Open Space Institute Seeks to Expand Pathways

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

The Shawangunk Ridge will have an additional plot of land to be used as a public recreational pathway that connects downtown New Paltz to the Shawangunk Ridge. The Open Space Institute (OSI), New Paltz Planning Board and Mohonk Preserve are in the process of planning the placement of the trail and overseeing other important issues, such as what materials to use for the new construction.

Eileen Larabee, associate director of the alliance for New York State Parks, said the not-for-profit “has a long tradition of building state parks.”

Typically, the OSI will buy plots of property and transfer the land to the New York Office of State Parks when they have enough funding to purchase the land from the OSI.

For example, the OSI bought property that is now part of the Walkway Over the Hudson, and held it until the state had the resources to make the purchase.

The OSI receives funding from fundraisers that provide spending money. They usually sell to State Parks, but occasionally they sell to other entities, such as farms. Part of their agreement towards land conservation is to ensure that the land will be used for farming activity only.

This subdivision that was once a part of the Mohonk Preserve will still be of use to the public, and Larabee is hopeful that the plans to make a new trail will offer aesthetic appeal and a great outdoors experience.

“The River to Ridge will be a wonderful community asset… it will improve safety along Route 299 for hikers and bicyclists who ride on the shoulder of Route 299 to the Ridge. It will also provide a great recreational aspect for the community,” Larabee said.

Since about 2015, the subdivision plans have been discussed and reviewed by the OSI, the Mohonk Preserve, the New Paltz Town Planning Board and the New Paltz Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee. So far they are working with town officials on issues such as avoiding wetlands, distancing the trail from agricultural activity nearby and creating the trail a safe distance from main roads.

Larabee states the organizations are open to the public and will allow them to weigh in on decisions.

Once the trail gets public input and is approved by the New Paltz Planning Board, the OSI will begin construction of the trail and footbridges, kiosks and culverts.

When the construction is nearly finished, hopefully by next year, the Shawangunk region will have more public access for those who enjoy traversing through natural settings.

The OSI are working on additional trails that will connect to a 116 mile network that includes the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, O&W Rail Trail and the Catskill Mountain Rail Trail.

All trail projects are funded by the OSI and will place no financial burden on the town or county, and the OSI will continue to pay property taxes on the approximately 350 acres it owns between the river and the ridge where the trail will be.