The weather gods must approve of rail trails — and perhaps the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail (WVRT) in particular. The renovated Rosendale Trestle’s grand opening ceremony on June 29 was blessed by a refreshing break in that month’s hot, humid, stormy weather. And the heavens were beaming down again on the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 4, when the 1.5-mile segment of the WVRT that passes through the Williams Lake property was opened to the public at last, after several postponements waiting for the ink to dry on needed conservation easements.
The speakers and the crowd who turned up that morning were all smiles as well, showing no trace of the vituperation that has often marked public debate over the proposed redevelopment of the former Williams Lake Hotel property by its new owners, Hudson River Valley Resorts, LLC (HRVR). Maybe that’s because the reopening to the public of this trail segment, effectively reconnecting the northern and southern stretches of the WVRT for a full 24 miles of accessibility, was always the one part of the project that received universal support even from critics of the redevelopment plan. “Rail trails build community, as anybody who uses them regularly understands,” said HRVR’s project manager Tim Allred.
Much of the speechmaking at the opening festivities consisted of thanks to the key people involved in restoring the section of trail, notably Christine DeBoer and Bob Taylor of the Wallkill Valley Land Trust, Bob Anderberg of the Open Space Institute, Williams Lake’s former owner Anita Williams-Peck, various municipal and county officials and community volunteers. Master of ceremonies Brian Cafferty, public outreach coordinator for HRVR, called Williams-Peck “the woman of the hour,” noting that it was “her vision that put 411 acres into conservancy” long before the redevelopment project was planned.
“Today would’ve been my father’s 101st birthday,” said Williams-Peck. “In 1986, when the entire railroad was sold, within about a minute-and-a-half he bought the section of the rail trail that passes through here.” She recounted how the “sports-minded” Williams family had opened and groomed the former railbed for cross-country skiing and expressed the wish that all the trails on the property could be returned to active recreational use as soon as possible. “I want to be alive and well and able to use it, so hurry up!”