ROSENDALE – At the Rosendale Chamber of Commerce meeting this past Wednesday, Wallkill Valley Land Trust (WVLT) Director Christie Ferguson began a conversation with Rosendale residents — one which will culminate, hopefully, with the opening of a continuous Rail Trail, which will go from Gardiner straight through to Kingston.
The WVLT, which was founded in 1987, has protected over 1,500 acres of land since its inception. In 2009, they joined forces with the Open Space Institute's land acquisition affiliate, the Open Space Conservancy, to buy 11.5 additional miles of what was the Wallkill Valley railroad bed. The improvement should mean big changes for Rosendale, and a good crowd of more than 25 residents came out to the Community Center to get acquainted with the specifics of the plan.
Ferguson clarified that the new acquisition, which is primarily in the Town of Rosendale, extending beyond into the Town of Ulster, presents a significant challenge for her organization: namely, to prepare the legendary Rosendale trestle for up-to-code safe passage, which would then join the southern and northern legs of the trail. A preliminary engineer's report of the 975-foot long, 140-foot high trestle shows that, though the structure remains in sound condition, significant work needs to be done with the rail bed, decking, and fencing to make the skywalk safe for visitors and residents. Combined with other expenses to upgrade the trail, including improving drainage, re-grading and widening the existing rail bed, and updating of four smaller bridges along the way, the WVLT estimates the total cost of the project to be between $500,000 and $1 million.
Of course, Ms. Ferguson stressed that the work, and the related costs, can be defrayed by every bit of assistance they can receive — be it monetary donation, or volunteer work (for more information, go online at www.wallkillvalleylt.org). Additionally, the Trust is in pursuit of several grants that will help pay for the trail, including a request for a $350,000 transportation grant being submitted to Congressman Hinchey's office.
As they have done previously, with the towns of Gardiner and New Paltz, the WVLT will make the upgrades, and then sell the land back to the towns of Rosendale and Ulster; the most important stipulations in the new ownership agreement will be maintenance of the WVLT's stringent set of conservation codes, an agreement which, by law, continues in perpetuity.
Residents present at the meeting, many who have long enjoyed the existing trail, seemed enthusiastic about the development. Some presented concerns about how long the work will take to be completed; according to Ms. Ferguson, the actual work will take between 9-12 months, and additional time is dependent upon acquisition of the necessary funds. Questions about preventing trespassers on the trail, particularly those using motorcycles and other motorized vehicles, was addressed by WVLT's Alan Bowdery, who was also present for the meeting. Mr. Bowdery made clear that, as steward of the property, the WVLT has established with local police that trespassers on such vehicles will be subject to arrest.
This meeting will be the first of many, said Ms. Ferguson, in which the WVLT will seek to work harmoniously with the community towards achieving this goal.