Mohonk Preserve met with neighbors last week to discuss a plan to restore the iconic Testimonial Gateway. The Testimonial Gatehouse, located on Route 299 West in New Paltz, was built in 1907 and once served as the main eastern entrance to Mohonk Mountain House. It led visitors down a stately pin oak allee. Mohonk Preserve plans call for the restoration of the long corridor of oak trees back to its former glory. Along with restoring the Gatehouse, the project will also restore and create a “nature and discovery” trail from the Testimonial Gatehouse to the surrounding ponds.
During last week’s public information session, parking and traffic emerged as big issues for neighbors and Preserve patrons. Neighbors wanted to know exactly how many spaces would be included. Rumor had it that it would be 100-125 spaces. Mohonk Preserve’s Nov. 21 presentation says it is not decided.
Doug Gilmour, of New Paltz, felt that even 100 spaces might be too much. He envisioned people walking, biking or carpooling to the site. A large parking lot didn’t leave him thrilled, he said.
“I picture a circus right now,” Gilmour said.
Another change proposed by Mohonk Preserve and its consultant Barton & Loguidice is the installation of a roundabout on Route 299.
“We had a meeting with local transportation officials early on, because we realized that transportation issues are going to be very important,” said Ted Kolankowski, with Barton & Loguidice. Neighbors are already worried that Route 299 is dangerous. “In response to that, we have some ideas. And we’re developing some possible solutions.”
Daniel Rourke, a traffic engineer for Barton & Loguidice, explained how that traffic circle might work. If a roundabout is installed, speed limits approaching it on either side of the road would have to drop to allow for a 15 mph turn through the traffic circle.
“There’s a particular notion that the road is dangerous. People travel at high speeds,” Rourke said, adding that Gatehouse Road/Route 299 was a “troubled intersection.”
“The roundabout has pluses and minuses. Everybody has their strong opinions either way,” he said. “But in this situation, there’s the real estate, the space to actually make this fit. Why it would work here? We could incorporate the entrance to the parking lot and also Gatehouse Road intersection in that roundabout.”
Other than the roundabout, Rourke said that his firm has developed a plan for a more traditional intersection — with a right turn lane going off into the Gatehouse site.
“What we would look at here is possibly adding turning lanes, widening the road,” he said.
Mohonk Preserve also agrees that people drive a little too fast on the winding 299. According to Rourke, the Preserve “strongly supports” a reduction of the speed limit and “they’ve actually sent a letter in support of reducing the speed limit on 299.”
For Irwin Sperber, it’s exactly that kind of polish and pre-planning that worries him.
“There’s some real apprehension about how far along the proposed plans have gone,” Sperber said. “The very fact that architects have already been secured, the schematics have already been prepared and substantial notions about how much land is to be cleared away all indicate that we’ve essentially been presented a foregone conclusion.”