Just west of New Paltz, New York, a bucolic expanse of farm fields and meadows stretches from the Wallkill River to the foothills of the Shawangunk Ridge. Though renowned for its scenic beauty, the low-lying riverfront land also experiences heavy flooding that can persist for days after heavy rains.
In 2018, the Open Space Institute permanently protected more than 360 acres of the land, preventing development of the flood-prone land and began creation of what would become the hugely popular River-to-Ridge Trail. During the trail’s development, OSI staff also seized the opportunity install a series of features, including bioswales, that augment the land’s natural ability to manage the recurring floods and protect the nearby Wallkill River.
Today, as an estimated 200,000 annual visitors run, cycle, and stroll along the trail, they recreate alongside OSI-installed educational signage that explains the connection between responsible land use and water quality — and past the latest OSI projects that manage and improve the land’s natural flood-mitigating properties.
“OSI’s planning, design, and maintenance of the River-to-Ridge Trail represents balance of meeting environmental and human needs,” said Peter Karis, OSI’s Vice President for Parks & Stewardship who oversaw the creation of the trail. “Through holistic management, we are creating a model trail that incorporates sustainability and resilience, with benefits that extend into the local community.”