The final link in the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail has been completed with the opening of a mile-and-a-half portion that cuts through land owned by the Williams Lake Project, which plans to build a resort in the Binnewater area. Hikers, bicyclists and skiers can now traverse the entire 24-mile trail from just south of Gardiner to Rockwell Lane in the Town of Ulster, located on Route 32, near Kingston.
“It’s the final blip on the screen,” said Christine DeBoer, executive director of the Wallkill Valley Land Trust, which, in conjunction with the Open Space Institute, holds on easement on the trail, including the Williams Lake segment. The opening of the new link follows the opening of the Rosendale Trestle in June. It begins just north of the Binnewater Kiln parking lot, built by the Town of Rosendale to accommodate visitors to the trestle.
The Williams Lake Project developer cleared and graded the trail and erected a split-rail fence on either side of the 12-foot-wide corridor, said Williams Lake public outreach coordinator Brian McCafferty. Partly this was to discourage trail-users from wandering onto the property, which contains hazardous abandoned mines, he said. The resort developers also are installing informational plaques on the early cement industry, geology, limestone ecology and bat ecology. Trail-users can glimpse two lakes and the pillared caverns of abandoned mines; along one section that passes mines on either side, the temperature drops 20 degrees: a tonic when the temperature’s topping 90.
The new trail segment can be accessed at either end: on the north by Hickory Bush Road and on the south by Breezy Point Road. The link should help bring more hikers and bicyclists to the northern portion of the trail, hopefully lessening the number of ATV riders and motorcyclists who continue to roar down the trail from Rockwell Lane despite a very prominent sign banning such use. (Should you see them, “Call the cops,” DeBoer said.) Carpets, couches and other debris also litter the northern portion of the trail, which eventually will be cleaned up, said DeBoer. The trail is nonetheless beautiful, shaded by hemlock forests and bordered by wetlands. Owls, hawks and other wildlife have been spotted from the trail.
There is a place to pull off the road and park at Rockwell Lane; the next access point is DeWitt Mills Road in Rosendale, where the trail dead-ends at the Thruway. (Several years ago, the neighboring homeowners had encroached upon the trail, erecting a swimming pool on the premises; but those impediments have been removed, and signs with arrows erected directing people to the road.) “We’re working with the county and town to get the crosswalks painted, to make it safer” when people pass under the Thruway bridge, said DeBoer. The Rail Trail picks up again on the other side of the Thruway.
Hickory Bush Road is the next access point. Farther south, beyond the Rosendale Trestle, there are numerous road crossings, said DeBoer. (ATV use is a problem even in Gardiner, she said; the only way to keep motorized vehicles out is for neighbors and trail-users to call the police, she added.)
The addition of the Rosendale Trestle and the Williams Lake segment has doubled the length of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail. The trail is open from dawn to dusk and is completely free, of course.
Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, 24 miles between just south of Gardiner and the Town of Ulster; www.wallkillvalleylt.org.