Open Space Institute: A little closer to making a Catskills rail-trail dream come true

Photo of the Mamakating rail trail from the Open Space Institute.

It's National Trails Day today, and the New York City-based Open Space Institute has something to celebrate: the recent acquisition of three miles of the old O&W rail bed in the town of Mamakating, Sullivan County. From their website:

The trail was acquired by OSI's land acquisition affiliate, the Open Space Conservancy, and runs north from Sullivan Street in the village of Wurtsboro to Route 209 and the D&H Canal Linear Park. The acquisition allows for the development of a nearly 8-mile-long loop for hikers, walkers, bikers and other recreational users. From one end, the trail will head north from the village of Wurtsboro along the historic O&W rail bed before doubling back to the south along the historic D&H Canal Linear Park and canal path.

The newly acquired three-mile stretch of trail links downtown Wurtsboro with the Wurtsboro Ridge, Roosa Gap and Shawangunk Ridge state forests.

It's a small piece, but it's part of OSI's grand plan: A 140-mile interconnected network of rail trails that would one day crisscross Ulster, Sullivan, Dutchess and Orange Counties, providing some prime natural habitat for that wide-ranging species, Homo outdoorsiensis. From the Times Herald-Record, which reported on the acquisition earlier this week:

That would include trails that pass through New Paltz, Montgomery, Poughkeepsie and Liberty. [OSI vice president Bob] Anderberg said much of that 140 miles - including huge stretches of the Wallkill Valley and Hudson Valley rail trails - is already owned by the public.

“Our goal is to acquire critical parcels and piece together as much of it as we can,” said Anderberg.

He added that locals could one day ride their bicycles from Kingston to Ellenville, or Port Jervis to Wurtsboro. OSI will now focus on a 35-mile stretch of the O&W bed that runs from Summitville to Liberty. Anderberg said the key will be finding owners of that bed who are willing to sell to conservation groups.

In less auspicious rail trail news, there's a cranky editorial in last week's Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, arguing that the 5-mile bike trail attached to the Walkway Over the Hudson is way too short to draw vacationing Manhattanites. Especially compared to the 10.7-mile Harlem Valley Rail Trail in Millerton, which is just as easy to reach by train:

And so you take the Harlem Line.

Your decision that sunny Saturday morning, oddly enough, was influenced by a freight company located in Jacksonville, Fla. A company you've probably never heard of called CSX, which is sitting on a small parcel of land in the City of Poughkeepsie that prevents you from enjoying three and a half more miles of uninterrupted pavement. With that mile of land secured, the Harlem Valley Rail Trail would be only slightly lengthier, and certainly not as interesting. Poughkeepsie would have been the clear winner.

Such a shame, especially since there was that Mexican restaurant in Poughkeepsie your friend recommended for lunch. I guess you'll be spending your money in Millerton instead.