Interview with Kevin Smith

CIC Opening Bike Ride w Joe Martens

Community ride with then-DEC Commissioner Joe Martens celebrating the Catskill Interpretive Center Grand Opening – Summer of 2015

No, this is not an interview with the creator of Silent Bob… Instead, this Kevin Smith is the chairman behind the Woodstock Land Conservancy, the non-profit organization committed to the protection and preservation of open lands, forests, wetlands and historic sites in and around the most famous town in our county… Woodstock, NY. Even with his full plate, Kevin made time to chat with us about all things he’s conserving in Woodstock!

How did you get involved initially with the Woodstock Land Conservancy (WLC)?
One of my besties, Elizabeth Lesser, used to be on WLC’s board. She knew I was interested in protecting our environment, and around 2000 she told me about WLC. She said it was a community land conservation organization doing great work and invited me to a Board meeting as a guest. Noted Woodstock artist Jean Ludins had recently gifted WLC with a beautiful small meadow on Chestnut Hill, and the Board decided to hold the meeting there to celebrate the occasion. I showed up a bit late and everyone was sitting cross-legged in the hay field. I remember thinking, “It can’t get much more local or Woodstock than this . . . ”

What are your main duties as the WLC Board Chair?
In a small hard-working land trust like WLC (or KLT) it’s very much “all hands on deck” for all our Directors. No job is too big or too small for anyone – we all do whatever needs doing to help fulfill mission, complete projects, and support the organization. That said, as Board Chair I also work closely with my fellow Directors and especially Maxanne Resnick and Patty Goodwin (WLC Executive Director and Board President respectively) – to  provide direction and leadership. My other main formal responsibility is to be a spokesperson for WLC in the community and with partner organizations, agencies and stakeholders on conservation issues and strategic initiatives, things like the Comeau Conservation Easement granted by the Town of Woodstock to the Conservancy in 2009, WLC’s response to the Niagara Bottling Proposal in 2014, and our advocacy in support of the Ulster County Rail Trail Projects (Ashokan Rail Trail and Kingston Midtown Linear Park), the Kingston Greenline and County-Wide Rail Trail Network.

Muir Woods, Marin County CA

Muir Woods, Marin County CA

What would you like to accomplish during your tenure as the Board Chair?
I’d like to see the Ashokan Rail Trail, Kingston Linear Park, and other key Kingston Greenline and UC rail trail network connectors all move to construction. On the WLC front, I’m really excited about the public opening of our newest and largest public preserve in 2017, the 123-acre Israel Wittman Nature Sanctuary. It’s located at the “corner” of the Towns of Woodstock, Saugerties, and Ulster. I’d like to see the Town of Woodstock’s recently initiated comprehensive planning process create a blueprint that builds on the many assets Woodstock has, while addressing some real issues that have emerged in recent years as more and more people have rediscovered the Mid-Hudson Valley and the Catskills.

What is the difference between a Land Trust and a Land Conservancy?
OMG – trick questions! I use them interchangeably, And I think many organizations do these days.

How is it going with your national accreditation application with the Land Trust Alliance?
Thanks for asking! We’re not quite there but we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s now in the Accreditation Commission’s hands to review. When (WLC Executive Director) Maxanne announced at our last Board meeting that she’d just received confirmation from the Accreditation Commission that the voluminous application materials we submitted in late September are complete, I literally ran around our Board meeting and high-fived all our board and staff.

Accreditation is the culmination of nearly a decade of incremental work and planning – to adopt, integrate and begin to uphold best standards and practices (S&Ps) as defined by the Land Trust Alliance into all areas of WLC’s activities and work. Accreditation isn’t the sexiest part of our work but it’s a critically important ‘milestone’ for us as a professional land trust – especially for the part of our mission that involves accepting and holding conservation lands in the public trust and in compliance with all IRS regulations. So while we haven’t reached the finish line, I’m incredibly proud of the work our staff and board members have done over many years to get us to this point.

Continue reading Interview with Kevin Smith

Kingston Greenline Update

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The Kingston Greenline is an ambitious program of the Kingston Land Trust that aims to complete a network of area rail trails and complete streets to improve the quality of life of area residents. There has been some significant progress over the past few years to reach that goal.

The rail ties have been removed along the Kingston Point section of the trail beginning in Midtown and ending at Kingston Point. When that work was complete, there began weekend volunteer cleanup events to keep the trail open until construction of the paved trail could begin. This year also saw the roll-out of the Urban Trail Rangers program where every other week volunteers would meet to inspect or clear a section of the trail when necessary.

