Historic Railroad Trestle to be Improved; After Restoration Full 24-Mile Rail Trail Will Open to the Public

Date: 
06/16/2010
Source: 
Open Space Institute

NEW PALTZ, NY - June 16, 2010 - The Open Space Institute (OSI) and Wallkill Valley Land Trust (WVLT) have announced plans to begin an extensive restoration of the iconic 940-foot-long railroad trestle over the Rondout Creek and Route 213 in Rosendale. When reopened, the entire length of the trestle will be safe for public use for the first time since it was an active railroad.

Once completed, the trestle will connect the already-operational rail trail that stretches from the southern border of Gardiner to the rail right-of-way running north of the trestle to the city of Kingston. With its panoramic views of Shawangunk Ridge, the Binnewater Lakes region and the hamlet of Rosendale, the trestle will be the highlight of the nearly 24-mile Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, giving hikers, bikers, equestrians, and birders a greatly expanded outdoor resource.

Early estimates indicate that the restoration project will take approximately 12 months.

In August 2009, WVLT and OSI partnered to acquire 11.5 miles (65 acres) of the former Wallkill Valley Railroad, nearly doubling the length of the existing Wallkill Valley Rail Trail. Part of the acquisition included the Rosendale railroad trestle, which is now solely owned by the Wallkill Valley Land Trust. When completely restored and renovated, the rail trail and trestle will be presented to the towns of Rosendale and Ulster with WVLT maintaining the conservation easements on the parcels. The Town of Rosendale continues to be an active part of the trail restoration efforts.

"The closing of the trestle bridge marks a beginning and not an ending," said Town of Rosendale Supervisor Patrick McDonough. "With the acquisition of the bridge and trail by the WVLT and OSI, the process has begun to complete the walking trail over the Rondout, thereby connecting New Paltz and Kingston and opening endless possibilities for recreation and economic development. We support this action by the WVLT and look forward to participating in the rebuilding and reopening of this very valuable resource for the Town of Rosendale and all of Ulster County."

Since the acquisition, engineers' inspections of the 114-year-old trestle revealed that sections of the surface decking are in need of restoration. Improvements will include the installation of wooden decks and railings on the currently unplanked northern half of the structure and restored planking as well as appropriate rails and safety supports on the southern portion.

To allow work crews full access to the structure and for the sake of public safety, the trestle will be closed from end to end for the duration of the project.

"In making the decision to acquire the trestle, everyone involved knew we were including a commitment to restoring the trestle and making it safe for public use once again," said Christie Ferguson, the executive director of WVLT. "Completing the repairs and reopening the trestle to the community is a priority for WVLT, OSI and the towns of Rosendale and Ulster. We are excited about moving the rail trail into this next phase of its existence as an improved recreational resource and attraction for tourism in our area."

While the trestle is closed, the Wallkill Valley Land Trust and its partners, OSI, the Town of Rosendale and the Town of Ulster, will also be restoring the balance of the rail trail by improving the rail bed and studying potential parking and public access locations.

"OSI is excited to be partnering with the WVLT on this project," said Joe Martens, OSI's president. "Once the trail is completed, it will be a major recreational asset in a region where OSI has worked for many years to protect some of the most spectacular open spaces in New York State."

Cost estimates for completion of the renovations have ranged from $500,000 to nearly $1,000,000. WVLT and OSI believe there is a great deal of support for preserving the historic trestle and improving the condition of the rail trail. The two groups are collaborating on grants and have received tentative approval for a $150,000 grant from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for trestle construction costs. Everyone involved acknowledges that grassroots support will be essential to the success of this project.

There is considerable work to be done, and now that we've started," Ferguson said, "the pressure to keep moving forward intensifies the fundraising need."

WVLT is planning a number of activities and ongoing community outreach to keep the public informed about the restoration progress.