The State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the Palisades Interstate Park Commission (PIPC) have announced the reopening of historic cliffside steps at Sam’s Point area of Minnewaska State Park Preserve after a three-year rebuilding project.
The Lenape Steps were constructed originally in the 1860s by Thomas Botsford, who subsequently built a hotel nearby against the base of the escarpment. After the hotel was destroyed by fire in 1874, the steps remained in use, but gradually fell into disrepair from damage caused by water, freezing temperatures and thawing.
“Having the Lenape Steps restored to their former glory represents another improvement to one of the Hudson Valley’s premier recreational attractions,” said State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid. “This gives visitors a now much-safer way to reach Sam’s Point, the highest point on the Shawangunk Ridge with its panoramic vistas.”
Restoration of the stairs was the result of a three-year project by about 50 volunteers from the Jolly Rovers, a Hudson Valley group specializing in the building of natural stone pathways in difficult to reach areas.
“The Commission was very pleased to partner with the Jolly Rovers to support the restoration of the Lenape Steps,” said Palisades Interstate Parks Commission (PIPC) Executive Director Joshua Laird. “This project brings back a historic feature that has helped visitors reach Sam’s Point, the highest point on the Shawangunk Ridge, for over 150 years. We salute the Rovers for their dedication and hard work that helps us keep important park trails and stonework in good shape for the future.”
Starting in July 2019, volunteer crews from the Jolly Rovers primarily using hand tools cut, shaped, and set about 100 stone steps made from nearby boulders. More than 7,000 man-hours were devoted to the work. PIPC provided $32,000 to support the project and the Jolly Rovers also raised more than $4,200.
“This was the most technically challenging project we’ve ever done, due to the custom and precise stone shaping involved,” said Jolly Rovers Board Chairwoman Emily Hague. “This project employed collective skills our crew had been honing over the last decade and it advanced our collective ability. We are grateful for the opportunity to complete such an incredible project, in a location that will be enjoyed by thousands and last for generations to come.”
Future plans by the Jolly Rovers at Minnewaska include installation of stone steps starting this spring through a talus slope on the Gertrude’s Nose Trail.
This spring, State Parks and PIPC are introducing an online pilot reservation system for parking at Sam’s Point Area on weekends and holidays from the first weekend in May through the last weekend of October.
The goal of the system is to prevent visitor overuse at Sam’s Point and resulting ecological damage. Annual visitation to Sam’s Point has steadily increased in recent years to more than 92,000 visitors in 2021, with a nearly 48 percent increase in visitors since 2015. This increase has led to severe traffic congestion, illegal parking on local roads and negative impacts on the park’s natural resources and the surrounding areas with documented trail erosion, littering, and trampling of vegetation.