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Open Space Institute Plan Leads Way to New Ashokan Trail

WEST HURLEY, NY – Building upon plans commissioned and funded by the Open Space Institute (OSI), Ulster County has officially opened nine miles of the Ashokan Rail Trail (ART). The unveiling marks the first public access to the northern section of the celebrated aquifer since it was first constructed over a century ago.

Totaling more than 11 miles and extending from Basin Road in West Hurley to Route 28A in Boiceville, the ART’s construction was funded by a consortium of public and private partners and follows the footprint of the former Ulster and Delaware Railroad Corridor, a 19th century railroad that once ran through the Catskills.

As it passes by the Ashokan Reservoir, the ART gives users a scenic view of the celebrated structure — a key part of the civil engineering system providing world-class drinking water to 9.6 million New Yorkers. On a typical day, about 40 percent of New York City’s drinking water comes from Ashokan Reservoir via the 92-mile Catskill Aqueduct.

“The Open Space Institute is proud to have played a foundational role in the success of the new Ashokan Rail Trail,” said Kim Elliman, president and CEO of OSI. “Now, families will be able to hike, cycle, and generally enjoy a side of this breathtaking reservoir that once lay beyond reach. This project truly demonstrates the amazing success that innovative public-private partnerships can achieve for the common good.”

OSI and its partners, including The Dyson Foundation, the Woodstock Land Conservancy, and several private donors, gave a critical boost to the ART project’s early planning stages by privately funding a feasibility study.

After the study was completed, the ART was planned and constructed by Ulster County through a partnership with the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which owns and operates Ashokan Reservoir and adjacent watershed lands.

“State Parks is pleased to support this important project, which provides the first unfettered public access to the incredibly scenic northern shores of the reservoir in more than a century. It will also be a key component of an interconnected rail trail system linking the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park to the Catskill Park,” said State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid. “The Ashokan Rail Trail is truly a world-class recreational trail.”

The County is also now partnering with the Woodstock Land Conservancy and the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference to recruit and manage volunteer “Trail Stewards” who will help ensure the trail is used responsibly and well-maintained.

Spanning 10 to 12 feet wide, the ART features a compacted crushed stone surface that is fully accessible to persons with disabilities. The rail trail is open for non-motorized uses, including hiking, bicycling, running, nature observation, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing, and is accessed along its route via three large public trailheads.

Following the recent opening of this 9-mile section, the remaining 2.5 miles of the trail are expected to open to the public before the end of the year.

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