River-to-Ridge Trail to Provide a Pedestrian Route to Gunks

OSI, founded in 1974, is a leader in environmental conservation, playing a hand in the protection of 2.2 million acres in North America. Photo by Malachi Price.

A new 6-mile loop trail will allow pedestrians safe passage across the bridge over the Wallkill River at the west entrance of New Paltz, up to the Shawangunk Ridge, and back again.

The River-to-Ridge Trail will be available late this year for pedestrians to bike or stroll on a 10-foot-wide gravel path that starts riverside and heads through rolling farm hills and up to the 90 miles of trails and carriage roads at Mohonk Preserve and Minnewaska State Park Preserve. 

The trail will be a convenient, recreational alternative to the bumpy shoulders of Route 299, which pedestrians currently have to use to access the Shawangunks from New Paltz.

The Open Space Institute (OSI), a New York environmental conservation group dedicated to protecting and enhancing recreational access to local landscapes, started construction on the trail in fall 2016. OSI is funding the trail from its own budget, at no expense to the people of New Paltz, expecting it to cost about $700,000, said Tally Blumberg, chief program officer of OSI.

OSI purchased the plot of land between New Paltz and the mountains from Watchtower Society of New York, a Jehovah’s Witnesses group, for $2.1 million. The westernmost part of the trail will be inland owned by Mohonk Preserve.

When construction began in November 2016, OSI estimated the trail would be completed by late 2017. But Eileen Larrabee, OSI’s Associate Director for the Alliance for New York State Parks, recently said this year’s wet spring has slowed progress. Still, OSI plans to open the completed trail to the public late this year, if weather conditions allow.

So far, construction has progressed from the Carmine Liberta Bridge over Wallkill River, where the nearly completed walkway is, to the boat launch site up the river. An unfinished skeleton of the would-be trail stretches along the riverbanks between these two locations.

The River-to-Ridge Trail will have a trail corridor and free designated parking area for up to 45 vehicles, built on a 15-acre parcel of village-owned property by the river on Springtown Road.

Larrabee said the partnership between OSI and the town and village of New Paltz through the trail’s construction has been positive. 

“There has been support and enthusiasm for the River-to-Ridge Trail,” Larrabee said. “And the larger goals of expanding the trail system throughout Ulster County and beyond.”

Ultimately, this trail will connect to a larger 116-mile Ulster and Sullivan County trail network consisting of the Wallkill Rail Trail, the O&W Rail Trail and the proposed Catskill Mountain Rail Trail that would connect midtown Kingston to the Catskill Park and the Ashokan Reservoir.