The Shawangunk Mountains Regional Partnership announced that it was granted a $1 million fund for the upgrade of three scenic overlooks along the Shawangunk Mountains Scenic Byway.
According to a press release provided by Al Wegener, executive director of the Shwawangunk Mountains Regional Partnership, two of the overlooks are located along US44/NY55, one in the town of Gardiner, west of the Mohonk Preserve Visitor Center and the other in the town of Rochester, west of Minnewaska State Park Preserve. The third overlook is in the town of Wawarsing along Rt. 52, north of the entrance to Sam’s Point Preserve.
Wegener said through a National Scenic Byways Program, the Federal Highway Administration will be able to fund $800,000 of the project and the remaining $200,000 will be provided by the New York State Department of Transportation.
New Paltz alumna Holly Babbin recalls visiting the overlook on numerous occasions. She said the railings were rusty and covered with graffiti and there was also a lot of garbage on the ground at the time, causing concern for the safety of animals.
“Even though it was not the most attractive place, the view was beautiful,” Babbin said. “Looking over the railing at the vast amount of trees and mountains made up for the appearance of the overlook.”
Babbin said the overlooks were a place where she could enjoy the beautiful view and take pictures with friends without having to hike up a mountain. However, she said, the renovations should include the addition of garbage cans to minimize littering and maybe even a picnic table.
The press release states that the overlooks date back to horse and buggy days and that their present conditions have seriously deteriorated. The upgrades are supposed to give the overlooks a much more welcoming, natural and attractive appearance.
The renovations will improve both the appearance as well as the safety on the overlooks. The renovations will include new landscaping, stone-faced parapets and benches. With the addition of pedestrian sidewalks and defined parking spaces, visitors will have a safer experience at the overlooks. Also, a kiosk will be added to offer information about the Scenic Byway and other tourism attractions in the Shawangunk Mountains Region.
Fourth-year art education major Sara Bernstein said that currently there is no place at the overlooks to sit and look.
“It basically seems just like an area to pull over on the side of the highway. It would be great to make it more of a place to go and visit,” she said. “I think the benches and landscaping improvements are great and much-needed.”
According to the press release, the result will be three inviting, attractive and well-maintained vantage points for travelers on the Shawangunk Mountains Scenic Byway to rest while traveling over the Shawangunk Mountains.
For fourth-year elementary education major Matthew Gill, the location of New Paltz within the Hudson Valley played a role in his process of choosing a college.
“I loved the fact that I could attend a college that was both close to my home and yet still in nature,” Gill said. “It’s definitely why New Paltz draws so many people from Long Island and the boroughs.”
In contrast, Babbin gave little thought about the surrounding mountains when determining which college to attend. Even though the area is scenic, she said she did not acknowledge that until halfway through college.
“I think it is important for students to travel beyond campus because that is where you can learn about and really appreciate the beauty of nature,” Babbin said. “By taking advantage of the surrounding areas, students will gain a lot more out of their college experience.”