River To Ridge River Trail 2 Susan Morningstar Open Space Institute Crop

The Open Space Institute Opens Wallkill River Section of River-to-Ridge Trail

Image Credit: Johnathan Simons

Plans unveiled for eco-friendly management of the property

NEW PALTZ, NY (May 24, 2018)— The Open Space Institute (OSI) today announced the official opening of the first section of its River-to-Ridge Trail in New Paltz. The completed three-quarter of a mile-long section of the trail runs along the Wallkill River from the Carmine Liberta Bridge to Springtown Road. In addition to announcing the partial trail opening, OSI also outlined a number of steps it is taking to improve the ecology in the area, as well as a new partnership that will allow for bicycle rentals at the trail.

“The Open Space Institute is excited to open the river section of the River-to-Ridge Trail to New Paltz families, residents, and visitors in time for summer. The trail will increase public access to this irreplaceable scenic, agricultural, and recreational landscape,” said Kim Elliman, president and CEO of OSI. “Thanks to the Mohonk Preserve, the Village of New Paltz, the Town of New Paltz, and Ulster County for their partnership on this project and to the surrounding community for their continuing patience and enthusiasm for the trail.”

When fully constructed, the six-mile long River-to-Ridge loop trail will connect the Village of New Paltz to the protected lands on the Shawangunk Ridge. The $1.7 million trail is being constructed by OSI, with support of the Butler Conservation Fund, for public use and enjoyment. 

The trail will span OSI and Mohonk Preserve lands as it winds through the gentle terrain at the base of the ridge. The section west of Springtown Road to Butterville Road remains under construction, with an estimated completion date of September 2018.

River To Ridge River Trail 3 Susan Mornignstar Open Space Institute
Aerial footage of the River section of the River-to-Ridge Trail
Image Credit: Jonathan Simons

Protecting the Land and River

As stewards of this new public trail, OSI is taking several steps to sustainably manage the property — such as balancing ecological, farming, and recreational concerns and uses.

“OSI conserves land to support the needs of diverse human, wildlife, and plant communities, and I am glad that those values can be reflected in our management of the River-to-Ridge Trail. Since we wanted to build a community resource that would last for generations, it was obvious that OSI needed to also protect the land, water, and local wildlife,” said Elliman. 

For example, to mitigate the effects of agricultural operations in the area, OSI has improved and widened the riparian buffer next to the Wallkill River. The increase in space between the river and active farmland will help reduce and filter agricultural runoff and improve the quality of water entering the Wallkill River along the trail. 

Over the waterways and wetlands, OSI has installed three drainage culverts that are designed to promote natural habitat and animal movement. These wide culverts will accommodate animals of varying sizes, and the bottoms of the culverts are made of materials that are crossable by amphibians.

Near the trail, after a small mowed shoulder, OSI will allow tall grasses to grow to provide habitat for various bird species. In addition to promoting animal and plant biodiversity, the grasses will provide an additional buffer between the trail and local farming operations and neighboring properties.

In addition to constructing the trail, OSI has also completed improvements to the parking lot on Springtown Road which serves as the project’s trailhead. 

Cyclist River To Ridge Trail Susan Morningstar Open Space Institute
Cyclists on the River To Ridge Trail
Image Credit: Susan Morningstar/ Merrilee Frable

Offering Bicycle Rentals on the Trail 

Along with announcing the partial trail opening, OSI is also pleased to be partnering with New Paltz Biking, a local outdoors outfitter, which will be renting bicycles from the Springtown Road parking lot starting this Memorial Day weekend. The bike rental concession will support biking use on the trail by providing children and adults hourly bike rentals from Thursday through Sunday during the summer and fall months and for major holidays. For more information, visit www.npbiking.com.

“As a long-time member of the New Paltz community I am excited to be collaborating with the Open Space Institute to welcome everyone to the River-to-Ridge Trail,” said Craig Chapman, the owner of New Paltz Biking. “This new connection to the Shawangunk Ridge through the fields west of the Wallkill River is an incredible new community resource that will provide wonderful recreational opportunities to all who venture out on this beautiful trail.”

Rules of the Trail

In addition to bike rentals, the concession will serve the public by providing a free hydration station to fill water bottles, as well as a dog waste station with bags and refuse receptacles. This amenity is complimentary and the public is reminded to please keep pets leashed at all times, and to clean up after pets by disposing of solid waste in a responsible manner.

As part of OSI’s partnership with New Paltz Biking, there will also be several picnic tables near the Wallkill River at the old boat launch site. Since the River-to-Ridge Trail is a carry-in, carry-out trail, it is asked that visitors take any and all items that require disposal with them or dispose of them in the proper receptacles.

The newly opened section of the River-to-Ridge Trail allows walkers, runners, hikers, cyclists, equestrians and others to enjoy access to the Wallkill River. Since the trail is open to such a large variety of uses, the public is reminded to please be respectful of other users and yield as warranted.

As the trail is located alongside active farmland and construction is ongoing and nearby, the public is respectfully asked to stay on the trail, use caution when crossing roads, and stay clear of maintenance equipment and other marked project areas. 

Once completed the full, six-mile loop trail will connect the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail/Empire State Trail in the Village of New Paltz to the Mohonk Preserve and the carriage roads and footpaths of the Shawangunk Ridge at Minnewaska State Park Preserve. 

Construction of the trail will continue throughout the summer, with immediate next steps to include final trail grading and surfacing; shoulder stabilization; and the fabrication and installation of additional wayfinding kiosks and signage.

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