NEW PALTZ – The Open Space Institute (OSI) has announced the start of a project, being completed in partnership and funding provided by Ulster County, to improve a 5.5-mile section of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail between Plains Road in New Paltz and Main Street in Gardiner.
The $885,000 project is expected to improve overall public access to the trail and establish additional safety upgrades and measures for residents and visitors.
The improvement project began earlier this month, with work starting in Gardiner, and will be completed by Spring 2023. This project is the first of three trail improvement projects in Ulster County that OSI is spearheading over two years.
The trail improvement plan includes resurfacing of the trail path, vegetation maintenance, rebuilding existing bridges, upgrades to off-road crossings, and improved grading, drainage, and structural enhancements along the trail. The project will also improve safety by creating universally accessible entry points and installing welcoming trailheads and improved signage.
For public safety, trail users are asked to stay clear of all construction equipment and heavy machinery along the trail and follow all posted signage. Trail closures should be expected during the week to accommodate construction schedules; however, the trail will be fully open to trail users on weekends and holidays.
As work progresses, the series of rolling trail closures will be communicated as they occur on the Wallkill Valley Land Trust website https://wallkillvalleylt.org/ and on social media. Trail users are encouraged to check the site for the latest construction updates.
“Well-maintained trails play an important role in making communities more livable, healthy, and prosperous. This project is another step toward establishing Ulster County as a world-class recreational destination,” said OSI president and CEO Kim Elliman, who noted that the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail project builds on the organization’s recent success in creating the River-to-Ridge Trail in New Paltz, the protection and restoration of the Rosendale Trestle, and the most recent upgrades to the northern 13.5 miles of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail in the Towns of New Paltz, Rosendale, and Ulster.
Acting Ulster County Executive Johanna Contreras said, “We are so fortunate in Ulster County to have access to safe, accessible, and well-maintained trails. This improvement project will further enhance this network for both residents and visitors to enjoy. We are proud to partner with the Ulster County Legislature to dedicate ARPA funds to this project. OSI’s improvements to the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail will have a lasting, positive impact on our community.”
Christie DeBoer, Executive Director of the Wallkill Valley Land Trust, asked users, supporters, and community members to be patient while the trail work is being done. “Although there will be short-term disruptions, the long-term benefits of the improvements will be remarkable — and includes a rail trail that is wider, safer, and well-drained,” DeBoer said. “These trail upgrades will also enhance the overall user experience of the trail while protecting essential habitat and natural resources.”
The trail improvements are funded through OSI-secured grants and private funds. In 2021, Ulster County awarded OSI $2.1 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds toward three rail trail improvement projects, with OSI utilizing private support to provide an additional $95,000 worth of project management services. This Wallkill Valley Rail Trail project from Plains Road in New Paltz to Main Street in Gardiner is the first of the three ARPA-funded projects. The project is also being supported by in-kind services by partner municipalities.