On Feb. 11, the Open Space Institute (OSI) announced in a press release their acquisition of the 135 acre farmland on the western side of New Paltz along Route 299 on the Watchtower Property.
According to The Daily Freeman, Institute spokeswoman Eileen Larrabee said that efforts are underway to maintain the agriculture use of the land under an agreement with Wallkill View Farm. The $2.1 million purchase by OSI will aid New Paltz in carrying out the community’s value in environmental preservation, Larrabee said. New Paltz will also benefit with new outdoor opportunities for residents and tourists, she said.
According to Mid Hudson News, beginning Saturday, Feb. 21, the property, managed by the Mohonk Preserve, has opened for free cross-country skiing. In addition, Mohonk Preserve have also increased their open trails, including those around Spring Farm Trailhead and on Trapps Carriage Road.
“We are very excited about working with the Open Space Institute on making their newly acquired land accessible to people,” David H. Toman, deputy executive director at Mohonk Preserve, said. “The town of New Paltz itself has undergone some planning efforts to try to find a way to start connecting the town and the Rail Trail in the direction of the preserve. So that really ties into this fully integrated network that not only has cross country skiing but we are also hoping to bring biking and walking paths closer to the reserve.”
According to the OSI press release, the Institute will lead in the maintenance and patrol of “New Paltz Flats Trails” — a new construction of connected trails including the Rail Trail and Shawangunk Ridge — to ensure that they are well-planned and cared for. The press release also gave assurance that OSI will balance the interests of recreational users, successful agricultural operations and area residents.
Toman said that Mohonk Preserve is also providing the current rooms for cross country skiing as a service to OSI.
“We are working with them in the regard of rooming so we are engaged in that way. The preserve now owns the property,” Toman said. “In terms of that property, the collaboration is what we have been working on with them and to manage the seasonal cross country on the property.”
The OSI press release also included information which stated that the “preservation of Watchtower Property will allow direct access from New Paltz to the Shawangunk Ridge and create a premier recreation corridor.”
The Shawangunk Ridgeline, once only accessible by car, is now accesible via walking or biking. Kim Elliman, OSI’s President and CEO said that the recreational trail will be among the most scenic in North America. According to the Poughkeepsie Journal, OSI said the trail will be privately funded, with no additional costs to the town or county.
Future plans for OSI in regards to expansion of the Shawangunk-Catskill Trail Network include the creation of three separate rail trails connected into a network comprised of Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, O&W Rail Trail and Ulster County Rail Trail Project. According to the OSI press release, OSI is working with a number of partners, including the New York State Office of Parks Recreation & Historic Preservation, the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, Ulster County, Mohonk Preserve, Wallkill Valley Land Trust, the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail Association, Kingston Land Trust, Woodstock Land Conservancy, Catskill Mountainkeeper and others to realize these goals.