If all goes according to plan construction of the Kingston Point section of the trail should begin in the spring with a city meeting to discuss the future of Broadway as a complete street between now and then which could see the kickoff of that project as well. Already sharrows have been designated on Cornell St. and Foxhaul Ave to the trail-head behind Rondout Savings with bike route and Kingston Greenline signage.

It’s only going to get better from here, so hopefully we’ll see you at one of our Weekend Wanders so you can see the progress firsthand.

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Scott McIntosh is a mechanical design engineer, 10 year Kingston resident and Kingston Land Trust board member who enjoys everything the area has to offer more each day.

The Kingston O&W Rail Trail

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Did you know that there is a rail trail that starts in the City of Kingston and goes south to Stone Ridge and beyond?

You may have known about the Hurley Rail Trail that goes south but did you know that there is also a connection to Kingston? The trail-head in Kingston for the O&W Rail Trail is on Washington Avenue next to the Super 8 Motel parking lot behind the Daily Freeman building.

This rail trail has officially been there a long time as the D&H Canal Heritage Corridor Alliance signed license agreements as early 1993 that allowed for public use of the trail through the City of Kingston, Town of Ulster and Town of Hurley.

I started using the O&W trail between Kingston and Hurley in 1982 for bicycling when I got my first mountain bike. Over time the trail between Kingston and Hurley became progressively more overgrown and that hindered the use of the trail. Conditions got so bad by the early 2000s, that to preserve my own skin I started using a machete to keep the single track trail clear. Those trail conditions kept public utilization very low and the trail was not widely promoted. This is a shame as there is a lot of good wildlife habitat along the trail so there is a wide variety of wildlife to see.

Fast forward to April 22, 2012: It was on that date at the Super 8 Motel parking lot that I first met the Kingston Land Trust. I showed up there in response to a notice in the newspaper that there was going to be a trail cleanup on the O&W. From my perspective at the time I was delighted to have help clearing the trail!

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Cleaning up the trail

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A volunteer lending a hand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things have changed a lot since that day in April 2012! Since then we have had volunteer help from myriad volunteer groups to clear the trail. The net result is that the brush and trees are now cut back and the grass mowed in the Kingston segment. O&W Trial signage is now being installed at access points along this section. With care, a casual rider can now ride just about any type of bicycle between Kingston and Hurley.

ow3w ow4wow2wow1wBut it gets even better! In the past year the O&W Municipal Coalition was formed to promote the trail from Ellenville to Kingston. Maps, signs, and brochures for the trail are in development now. Ulster County is also in the process of planning the development of the Kingston and Hurley section into a paved multi-use, ADA compliant, trail. It is anticipated that construction may start in 2017.

If you wish to use this section of the O&W Rail Trail there is trail head parking in Hurley on Route 209 by the Esopus Creek. In Kingston there is public parking on Hurley Avenue. Of course cycling or walking to the O&W trailheads is welcome and encouraged!

John Grossbohlin is a veteran long distance touring bicyclist who works on trail and Complete Streets projects with Kingston Land Trust, Friends of the Catskill Mountain Rail Trail, and Bike Friendly Kingston. He also represents the City of Kingston on the O&W Rail Trail Coalition of Municipalities committee, and serves on the city’s Complete Streets Advisory Council.

A Sharrowing Experience

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As a bike-commuting pastor my job takes me all over the city of Kingston on a regular basis as I travel to the Church building and visit church members in hospitals, nursing homes, and in their homes. Kingston is a very bike-able city. A little over three weeks ago some new road markings appeared on the roads (Cornell, Ten Broeck, Foxhall, and Jansen) that I travel to get to Redeemer Lutheran Church: sharrows, or Shared Lane Marking as Section 9C.07 of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) calls them. I was so excited I put a picture of one of them up on Instagram. I’ve lived in Kingston and served Redeemer Lutheran Church for six years now and because of my family’s commitment to being a single car family mostly for ecological reasons I do a lot of biking year round. Currently, I bike commute Sunday through Wednesday the 1.5 miles between our home and the Church building.

In these six years, I’ve had some unique interactions with fellow bicyclists and drivers; a bicyclist going against traffic instead of with it; a driver telling me to use the sidewalk because “that’s what they are there for.” I’ve had some close calls with the distracted driver or two and the occasional door opening into my path but for the most part my commuting has been safe. And I’ve also seen an increase in bike commuting. The range of people commuting by bike these days is impressive considering where it was when I moved here. People bike commute for various reasons ranging from the sheer love of riding a bike to the financial reason of not being able to afford car insurance because of their income.

