ULSTER COUNTY, NY (Apr. 28, 2020)—Balancing just feet from an escarpment edge, Keith Kortright uses the bucket of his excavator to nudge massive boulders into place with near-surgical precision. A master trail builder, Kortright’s skills are invaluable to OSI’s reconstruction of the 19th-century carriage roads–just one of the many features that make New York’s Minnewaska State Park Preserve a recreational destination.
“You really can’t ask for a better view from your office window,” said Kortright, stopping to look out over the landscape. “My grandfather used to haul stone here too, and that’s why I’m here–I know these trails are works of art, and thanks to OSI, they will be around for generations to come.”
Every year, nearly 300,000 people visit Minnewaska for its crystalline sky-lakes, world-class rock climbing and panoramic landscape views from atop the Shawangunk Ridge. Yet recently that very popularity has begun to overwhelm the park’s aging infrastructure–like the historic carriage road network.
Today, OSI–harnessing the services of Kortright’s firm Mombaccus Excavating and support from private donors–is in the midst of a multi-year restoration of the park’s crushed-bluestone carriage roads, which span the park from Sam’s Point to Lake Minnewaska. To date, the team has refurbished the park’s striking Hamilton Point and Castle Point carriage roads, with Lake Awosting, the old Smiley Carriage Road and the High Point carriage roads soon to follow.
Over four decades, OSI has steadily added puzzle piece after puzzle piece of conserved land to the park, doubling it in size. In 2015, the conservation continued, as OSI conveyed 602 acres to Minnewaska–including two parcels on the northwestern edge of the preserve protecting a remote area known as the Witch’s Hole Conservation Area.
In 2015, Governor Andrew Cuomo and OSI also announced an exciting plan that will honor the history of the park while helping it springboard into the future. The strategy features a $7.3-million improvement plan that will include a 6,000-square-foot visitor center, awarming hut and other improvements.
As the governor emphasized, the projects are supported by a pledge from OSI to raise $3 million, providing design and construction services for the new additions. Eric Humphrey, the park manager, is enthusiastic about the ongoing expansion and improvements at the park.
“OSI’s work at Minnewaska is helping us raise our profile and better serve our visitors,” Humphrey said. “They are protecting the very fabric of this world-class place.”