trail project, work will be completed on loop trails, a parking area, trailhead, and informational kiosk once the property is conveyed to New York State. The project is expected to expand tourism in Ulster County; connect City of Kingston neighborhoods to the Catskill Park and its High Peaks; and increase outdoor recreational opportunities for local residents and visitors.

Tahawus Trails has been hired to build the new trail with minimal impact to the landscape. Located ten minutes from the New York State Thruway in The Towns of Kingston and Woodstock, the 2-mile “Main Turnpike Trail,” will connect to existing trails within the 3,000-acre Bluestone Wild Forest and establish a new entry point to the forest via Morey Hill Road.

“OSI is excited to continue our work supporting the local recreation economy, expanding visitor access, enhancing community trail connections to local neighborhoods and commercial districts, and dispersing visitors in the Catskill Park,” said Kim Elliman, president and CEO of the Open Space Institute. “This gently sloping, family-oriented trail, running alongside bluestone outcroppings, will be another fun and relaxing way for residents and visitors to enjoy the scenic Bluestone Wild Forest.”

The trail work is proceeding even as local officials continue to review plans to construct a steel and precast concrete manufacturing operation directly adjacent to the OSI-owned land. OSI has weighed in on the proposed project, raising both environmental and procedural concerns about the plant, and continues to advocate for the completion of additional environmental review to ensure the protection of the surrounding land and water.

In May, more than 75 people, including business owners, attended the public information session at the Senate Garage in the City of Kingston where the trail improvement plan was presented. Meeting attendees had the opportunity to learn about and provide input on the plan, which has the potential to advance a regional effort to create hubs of destination-quality hiking and mountain biking trails, diversify recreational use of the Catskill Mountains, and increase economic activity through enhanced year-round recreational opportunities.

Located near several population centers including Kingston and Woodstock, the Bluestone Wild Forest is a popular outdoor recreation destination. The newly protected property figures largely in OSI’s efforts to help support Ulster County’s expanding green tourism economy, relieving pressure on wildly popular trailheads and important summits while also protecting and consolidating significant portions of the Catskill Park.

Mountain Biking at Bluestone Wild Forest Addition
Mountain Biking at Bluestone Wild Forest Addition
Photo Credit: Greg Miller

“As business owners on Route 28 for 12 years, and neighbors with the Onteora Lake trailhead, we have always appreciated our connection with the people who come to enjoy the beauty our area has to offer. We are also big supporters of the future expansion of the Bluestone Wild Forest (BWF) trail network which will offer people a chance to explore even more. We look forward to greeting the many new users who will benefit from OSI’s property purchase connecting two trail networks of the State’s BWF," said Mary Anne and Richard Erickson, owners of Blue Mountain Bistro-to-Go.

“Bluestone Wild Forest has long been off the radar as a mountain bike destination because of a lack of contiguous trails. With the addition of OSI’s new parcel and the creation of a trail that will connect the two parts of the forest, this place will, for the first time, have the size, accessibility, and connectivity to attract users,” said Bill Denter, owner of Overlook Bikes, a local business in the town, “I feel that my business will benefit from having this trail in close proximity and now I can confidently recommend a safe, well-marked mountain bike venue for my bicycle rental customers to enjoy here in the Catskills.”

“OSI’s land purchase and trail improvements create a long-anticipated connection between the Jockey Hill and Onteora Lake sections of Bluestone Wild Forest. Speaking to my experience as a mountain biker, trail systems enhance a community and having a trail system to share with people from far and near is a great long-term investment,” said Kevin Young, President of Fats in the Cats, a local bicycle advocacy group. “In the past, the ability to hike or ride bikes between Onteora Lake and Jockey Hill was only possible through local knowledge and the good graces of friendly private property owners, so for wildlife enthusiasts, fishermen, hikers, dog walkers, and cyclists to all use this corridor as part of their outdoor experience is very exciting.”

“WLC has been delighted to work with OSI and DEC on the new acquisition and trail project. Together these constitute, in our view, the most significant expansion of Bluestone Wild Forest lands and public recreational trails in decades. Since the presentation of the trail plan in May, it has become exceedingly clear to everyone just how deeply loved and important the Wild Forest, Onteora Lake and Pickerel Pond are to local residents and visitors alike,” said Woodstock Land Conservancy Board Chair, Kevin Smith.

The $50,000 trail is being funded by OSI, with the Woodstock Land Conservancy (WLC) providing $10,000 and Fats in the Cats providing $3,000. The trail construction is part of a larger planning effort for the property that OSI completed with the WLC and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and in coordination with the Ulster County Planning Department, the Towns of Woodstock and Kingston, Overlook Bicycles, and bicycle advocacy group Fats in the Cats. The larger plan includes constructing loop trails, a parking area, trailhead, and kiosk once the property is conveyed to New York State.

The Main Turnpike Trail will run through OSI’s property, which consists of intact forests, the northern portion of a beautiful and high-quality body of water known as Pickerel Pond, and significant wetlands. Once the project is completed, the multi-use trail will be open for hikers, mountain bikers, runners, and walkers.

OSI is working with DEC to add the newly improved property to Bluestone Wild Forest. Not only is the property and new trail expected to enhance the local recreation economy, but just like a private owner, New York State pays all real property taxes on land it owns in the Catskill Forest Preserve.

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