New Paltz village and town officials are scrambling to complete a foot bridge in the Mill Brook Preserve before the funding that was promised for the project expires. A grant to build the crossing was awarded in 2016 and must be used soon or not at all. Bridging the brook is part of the plans for the preserve that were established when the land was purchased, plans that also include a single trail that’s built to be usable on foot or with wheels, or other assistive devices including walkers and crutches. However, the funding to construct that trail — and leaving other footpaths in the preserve as they are — has yet to be secured. That trail is expected to be used by parents walking their children to school at Duzine, as a safer alternative to dealing with the heavy automotive and bus traffic on Sunset Ridge.
Village and town officials acknowledged during their joint meeting on July 14 that some preserve users find the idea of this construction to be upsetting, because it does involve some heavy machinery in an area that’s a “preserve.” There’s also limited input on the design of the bridge, because it’s being constructed using steel donated from county projects, which also limits the costs to taxpayers. Supervisor Neil Bettez said that this donated steel is why the bridge is affordable at all; Bettez also stressed the importance of this trail as a safe route to school, saying, “We owe it to everyone.” The supervisor has walked the town’s first daughter through the preserve to school and said that while it’s a fun adventure, it requires high boots to protect from a muddy walk.
The proposed trail route is said to be intended to minimize how many trees must die to make way for it. More detailed plans are forthcoming, and officials hope that once they are those details will ease concerns. Bettez said that there are also plans to apply for a grant to improve the safety of Sunset Ridge for all users.