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.

When Is a Trail More Than Just a Trail?

Ulster County Multi-Use Trail System Map

Ulster County’s system of multi-use trails continues to expand.

If you’ve been following the Kingston Land Trust’s work over the past three years, you’ve heard us go on about how the Kingston Greenline will be an interconnected system of trails throughout the City, right? Well, zoom out a bit on the map, and it’s easy to see that the same system that will link up all parts of the City will eventually serve as the hub for a sprawling network of trails throughout Ulster County.

On Monday, August 15th, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein and the Ulster County Economic Development Alliance are hosting a breakfast presentation titled “More Than Just a Trail: Preparing for the Potential of the Countywide Trail System,” featuring Cynthia Nikitin of the Project for Public Spaces as the keynote speaker. Among the trail groups around Ulster County, we often talk about the countywide trail system as the logical extension of our work. But what does it mean, and why is it a goal worth all of our hard work over the past decade and for the foreseeable future?

Lippman Park Mountain Bike Festival Poster

The countywide trail system is more than just rail trails!

For the full answer, you’ll have to get your ticket and come to the breakfast! But here’s a little preview:

The Countywide Trail System is more than just a trail. All the buzz these days focuses around rail trails. And there’s good reason, since rail trails are often a community’s first glimpse at a true multi-use trail, one that’s designed to accommodate all types of active transportation and recreation uses. But Ulster County’s trail system includes more than just rail trails. From the carriage roads of Mohonk Preserve and Minnewaska State Park, to the Long Path; from the single-track mountain bike trails of Lippman Park or Jockey Hill, to the bridle paths of Coyote Ridge Stables or the Rocking Horse Ranch; from bike lanes in our downtown areas to the Shawangunk Wine Trail to scenic byways to the Hudson River Greenway Water Trail, Ulster County’s diversity and expanse of trails is…well, in a word, unparalleled.

Summer Cover of American Trails Magazine

For rural communities, trails can help capture more tourism spending.

Trail systems are big business for small towns. We’ve all heard the mantra – service jobs are great, but manufacturing’s what really matters for economic development. Look closer, though, and there’s a problem with that mantra. How many manufacturing jobs has your small town added over the past decade? A handful, maybe? Or probably, like most communities, it’s not about how many have been added, but about how many have been lost. And the truth is that there’s no willing them back into existence. Instead, take a look at the communities along the Great Allegheny Passage in Southwestern PA. We think we’ve had it hard; these towns have been in a state of decline since…well, since they were established! Yet over the past few years, the trail has helped them reinvent themselves. In 2012, an impact study by the Trail Town Program estimated $50,000,000 in direct spending by trail visitors, which helped support a net gain of 65 new businesses from 2007 – 2015. In 2014, businesses along the trail attributed 40% of their annual sales to traffic from the trail.

George Inness, Catskill Mountains, 1870.

George Inness, Catskill Mountains, 1870. From the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Ulster County’s got the raw materials; now it’s up to us to make the most of them. There are some pretty spectacular trails and trail systems out there, for sure. But if we put our minds to it, nothing can compete with Ulster County. Consider this: Ulster County lies within a four hour drive of over 40 million people, and less than two hours from three major international airports. Ulster County has a rich history drawing from its early settlement by Dutch colonists and, prior to that, its importance as a center of trade for the Lenape tribes. Ulster County has a world-wide reputation as home to many of the Hudson River School painters and as the epicenter of the hippie movement that emerged after the Woodstock Festival. Ulster County has over 250,000 acres of forever-wild forest and dozens of scenic rivers and lakes. Kingston, the County seat, was the original capital of New York State and the birthplace of the state’s constitution. Ulster County has one of the world’s best rock climbing areas, the Shawangunk Ridge, and a mecca for fly fishing. Plus renowned galleries, world-class eateries, great antiquing, year-round festivals, skiing, and (soon) rail biking.

Phew! What’s all that got to do with trails, you ask? Well, the answer is simple: we’re building more than just a trail. We’re building the Ulster County experience. In the end, we think that’s where all these trails will lead. Join us on August 15th to see for yourself how a trail can be more than just a trail.

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Building Ulster County Together Breakfast

Hosted by County Executive Mike Hein and the Ulster County Economic Development Alliance, the Building Ulster County Together Breakfast is a quarterly series for Ulster County business leaders, featuring guest speakers from a range of disciplines who are helping to Build a Better Ulster County.

WHO: County Executive Mike Hein
WHAT: Building Ulster County Together Breakfast
WHEN: Monday, August 15, 7:30AM – 9:30AM
WHERE: Best Western Plus:
503 Washington Ave, Kingston, NY 12401
WHY: Mike Hein and his team are GREAT and will be discussing the Countywide Trail Systems and how they’ll impact businesses. Tickets are $20 (includes breakfast).

A GREAT opportunity to network and collaborate to grow your business. Click here to register NOW.

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