A full two-and-a-half years after the Gardiner Trail Alliance first formally proposed the project, the Gardiner Town Board has finally given the ad hoc organization the official go-ahead for a multiuse trail system on Town-owned land behind the Transfer Station. Board members voted unanimously at their September 7 meeting to adopt the plan for Riverbend Trails at Gardiner Park and authorize work to begin on Phases One and Two of the project.
The 87-acre parcel, accessed from the Transfer Station at 131 Steve’s Lane, boasts about half a mile of Wallkill River frontage, open meadow, panoramic views of the Shawangunk Ridge and enough elevation changes in its wooded areas to engage the interest of mountain bikers. Indeed, the Fats in the Cats Bicycle Club has been among the project’s most enthusiastic proponents since it was first conceived.
The multiphase plan for the trail network, which can be viewed at www.gardinertrailalliance.org/phased-project-plan, conceives of the trails as being used both by cyclists and pedestrians. “Natural multiuse single-track trails are rare in our area,” Ilka Casey of the Gardiner Parks and Recreation Committee told the board. “But it’s a growing sport.” Casey also noted that, in a survey of Gardiner residents by the committee, 90 percent of respondents expressed a wish for the Town to have more trails.
Chris Hoey, vice president of the Gardiner Trail Alliance, walked the board through the steps planned for Phases One and Two, before the capital-intensive parts of the project kick in. Phase One, according to the plan, is “meant to keep costs to a minimum while still building out a baseline set of trails proving the project’s approach.” The first order of business, now that the Alliance has received the Town’s blessing, is to apply for 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit status so that the organization can seek grant funding.
To provide access to the trail system for a soft opening, the group will then make minor improvements to the gravel parking lot already in use. “Work required includes cleaning garbage, cutting back overgrowth, spreading gravel and posting applicable signage. To define the perimeter of the parking area while discouraging visitors from driving up the cap, we will locate and place suitably large boulders found from the property,” says the plan. Initially, the parking lot will only be open during Transfer Station hours, but research will commence on the cost and design of fencing that would secure the area and make it possible for the trails to stay open longer in the future.
The final component of Phase One is to establish 2.6 initial miles of low-impact single-track trails, “using colored ribbon to mark trail sections, creating a trail map, cutting
back brush to ensure a four-foot-wide path and setting sustainable grading/drainage.” Phase Two projects the buildout of two additional miles of trails while the Alliance pursues grant funding toward the costlier Phase Three goals. The latter include upgrades to the parking lot and creating a more groomed ADA-compliant section of trail that will also support access by emergency vehicles, as well as picnic tables, benches and interpretive signage.
Phase Two will also include the establishment of a fee structure for use of the trails. Organizers have initially proposed that usage be free of charge only for Gardiner residents and volunteers. The pro bono value of the volunteer labor being used in trail creation can serve as an in-kind match for grant proposals. Town supervisor Marybeth Majestic told Casey and Hoey that the Town would gladly sign on as a partner on future proposals, noting that the “shovel-ready” status of the project might make it a good prospect for funding under the American Rescue Plan Act.