NEW YORK, NY (Jan. 30, 2023)—The Open Space Institute (OSI) today unveiled a plan to develop a multiuse trail network connecting the Hudson Valley’s vast network of scenic trails, diverse communities, and renown green spaces. OSI’s Growing Greenways: West of Hudson Greenway Trails Vision Plan (“Growing Greenways Plan”) presents a vision to enhance and connect seven of the region’s historic rails, canals, and carriage roads into one, accessible public trail system that will provide improved access to nature and recreational opportunities for residents and visitors and promote local economic activity and tourism.
OSI is spearheading this visioning effort to develop the unified, primarily off-road trail network that would span more than 250 miles and connect more than 20 communities throughout Ulster, Sullivan, and Orange Counties. The Growing Greenways Plan outlines long-term opportunities to create new community linkages, boost economic activity and tourism, expand non-motorized transportation options, promote physical activity and public health, and advance more equitable access to the outdoors.
Seven existing trail corridors converge in this three-county region and the plan outlines both completed and future projects that would link the:
- Wallkill Valley Rail Trail (Project Spotlight here),
- O&W Rail Trail, including the D&H Canal (Project Spotlight here),
- Catskill Mountain Rail Corridor, including the Ashokan Rail Trail (Project Spotlight here),
- Sullivan O&W Rail Trail (Project Spotlight here),
- Schunnemunk Rail Trail (Project Spotlight here),
- Orange County Heritage Trail (Project Spotlight here), and
- Shawangunk Ridge Carriage Roads, which include Minnewaska State Park Preserve’s carriage roads and the OSI-owned and managed River-to-Ridge Trail (Project Spotlight here).
The Growing Greenways Plan expands on decades of OSI’s work to protect land and build trails in partnership with local communities and builds upon local, town, and county trail development plans, as well as state trail investments, to create a unified, interconnected trail network at a regional scale.
“While OSI has been building and improving trails throughout the Hudson Valley for decades, what has long been missing is a unifying vision to connect people to nature and to each other at a regional scale,” said Kim Elliman, president and CEO of the Open Space Institute. “OSI’s Growing Greenways Plan demonstrates how strategic planning and big-picture thinking can maximize the range of trail assets that exist throughout the three counties to create something greater than the sum of their parts. This interconnected trail system will leverage wonderful regional offerings and create a unified trail and greenway system for generations to come.”
State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “I applaud the Open Space Institute’s work to connect people and places in a region rich with recreational trails to explore. The plan is a critical next step in realizing the goals laid out in New York’s Statewide Greenway Trails Plan.”
“I am excited about the Growing Greenways Plan, which when completed will showcase not only picturesque Orange County, but other parts of the beautiful Hudson Valley. It will also provide residents with another venue to utilize for exercise and enjoyment. We are proud to work with the Open Space Institute on another transformative project that will benefit residents for years to come and promote our beautiful County,” said Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus.
“OSI has been helping Sullivan County implement a plan we completed in 2020 to build out the O&W rail trail. We are working to connect five existing trail segments into a 50-mile trail crossing Sullivan from Mamakating to Rockland, and also have the potential for a spur line running down to Orange County. OSI’s new West of Hudson Greenway Trails Vision Plan will give our Sullivan O&W Rail Trail plan an important regional context that will lead to a more robust system and increase their utility. The New York State Greenways Plan reported that trail users prioritize length when choosing a trail; OSI’s regional vision speaks directly to that preference,” said Sullivan County Planning Commissioner, Freda Eisenberg.
“Connecting and improving the trails of three counties, Ulster, Orange, and Sullivan, creates a trail system of great length, diversity, and quality, which will attract visitors from around the country and around the world,” said Dr. Kathy Nolan, Ulster County legislator and senior researcher at the Catskill Mountainkeeper. “Putting trails closer to where people live increases their use,” she continued, “and we know that health improves dramatically the more people use trails for recreation and transportation. We also need to connect people from towns and villages, and from the centers of our cities, into the vast and beautiful spaces of the Hudson River Valley and the Catskill Park. These are lands set aside for the use and enjoyment of the people of New York State, and these new and more completely interconnected trails will make it far easier for them to be enjoyed by everyone," she concluded.
Kevin Smith, Ulster County Trails Advisory Committee Chair & Woodstock Land Conservancy Board Chair said, "We are inspired by OSI's vision and excited about the opportunity to work with them and other partners, to bring even more benefits of connected trails to more communities located in these seven historic corridors. OSI recognizes that our shared-use community trails are a unique blend of public health and transportation infrastructure. Connecting close-to-home places where we can all run, roll, stroll, sit in nature, sightsee and commute to work, these trails weave through our communities and unify them. They support businesses, they connect us to each other, and connect us to the unparalleled natural beauty of our region."
Well known for its rich history, cultural attractions, and natural beauty, the Hudson Valley has long been recognized as a premier outdoor recreation destination for both residents and visitors.
Thanks to decades of investment in land protection and local trail systems, the region’s existing greenway trails have the potential to support users at a regional scale. Continued public-private investment in these corridors will create connections and support increased accessibility to town centers, public transportation options, local neighborhoods, public green spaces, regional attractions, and local businesses.
The projects proposed in OSI’s Growing Greenway Plan focus on extending and improving each of the seven major existing trails. The initiative will require land acquisition, new trail development, improvements and realignments to existing trails, and trailhead improvements that will better welcome and orient visitors.
“The plan exemplifies how connection—connected communities, connected places, and connected purpose—is a force that drives lasting and beneficial community outcomes,” Elliman added.
The Growing Greenways Plan is part of OSI’s ongoing efforts to connect, create, improve, and expand trails throughout the Hudson Valley and beyond. Having worked to protect this landscape for nearly 50 years, OSI is familiar with the current conditions and ongoing conservation needs of the region, making the organization uniquely suited to spearhead the execution of a regional trail network.
OSI’s expertise, creativity, and dogged pursuit of landscape-level conservation has protected more than 100,000 acres of land in the Hudson Valley and led to the development and restoration of more than 70 miles of trails, including more than 15 miles of Minnewaska’s Victorian-era carriage roads, sections of carriage roads at Mohonk Preserve, the River-to-Ridge Trail in New Paltz, more than 19 miles of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, and restoration of the Rosendale Trestle.
Having attracted and invested more than $100 million toward land acquisition, trails and other visitor amenities in the area over the last decade alone, OSI is pursuing additional partnerships, private funds, and grants to fully achieve the ambitious Growing Greenways Plan. The ultimate fundraising goal needed to accomplish this visionary project is more than $8 million and is defined by a combination of engineering studies currently underway and stakeholder outreach.
The Open Space Institute protects scenic, natural, and historic landscapes to provide public enjoyment, conserve habitat and working lands and sustain communities. Founded in 1974, initially, to protect significant landscapes in New York State, today, the Open Space Institute has been a partner in the protection of more than 2.3 million acres in the eastern US and Canada to promote clean air and water, combat climate change, improve access to recreation, strengthen communities, and provide for wildlife habitat.
The Hudson River Valley, with its rich history and unparalleled beauty, is a place worth protecting. And it’s where the Open Space Institute got its start. Nearly five decades ago, the Open Space Institute set out to protect the places that make this region so very special. Today, OSI’s far-reaching and continuing impact in the Hudson Valley has already resulted in the protection of more than 100,000 acres of land. Building on this conservation success, the Open Space Institute also works to make these and other protected lands more welcoming and accessible to the public by creating and improving trails.