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New Life for Trails at Minnewaska State Park

Less than ninety minutes north of New York City, Minnewaska State Park Preserve is renowned for its stunning landscapes and extensive trail systems. For more than 30 years, the Open Space Institute (OSI) has worked to expand and improve the beloved park, and it would not have been possible without significant support from the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF).

Thanks to nearly $32 million in EPF funding, OSI has protected and added more than 13,000 acres to Minnewaska, doubling the size of park through dozens of transactions. OSI’s work at Minnewaska perfectly dovetails with the ultimate goal of the EPF: a long-term commitment to enhancing communities through protection of New York’s peerless natural landscapes.

This partnership is critical for all who love and visit Minnewaska. With support from the EPF, donors, and other sources, OSI is expanding the park and providing much needed upgrades that have improved public access to nature, protected rare wildlife habitat, and increased safety at one of New York’s largest, most popular, and most biologically diverse regions.

The importance of the EPF’s support for OSI’s work is evident in OSI’s efforts to retore Minnewaska’s aging carriage road network for a new generations of park visitors. By leveraging $1.67 million in funds from the EPF, OSI has been able to fundraise and invest upwards of $4 million dollars to restore more than 15 miles of the park’s aging carriage road system.

Developed during the Victorian era for visitors to experience the park’s splendors from their horse-drawn carriages, after more than 100 years, the network of crushed shale carriage roads needed some TLC. With more than 35 miles of trails requiring specialized restoration, the project was an expensive and daunting task.

Building on nearly 40 years of protecting Minnewaska and the surrounding landscape and with deep experience in trail creation and restoration, OSI stepped up to meet the challenge of improving Minnewaska’s carriage road network for the next 100 years.

Today—after extensive restoration work over several years—more than half a million hikers, cyclists, and equestrians annually are able to enjoy the park’s carriage roads, which are wide, flat, and designed to showcase panoramic vistas. Thanks to OSI’s revitalization of the High Point Carriage Road, for the first time in decades, visitors can enjoy an off-road connection between the park’s Sam’s Point and Lake Minnewaska visitor centers. The renewed High Point Carriage Road has been celebrated by outdoor adventurers who can now experience a smooth walk, hike, or ride through the park’s globally rare pitch pine barrens.

Local resident Barbara Lawrence applauds OSI’s extensive work at Minnewaska. Having grown up in Ulster County where the park is located, she remembers how the tantalizingly beautiful Shawangunk Ridge and Minnewaska were once off limits. “The amount of land protection on the Ridge, and how accessible it is, has completely transformed what it’s like to live in this region,” says Lawrence.

EPF funding also unlocked other opportunities to enhance the popular park. OSI leveraged EPF funding to raise and invest $3 million to support the construction of the Lake Minnewaska Visitor Center, which opened to the public in 2020 with engaging exhibits and modern amenities. And there’s more to come: OSI recently received an additional $500,000 from the EPF to complete the restoration of the Lake Awosting Carriage Road.

Bringing people closer to nature is the driving force behind OSI’s projects, and support from the EPF is helping to achieve that goal. Peter Karis, OSI’s vice president of parks and stewardship, notes, “Thriving parks and access to trails promote vibrant, healthy communities. As OSI continues to restore Minnewaska’s carriage roads, support from the EPF is helping us create a world class destination that everyone can enjoy.”