The Ulster County Legislature allocated $2.1 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds last week to establish three rail trail improvement projects which aim to grow local economies and enhance the mental health and quality of life of area residents.
The county has partnered with the Open Space Institute to rebuild and improve sections of the Wallkill Valley and Ontario & Western (O&W) Rail Trails. The trail infrastructure improvements will provide access to scenic views along Rondout Creek, further the completion of the 29-mile rail trail between the City of Kingston and the Village of Ellenville and a direct feeder trail connecting the Village of New Paltz to the 750-mile Empire State Trail.
Trail infrastructure improvements will include grading, vegetation removal, improved drainage and structural enhancements, upgrades to the safety of existing bridges and road crossings, tread replacements, fences and trail resurfacing. Improvements will also provide universal accessibility access points, welcoming trailheads, and improved signage.
• Project 1: Restores a 5.45-mile corridor of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail between the Village of New Paltz and the Town of Gardiner. Project funding total: $895,000. Expected completion date: June 2023.
• Project 2: Restores a 3.2-mile corridor of Ontario & Western (O&W) Rail Trail connecting the hamlets of Accord in the Town of Rochester and the hamlet of Kerhonkson within the Town of Wawarsing. Project funding total: $565,000. Expected completion date: June 2023.
• Project 3: restores a two-mile corridor of the O&W Rail Trail between the hamlet of Napanoch and the Village of Ellenville. Project funding total: $640,000. Expected completion date: November 2023.
The Open Space Institute will contribute $95,000 worth of in-kind project management services to develop the projects.
“Decades of OSI’s strategic land protection throughout the Shawangunks and Ulster County improves the public’s access to nature and makes parks and trails more available and welcoming to everyone,” said OSI president and CEO, Kim Elliman. “Thank you to the Ulster County Legislature and County Executive Pat Ryan for sharing in this vision for conservation and safe, accessible and equitable recreation and transportation options for the residents of Ulster County and the visiting public.”
“Over the past two years, the County’s trail systems have provided extraordinary benefits as people turned to outdoor spaces to connect with nature and each other,” said Peter Karis, OSI’s vice president for Parks and Stewardship.