River-to-Ridge Hosts a Record-Breaking 200,000 Trail Visitors in 2020

NEW PALTZ, NY (Dec. 8, 2020)—The Open Space Institute (OSI) announced today that its River-to-Ridge Trail in New Paltz is on track to host more than 200,000 visitors in 2020. The visitorship is more than double the number of visitors from the previous year, underscoring the critical role of access to nature and the outdoors for public health and wellness.

“In a year marked with extraordinary challenges, OSI's River-to-Ridge Trail proved to be an irreplaceable public asset for many in New Paltz and beyond,” said Peter Karis, OSI’s Vice President for Parks and Stewardship. “We always knew that the trail would be popular, but more than a place to recreate, River-to-Ridge is proving to be a place to safely get outdoors, connect with family and friends, or simply rejuvenate during challenging times.”

“I’ve heard from many residents that being able to get out of the house and into nature is a major factor in maintaining their mental and physical well-being during this pandemic,” said Neil Bettez, Supervisor for the Town of New Paltz. “We are so lucky to have the River-to Ridge Trail in the heart of our community, and we are grateful for the OSI’s efforts to keep it open and safe."

“It's hard to imagine that just a few years ago we couldn't enjoy walking from our village to the ridge,” said Tim Rogers, Mayor of the Village of New Paltz. “Now, regardless of the season or day of the week, whenever we look out towards the ridge there are walkers, bikers, and pet owners out on the River-to-Ridge Trail. The trail has become a sanctuary, an invaluable ritual for many. Our community is incredibly lucky.”

In the Spring, as alarming news of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic spread, OSI — recognizing the invaluable role that nature and land protection provides to public health and mental wellbeing — safely kept the River-to-Ridge Trail open to the public. Working with the Town and Village of New Paltz, OSI developed and posted public safety guidelines in line with experts’ recommendations, along the trail and on social media.

Throughout the year, the River-to-Ridge Trail has continued to host responsible community gatherings and outdoor events, including the release of rehabilitated peregrine falcons and tree plantings to benefit the Wallkill River, while closely adhering to public health and safety guidelines.

A six-mile loop trail, the River-to-Ridge Trail traverses more than 360 acres of OSI-protected land. It allows walkers, runners, cyclists, and others to experience the breathtaking splendor of the local landscape, while providing safe access to the trails and carriage roads of the Shawangunk Ridge.

Located in New Paltz, the River-to-Ridge Trail provides access to a shared, public space that is open to diverse user groups. OSI created the trail with funding from the Butler Conservation Fund, and in partnership with Mohonk Preserve. The trail connects people to one of OSI’s most successful conservation landscapes — the Shawangunk Ridge.

Over the past 40 years, OSI has protected nearly 33,000 acres on and along the Ridge, and now sets its sights on further connecting people to land it has protected and improved — from restoring over 12 miles of historic carriage roads, to the creation of a new Visitor Center at Minnewaska State Park Preserve. In downtown New Paltz and on the River-to-Ridge Trail, OSI’s commitment continues to have a positive impact.

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