“The Orange County Land Trust is thrilled to be working with the Open
Space Institute and other conservation partners on this ambitious plan.
Access to our region’s State Parks has never been more important.
Solidifying these trail connections throughout the Hudson Highlands West
region will support local economies, safeguard habitats, and enhance
visitor access for generations to come,” said Matt Decker, Orange County
Land Trust’s director of conservation and stewardship.
“It’s easy to focus on building new sections of trail, but this plan
demonstrates the type of big-picture thinking needed to make smaller
projects into something greater than the sum of their parts. By
connecting preserved lands and ensuring public access along them, we
seek to create long-distance trails that open up brand new ways for
people to connect with nature. Perhaps someday, thanks to this plan,
residents of the Hudson Highlands will look at the Highlands Trail and
Long Path with the same recognition and reverence that the Appalachian
Trail enjoys,” said Peter Dolan, Trail Program Manager at the New
York-New Jersey Trail Conference.
“The many connections and improvements envisioned by this insightful
plan will make it easier and safer for people to visit our six State
Parks in the Hudson Highlands region. It will help address overcrowding
at some our most popular parks that are delivering healthy and safe
outdoor recreation that has been so important during the COVID-19
pandemic, particularly in areas in proximity to metropolitan New York
City,” said Erik Kulleseid, Commissioner of New York State Office of
Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
“Orange County Tourism is thrilled to be working with the Highlands
West Connectivity Plan and feel there is an incredible value when our
robust Trail and Park systems are linked. Now, more than ever, people
crave the natural adventures that Orange County has to offer and by
improving these connections, we open the door to many more outdoor
enthusiasts,” said Amanda Dana, director of Orange County Tourism &
Four major long-distance trails converge in the western Hudson
Highlands—the Appalachian Trail, Long Trail, Highlands Trail, and Orange
County Heritage Trail—and serve as the basis and inspiration for this
expanded and enhanced network.
The plan establishes a regional vision for recreation, conservation,
and local economic development, and proposes 21 projects. Proposed
projects include new trail creation, realignment and safety improvements
for existing trails, planning for new park and trail areas to help
reduce crowding at some of the more popular state parks in the area, and
trailhead improvements at existing parks to better welcome and direct
Beyond establishing a network of integrated, multi-use trails that
connect the region’s existing recreational and natural assets, the
Highlands West Trail Connectivity Plan also proposes protecting some of
the area’s most iconic and distinctive forest areas in a region that has
seen increasing residential, commercial, and industrial development
The plan calls for the protection of areas that have been designated
as a climate resilient corridor, meaning that the land will continue to
support an incredible diversity of wildlife as the climate changes.
Significantly, the plan also highlights the need to protect the region’s
watersheds that provide vast quantities of clean drinking water for the
people of Orange County.
The Hudson Highlands West Trail Connectivity Plan is the product of
more than two years of planning, meetings, and interviews. Stakeholders
including elected officials, nonprofit organizations, friends groups,
and state and local government agencies were consulted to develop a
regional vision, and identify opportunities for meaningful open space
protection and trail linkages.
Kim Elliman added, “OSI is grateful for our partners, local
stakeholders, and all participants who have joined us in developing a
plan that reflects the character and needs of the region’s communities.
With continued cooperation and engagement, we can take steps to
implement this plan and make this collective vision for Highlands West a
With a year-round population of more than 150,000 people, the western
Highlands support many thriving communities. The Hudson Highlands West
Trail Connectivity Plan acknowledges that trails and open spaces are
important resources that enhance communities, foster healthy lifestyles,
protect natural areas, and support local tourism and economic
Already welcoming more than three million visitors annually, the
western Hudson Highlands’ state parks and trails are popular
destinations for outdoor recreation. The plan aims to support the
sustainable development and protection of the Highlands West region as a
premier destination for magnificent scenery and accessible outdoor
Read the full Highlands West Connectivity Plan or the the executive summary.