Ulster Rail Trail System Gets $10M Boost

A $10 million project is getting underway to expand the rail trail system at the Ashokan Reservoir, the Kingston Rail Trail and the Hudson Valley Rail Trail, according to Ulster County Executive Mike Hein on Monday.

The plan would add 20 miles of new trails to link the existing 40-mile-long rail trail system together within the next two to three years.

Hein spoke before a crowd of about 100 business and trail organization leaders at a Building Ulster County Together breakfast at the Best Western Plus.

He told them that right now, the trail system is fragmented, but it won't remain that way for long. Work to connect the Hurley Rail Trail to the Kingston Rail Trail will begin next year.

There's also a plan to extend the Hudson Valley Rail Trail so it connects with the Walkway Over the Hudson to New Paltz, which Hein calls "nothing short of a game changer" since it will link up with the trails not only in Gardiner and Rosendale, but all the way to Kingston.

It was news that made the audience burst into applause.

"Very soon, there will be an interconnected system that will be nothing short of world-class and within reach of those 22 million people in the metro New York area," Hein said.

It's work that will be covered largely by federal, state, and New York City Department of Environmental Protection funding.

The county's share will be approximately $1.2 million, according to county officials.

"For trail groups and businesses, this is about getting them to think of the trails as a business opportunity and welcome the hundreds of visitors who will be showing up each day," said Chris White, deputy director of the county's planning department.

Guest speaker Cynthia Nikitin, senior vice president of Project for Public Space, urged business and trail groups to begin discussions on marketing the growing trail system, including improving signage, parking and creating a unified website.

Carl Pezzino, chair of the Marbletown O&W Rail Trail, said he's ready to get started.

"We've had the same signage for 30 years and if we have to, we'll get rid of it. But we need the ad hoc coalitions of every trail system to get together and have their say," Pezzino said.

A current map of countywide trails, including the rail trails, can be found on the REConnect link on the county's newly redesigned tourism website, ulstercountyalive.com.