Walkill Valley Rail Trail doubles in length

New York, NY - August 31, 2009 - The Open Space Institute (OSI) and Wallkill Valley Land Trust (WVLT) have extended the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail by a full 11.5 miles, nearly doubling its current length. The groups announced today the acquisition of approximately 65 acres of the former Wallkill Valley Railroad in Ulster County, which will now provide a nearly continuous recreational trail that runs through the towns of Gardiner, New Paltz, Rosendale and Ulster, and on to Kingston. 

The two groups acquired the railroad bed from Ulster County, which had acquired the lands through tax foreclosure in April. The railroad bed, known locally as the Rosendale Rail Trail, includes the iconic 940-foot-long railroad trestle over the Rondout Creek in the hamlet of Rosendale that was constructed in 1895 and which connects the Shawangunk Ridge to the Binnewater Lakes region.  

Now extended, the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail will run almost continuously for 23.7 miles, providing recreational access for walkers, runners, equestrians, birders, bicyclists, and cross-country skiers. The rail trail will connect the hamlet of Gardiner to the Village of New Paltz and the hamlet of Rosendale, and will afford its users outstanding views of open farmlands, the scenic Shawangunk Ridge, and the limestone caves of the Binnewater Lakes region.

The parcels were acquired jointly by OSI’s land acquisition affiliate, the Open Space Conservancy, and the Wallkill Valley Land Trust. The Wallkill Valley Rail Trail Association and the Town of Rosendale will cooperatively maintain the trail.  OSI and WVLT have now launched a fundraising campaign to finance improvements over the length of the trail and to finish decking the railroad trestle in Rosendale, making it safe for public use.

In the late 19th century, the Wallkill Valley Railroad was a major lifeline to towns like Rosendale. It ferried fresh produce and vegetables from the farmlands of Ulster County to the streets of New York City. It also served as a commuter railroad for passengers traveling along the Hudson Valley. For more than a half-century, the railroad supported business and tourism, provided jobs and created a critical economic link between upstate and downstate.

The Town of Rosendale has committed to the work of restoring the trail and expanding the recreational choices in Rosendale, said Town Supervisor Patrick McDonough. “The rail trail, which has been privately owned and made available to the public for the past 30 years, is entering a new phase of its existence,” he said. “I'm looking forward to working with the Wallkill Valley Land Trust and the Open Space Institute to develop a plan for the future of the rail trail.  With easy access to the Mohonk Preserve, our many historical resources and our central business district, the rail trail will be a great asset to our community, both for recreational purposes, and to help bring more people into town to play, eat and shop."

Opening up the Wallkill Valley Railroad bed for public recreational use has long been a priority in the New York State and Ulster County Open Space plans. It is also a priority in the Ulster County Non-Motorized Transportation Plan, which aims to create a green infrastructure that reduces fossil fuel consumption, encourages more physical activity, and makes it possible to create economic growth at the same time.

“The Wallkill Valley Rail Trail ties together two landscapes that OSI has been active in for many years: the preservation of the Shawangunk Ridge, and the protection of scenic farmland in the Wallkill Valley,” said Joe Martens, OSI’s president. “This addition to the existing Wallkill Valley Rail Trail will allow hikers, bikers, equestrians and others to enjoy the open fields and quaint villages and hamlets in this beautiful landscape. I also want to thank Ulster County Executive Mike Hein, Commissioner of Finance Paul Hewett, and the Ulster County Legislature for their vision and foresight in setting aside the Rosendale Rail Trail for public use and enjoyment.”

In the next several weeks OSI expects to acquire the 107-acre “Giant’s Ledges” parcels, which will be added to the almost 7,000-acre Mohonk Preserve. The extended rail trail will brush up alongside the additions, just south of Rosendale. Each of these conservation efforts helps revitalize downtown Rosendale as a key tourist destination.

The Wallkill Valley Land Trust purchased the New Paltz and Gardiner sections of the Rail Trail in 1991, creating the first 12.2 miles of the pathway.

“The Wallkill Valley Land Trust and The Rail Trail Association are truly excited about the plans for the extension of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail from the New Paltz/Rosendale town line to Kingston city limits,” said WVLT Board President Bob Taylor. “When this new section of trail has been restored the total length will be over 23 miles, linking the growing state and national network of rail trails. We are very grateful to Open Space Institute, the Ulster County Legislature, and the Town of Rosendale for their support in enabling us to acquire the properties that make this project possible. There is much ahead but we look forward to opening this gateway of recreation and conservation to our community.“

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