Plans to connect the various rail and other walking trails in the area have been given a significant push in the form of the Empire State Trail initiative. Even as construction continues on the extension of the Hudson Valley Rail Trail along Route 299, plans were unveiled last week in the form of an open house to bring that trail into New Paltz on a much shorter schedule. Where the Hudson Valley Rail Trail West was announced in 2015 and is being built three years later, this next section has a planned completion date in 2019.
A bevy of state transportation officials, who are typically very difficult to get into a meeting, were on hand to explain the specifics to all comers. This 1.6-mile section will run along the shoulder of Route 299, with a crossing at Ohioville Road. For that stretch, a barrier between motorized and non-motorized traffic is planned. The trail will go up North Putt Corners Road and along Henry W. Dubois Drive, turn onto Church Street to pick up Mulberry, from whence it will be connected to the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail. Work will begin in August and be substantially done by October 31, with the project complete by the end of May 2019.
Here’s the route the on-road portion will take through New Paltz:
The link was always planned, but the effort has been given a boost by its inclusion in the 750-mile Empire State Trail, slated for completion in 2020. The “off-road” portion being constructed along Rt. 299 can be seen below in light-green.
Ulster County Executive Mike Hein remarked that he was “amazed at the speed” of this project, which he said was in testament to the fact that “2021 was never going to work,” referring to the originally-planned completion date of this connector. It’s also part of fixing traffic engineering problems of past decades, he said, when it wasn’t anticipated how dominant automobiles would become on the landscape.
Former Town Planning Board chair Mike Calimano, who worked for well over a year to set up a meeting with state roads officials, was clearly impressed by how many had come out to explain this concept.
Not everyone at the open house, held in the New Paltz Community Center, was entirely pleased with the route selected. Peggy Kremer, for one, would have liked to see a longer route that she believes would be a safer one, sending the trail down South Putt Corners Road — where even now, shoulders are being expanded into walking paths — and across Jansen.
Michael Reade, president of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail Association, said that putting the trail on Dubois and Church is “a bad idea” because of poor lines of sight. He, too, wondered why the Jansen option didn’t rise to the top, noting that it was part of the plan advanced by David Lent when that man was town supervisor.
Former village mayor Tom Nyquist recalled that, when his board decided to acquire the village stretch of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, it was on a three-to-two vote. He called this connection a “great idea,” but nevertheless is worried about the trail as it runs along the soon-to-be-built Zero Place along Mulberry Street. That’s because two handicapped spots are planned right there, and he and other neighbors raised the possibility of bicycle/car conflicts during the planning process.
“We would never compromise safety,” said Hein.
That sentiment resonated with what town resident Bob Hughes had to say; he’s “very excited” about the plans, but wants “the gold standard of safety.”
Chris White, who handled the land acquisition negotiations on behalf of the county, said that a longer route would have been much more challenging to achieve.