Renovated railroad trestle to open this Saturday

It’s not quite the golden spike at Promontory Point, where the two ends of the Intercontinental Railroad were joined in Utah, but the power drill held by Rob Hare, chairman of the town Conservation Committee, will have to do. Watching Hare at the ceremony last week are president of the Wallkill Valley Land Trust board Bob Taylor, president of the Open Space Institute Kim Elliman, and 26-year board member of the Wallkill Valley Land Trust Jim Ottaway. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

It’s not quite the golden spike at Promontory Point, where the two ends of the Intercontinental Railroad were joined in Utah, but the power drill held by Rob Hare, chairman of the town Conservation Committee, will have to do. Watching Hare at the ceremony last week are president of the Wallkill Valley Land Trust board Bob Taylor, president of the Open Space Institute Kim Elliman, and 26-year board member of the Wallkill Valley Land Trust Jim Ottaway. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Asked back in March about progress on the restoration of Rosendale’s landmark trestle spanning the gorge of the Rondout Creek, Wallkill Valley Land Trust (WVLT) executive director Christine DeBoer said, “Our goal is to open the trestle in June.”

WVLT and its partner in the project, the Open Space Institute (OSI), have made that goal with a day to spare: The long-awaited official reopening will take place this Saturday, June 29.

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Festivities will begin with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the north end of the trestle itself at 11:30 a.m., featuring Rosendale town officials and other local dignitaries along with speakers from WVLT and OSI. Many hikers and cyclists from south of the old railway bridge who have long lamented their inability to access other sections of the Wallkill Valley rail-trail will doubtless grab the opportunity to explore beyond the Rondout crossing immediately.

At noon the focus of the official festivities will shift to Willow Kiln Park, behind the Rosendale Theatre parking lot in the Rosendale hamlet. Until 3 p.m. the park will host live music, guided nature hikes up Joppenbergh Mountain, and plenty of activities for kids, including face-painting and opportunities to tie-dye “Track the Trestle” tee-shirts. At 2:30 p.m. cyclists are invited to gather at the park and decorate their bicycles for a parade to the trestle, led by the Rosendale Brass Band stepping off at 3 p.m.

Closed for almost four years, the trestle, built in 1870, has been fully restored as a pedestrian walkway over the Rondout Creek, offering spectacular views of the gorge, adjacent Joppenbergh Mountain and downtown Rosendale. The completion of the $1.5-million trestle restoration project nearly fulfills OSI and WVLT’s goal of a continuous, 24-mile recreational rail-trail running from the southern border of Gardiner north to the City of Kingston.

The project involved the installation of new railroad ties and mounting naturally weathering Cor-Ten steel railings on the trestle, which soars a vertiginous 150 feet high as it spans 940 feet across the waterway. The final stage, conducted by volunteers over the past four weekends in all sorts of weather, saw recycled composite decking material installed over the top of the railroad ties.

“This is far and away the biggest project the Wallkill Valley Land Trust has ever undertaken, and we could not have accomplished it without the enthusiasm and commitment of our volunteers,” said WVLT president Bob Taylor.

Major support for the “Track the Trestle” restoration campaign came from the New York Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the Samuel Freeman Charitable Trust, the Dyson Foundation, the Rondout-Esopus Land Conservancy, the Friends of the Shawangunks, the Mohonk Preserve and more than 110 individual donors. At last report, the sponsoring organizations still needed to raise $150,000 to close the books on the project, and OSI is still matching all donations on a four-to-one basis.

One way for area businesses and residents to support the completion of the project, as well as construction of a new creekside trail from the south end of the trestle into Rosendale, is to purchase bronze commemorative plaques that will be attached along the trestle railing, etched with the donor’s name or message and then lacquer-sealed. For $1200 each, plaques can be purchased in honor or memory of a loved one, on behalf of a business or as a unique gift for someone special. Call WVLT at 255-2761 for more information about becoming a supporter.

Parking for the 11:30 ribbon-cutting ceremony this Saturday will be available at the Binnewater Kiln parking area on Binnewater Road. The official opening of the segment of the rail-trail that passes through the Williams Lake property, originally projected to coincide with the opening of the trestle, has been postponed to Tuesday, July 2 at 11 a.m.

Following Saturday’s event, the trestle and the extension of the rail trail owned by WVLT and OSI will be open to the public from dawn till dusk every day, unless the temporary need arises to make improvements to the railbed in other areas. The trail will be accessible to walkers, hikers, bikers, cross-country skiers, snowshoers and horseback riders. Motorized vehicles are not permitted.

“The Rosendale trestle is a symbol of the history and scenic beauty unique to this Hudson Valley town,” said Kim Elliman, OSI’s president and CEO. “OSI and the Wallkill Valley Land Trust have both been inspired by the support this project received from its community over the last three years. It will truly be a magnificent recreational asset and a gateway along the expanded Wallkill Valley rail-trail.”

There are 2 comments

  1. Ron Turner

    I own an original spike, BUDD rail road tie jack and a piece of the actual track (23 1/2 ” section and weighs a ton!) from the walkill Valley Railroad gotten from the son of the man who lived in one of the two intact original “rail road houses” in New Paltz. Only the spike has any rust.

  2. Promise

    Congratulations, these are the sort of attractions that are proving themselves all around the country as draws for local residents and tourism. Now, if we can just get going on Williams Lake we will have even more visitors walking the trestle and down into town for lunch, events, shopping…growth and sustainability.

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