That’s where investing in bike infrastructure comes in. For me, investing in bike infrastructure is  not just about my safety but about creating complete streets for everyone who uses them. One of the easiest ways for a community to invest in bike infrastructure is through sharrows. According to the MUTCD sharrows alert bicyclists and motorists to a shared lane environment; help bicyclist navigate through a municipality in a safer manner, reduces the incidents of sidewalk and wrong way bicycle riding; and advertises the presence of bike-way routes to all users. Anecdotally, over the past three weeks I have seen safety improvements on my bike commute.

Although sharrows are an investment in making our streets safe for all who use them, there is at least one recent study that suggests sharrows do not increase bicycle safety. Although sharrows are not perfect they do play a role in raising awareness about the presence of bicyclists and moving a community toward a more comprehensive complete streets plan. But of course, still the most important thing is to be aware of your surroundings as a bicyclist and a driver. Bike and drive defensively, safely, and graciously.

Jim Rowe is the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Kingston, NY and an avid biker, commuting most days and enjoying long rides into the Catskills on his days off. He starting biking 17 years ago as a freshman in college because of a young woman who later became his wife and hasn’t stopped biking since. He hopes to pass his love of biking onto his young daughter.

Day 1 – We Walk United

Join us for this terrific walk through Kingston on New Years Day. Perhaps now more than ever the need for us to relate to each other as humans and not labels or beliefs is clear. This starts by just walking together, talking, exchanging, learning not about what divides us, but rather what unites us.

WHO: People of Kingston
WHAT: Day 1 – We Walk United
WHEN: Sunday, Jan 1, 2017. 1PM – 4PM
WHERE: Dietz Stadium
170 N Front St, Kingston, NY 12401
WHY: What a GREAT way to start the New Year!

In the face of so much that divides us, let us not forget that we are united by the bonds of our common fellowship in the human race. Let’s Walk…

Winnakee-Dutchess Trails Roundtable Meeting

winnakeeJoin us in a discussion about what makes trails sustainable with professional trail builder, Ama Koenigshof. Learn about and share your experiences of what makes a path resist the forces of erosion and misuse and talk about how to mitigate damage on existing trails.

WHO: Winnakee Land Trust
WHAT: Winnakee-Dutchess Trails Roundtable Meeting
WHEN: Thursday, Dec 15, 2016. 4PM – 5:30PM
WHERE: Dutchess County Cornell Cooperative Extension Farm and Home Center 
2715 US-44, Millbrook, NY 12545
WHY: Whether you want to propose a short walking trail to your local school or park, or are already well at work establishing trails, there’s a place for you at the table.

The Winnakee-Dutchess Trails Roundtable brings stakeholders together to foster the development of trails on a local and regional scale through networking, information sharing, and enhancing access to financial resources and technical assistance. Click here for more info.

MADE in Kingston

Come celebrate the 4th annual MADE in Kingston… A shopping event showcasing Kingston’s creative community and their art, sculpture, toys, jewelry, furniture, clothing, home decor and more, accompanied by fabulous local fare, music, and Kingston’s favorite brew, Keegan Ales. All in time for holiday gift giving

WHO: City of Kingston, Midtown Arts District, Arts Mid Hudson, the Business Alliance of Kingston & TRANSART
WHAT: MADE in Kingston
WHEN: Thursday, Dec 8, 2016. 4PM – 8PM
WHERE:
WHY: Shop local and support Kingston this Holidays!

The 15,000 square foot building had been a coat factory, roller rink/bowling alley and an antique restoration business. For more info, click here.

AMERICAN TRAILS WEBINAR: Powerful Partnerships – Lessons Learned on Leveraging Public-Private Funding for Trails

am-trailAmerican Trails presentsPowerful Partnerships: Lessons Learned on Leveraging Public-Private Funding for Trails” on December 8, 2016 as a part of the American Trails “Advancing Trails Webinar Series.”

WHO: American Trails
WHAT: Webinar: Powerful Partnerships…
WHEN: Thursday, Dec 8, 2016. 1PM – 2:30PM EST
WHERE: Online – R
WHY: Learn how the public and private can unite for the good of all trails and it’s FREE!!!

The webinar will cover innovative funding strategies for water and land trails with two case studies of strong public-private partnerships. Speakers are Elizabeth Riggs, Huron River Watershed Council; and Julie Clark, Traverse Area Recreation & Transportation (TART) Trails.