Ashokan Rail Trail Meeting Recap

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ashokan Rail Trail, first proposed in 2012 by Ulster County Executive Mike Hein, getting closer and closer to construction. When completed in 2018, it will provide 11.5 miles of a world-class public recreational trail bordering the northern edge of the Ashokan Reservoir. While motorized vehicles will not be permitted, the trail will offer access for hikers, bikers, walkers and runners, nature enthusiasts, skiers, and snowshoe devotees. It will also provide outdoor opportunities for persons with limited mobility or other disabilities.

Ulster County executive Mike Hein. Photo courtesy of the Ulster County Executive’s Office.

To share current developments with community residents, the Ulster County Planning Department held a public information meeting on December 1, 2016 at Onteora High School in Boiceville. Chris White, deputy director commissioner of the department shared a timetable for the project:

  • Preliminary engineering design and environmental review began in June, 2016.
  • Construction is scheduled to begin in late 2017.
  • Grand opening anticipated in 2018.

Those who attended the meeting were overwhelmingly in favor of the project for many reasons. It will provide a variety of healthy outdoor activities close to home. In turn, the community at large will be healthier. It will enable everyone to enjoy the natural beauty of the area. And it will be a boost to the local economy, since it’s expected to attract an additional 140,000 visitors to the area each year.

Ulster & Delaware railroad tracks looking toward the Ashokan Reservoir from the Route 28A overpass at Boiceville, NY. Photo by Tony Adamis

The Ashokan Reservoir supplies drinking water to New York City and is strictly controlled by its Department of Environmental Protection. However, the trail will follow the former Ulster & Delaware railroad corridor that runs around the northern perimeter of the reservoir.

A packed house! About 344 people attended the Public Information Meeting on the Ashokan Rail Trail project on 12/1/16. Photo courtesy of Friends of the Catskill Mountain Rail Trail.

Some attendees at the Onteora meeting were concerned about dismantling the railroad bed, but it has not been used for train service in forty years. White explained that the trail is being developed with the understanding that it could also be returned to a railroad bed if the need arose in the future.

The project is budgeted at $8.5 million dollars, funded from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the state DEC, and money from FEMA. It covers surfacing the trail with crushed stone, improving drainage and regarding the former rail bed. There will be signage, fencing, and other amenities as well as three new trailheads along the route. Boiceville trestle and Butternut Creek culvert will also be replaced.

Proponents of this project have worked tirelessly since Mike Hein first proposed it. With county residents behind it and the funding in place, it’s been five years in the planning.

And it’s almost here! We’ll keep you updated on future progress, but to get the info straight from the source, visit catskillmountainrailtrail.org, or follow @FriendsOfTheCatskillMountainRailTrail on Facebook.

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.

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