On Thursday evening, November 20, Rosendalers got their first chance to help shape a Circulation and Wayfinding Plan that is currently being developed under a $35,000 grant funded by the Federal Highway Administration and funneled to the town by the Ulster County Transportation Council (UCTC). Conducted by engineering consultant Ted Kolankowski of Barton & Loguidice, DPC and graphic designer Dorene Warner of W Design, along with UCTC’s executive director Dennis Doyle and senior transportation planner Brian Slack, the “Finding Rosendale” workshop was a hybrid of public information session and design charrette, with attendees invited to brainstorm, prioritize and render feedback about the study’s initial design concepts.
The need for a detailed study of how residents and visitors get around downtown Rosendale became increasingly clear as the last links of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail started falling into place. The reopening of the renovated railroad trestle in June 2013 prompted many locals to wonder just how all the new trail-users expected to be attracted by the “Walkway over the Rondout” could be enticed to spend time and tourism dollars at downtown businesses.
For cyclists in particular, the steep grades and many stairsteps separating the lofty trestle from lower Main Street present a logistical challenge; but the town has incorporated plans for lockers, showers and changing rooms expressly for out-of-town visitors arriving by Trailways bus into its design for the renovated Town Pool at the Recreation Center on Route 32. Clearly, a vision is already in place for increased circulation between the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail and downtown; the mission of the planners is to recommend the best ways to facilitate that.
According to UCTC, the stated objective of the planning process is to “increase economic opportunities in the community by improving circulation, connectivity and wayfinding between recreation areas, public parking lots and commercial properties in and around the town center in a manner that respects private properties.” Specific goals are to:
- increase safety and access in part through a combination of improved roadway markings, controls, devices, wayfinding and other soft/hard measures that will function to create a safe and welcoming environment for visitors and residents alike;
- improve traffic, bicycle and pedestrian circulation and safety measures and provide for a well-oriented public;
- engage the public, stakeholders and elected officials throughout the process, ensuring that all parties have a voice in the outcome; and
- include planning-level cost estimates associated with all final recommendations.
The grant does not cover any of the implementation costs, but, according to Doyle, “Getting funding will be a lot easier” once town officials have the study’s final recommendations in hand.
The information session consisted mainly of a PowerPoint presentation, in which Kolankowski explained the process by which the planners gathered their information, including a hands-on (or feet-on) “walking, hiking and biking tour, to get the user feel” of the trails, paths, roads and parking lots that need to be linked. “We carried our bikes down the 97 steps of the connector trail” from the trestle, he said. Kolankowski also showed slides of key transportation nexus points in the study area and described the circulation, safety and aesthetic challenges that they present.
Large maps covered with suggested circulation enhancements were displayed, including such new amenities as a Gateway Hollow Welcome Park on Elting Road to orient visitors arriving via the Rail Trail from New Paltz, another such gateway park emphasizing the Rosendale cement industry history at the Binnewater Kiln parking lot and a park on Creek Locks Road that would provide opportunities for recreation on the Rondout Creek. Additional water access would be provided by a creekside promenade along James Street that would link to the rear of the Rec Center, a heritage trail would follow the old D & H Canal towpath behind the businesses on the north side of Main Street and connector paths to the trestle would be improved.
Warner took over for the “wayfinding” part of the presentation, showing slides of potential tools for orienting visitors such as signage, visual aids, architectural and streetscaping elements like crosswalks that are highly visible to motorists. She displayed photographs of recurring architectural motifs in the town, such as arches in Victorian façades and cement kiln openings, along with examples of ways in which the planners might incorporate them into signage that would help “brand” downtown Rosendale as a destination.
Once the presentation was finished, attendees split into two groups to look more closely at Warner’s design concepts and Kolankowski’s maps and offer feedback. Grid patterns echoing the iconic iron latticework of the trestle proved a popular design element in the samples of potential street, directional and destination signage. The group asked to prioritize circulation nodes on the maps insisted that gateways to the Rail Trail from both sides of the Rondout were equally important, as visitors will be arriving in increasing numbers from both north and south.
“There’s great bones here,” said Doyle of downtown Rosendale’s existing resources. “What you have to ask yourself is: How do you want to change? What do you know about your community that you like, and how do you want to capitalize on it? How would you tie it together? How do we get from the bottom of the hill to the top of the hill? You have significant opportunities everywhere.”
The next step in the public outreach process for the Circulation and Wayfinding Plan study is a Visioning Workshop to be held in mid-January 2015, exact date and location yet to be announced. Work on the draft plan in March and April will incorporate input from the community gathered at that workshop, with another meeting for public comment to follow. Links to the PowerPoint presentation, a Draft Improvement Concepts Map and other information about the Finding Rosendale planning process is available on the Ulster County Planning Department website at https://ulstercountyny.gov/planning/active-studies/finding-rosendale.