Estimates are that upwards of 600 people utilized the Ashokan rail-trail on October 19, a day after Ulster County executive Pat Ryan and a crowd of other local dignitaries participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the 11.5-mile recreational trail extending from Basin Road in West Hurley to Route 28A in Boiceville. The $16.5-million project in the former Ulster and Delaware Railroad corridor opens the county-owned right-of-way to the public without access permits for the first time since the reservoir was constructed over a century ago.
“Through a unique partnership between New York City and Ulster County, we have successfully built one of the most beautiful and enviro-friendly rail-trails in the world,” New York City DEP commissioner Vincent Sapienza said. “The Ashokan rail-trail provides our watershed neighbors and visitors with easy access to the great outdoors, and an up-close setting to learn about the reservoir system that provides wholesome drinking water to 9.6 million New Yorkers. The trail also extends the DEP’s commitment to expand recreation and improve public access to its water supply lands. The Ashokan rail-trail is the 16th recreation path developed on city-owned property in the watershed by collaborating with local governments and nonprofits. These trails – including our latest effort with Ulster County – advance our common goals of supporting tourism, improving public health, and promoting a steadfast appreciation for our region’s scenic beauty and natural resources. We look forward to working with county executive Pat Ryan and our Catskills neighbors on these efforts in the future.”
Ashokan Reservoir was the first of six reservoirs built by New York City in the Catskills. It was constructed between 1908 and 1915. It began providing drinking water to all five boroughs of New York City in 1917. About 40 percent of New York City’s drinking water comes from Ashokan Reservoir on a typical day. That water is conveyed to the city through the 92-mile Catskill Aqueduct. The aqueduct also provides water to more than a dozen communities in the Hudson Valley, including High Falls and New Paltz in Ulster County. New York City’s reservoirs, dams and aqueducts comprise the largest municipal water-supply system in the United States.
The Ashokan rail-trail is ten to twelve feet wide, with a compacted crushed stone surface that is ADA compliant and is fully accessible to persons with disabilities. It is open for non-motorized uses, including hiking, bicycling, running, nature observation, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing and will offer three public trailheads from which the trail can be accessed.