Using Our Mightiest Tool to Protect Trails and Open Space

October 04, 2017
Sona Mason
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference

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Using Our Mightiest Tool to Protect Trails and Open Space
The co-aligned Long Path and Highlands Trail. Photo by Sona Mason

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Sometimes, the most powerful tool in the Trail Conference arsenal isn’t rock bars or loppers, but our unified voice.

The voices of trail lovers near and far rang loud and clear when the Trail Conference raised the alarm that the Long Path and Highlands Trail are at risk of being severed in Orange County, N.Y. This summer, we succeeded in making the protection of these long-distance trails part of the conversation in the closely watched proposal to create the new Town of Palm Tree, which would include the Village of Kiryas Joel.

The Trail Conference has raised concerns in regards to the various proposals to expand development where the Long Path and Highlands Trail co-align. Currently, vacant parcels along Seven Springs Road provide a woodland character for these trails, but the new proposals would likely lead to intense development. The rocky lands with moss-covered cliffs between Gonzaga Park and the Heritage Trail in Monroe are rich in wildlife habitat, and are the last refuge in the area for these multi-state trails. This critical pinch point forms a vital greenway connecting two state parks: Schunnemunk Mountain and Goosepond Mountain. If the land around Seven Springs Road is developed, the experience on these trails will be severely impacted and the parks will be isolated.

Before two public hearings on the issue in August, the Trail Conference called for the creation of a green corridor between Gonzaga Park and the Heritage Trail to protect the Long Path and Highlands Trail. Members rallied by sending emails, making phone calls, and appearing at meetings to ensure Orange County legislators are aware of the significant threat that major residential development poses to these much-needed green corridors. Building on this momentum, the Trail Conference has been meeting with state, county, and municipal officials to come up with viable options for protecting these long-distance trails.

The Trail Conference has played a role in nearly every major conservation movement in the region for almost 100 years. We will continue to represent trail users in this and all battles to ensure public trails and parks remain open and safe for the next century—and beyond.

Did You Know?

The 358-mile Long Path connects New York City at the George Washington Bridge with John Boyd Thacher Park in Albany County. The 182-mile Highlands Trail connects the Delaware River in New Jersey to the Hudson River at Storm King Mountain.

Championing the Long Path

Since 1960, the Trail Conference has spearheaded the effort to maintain, protect, and complete the Long Path. From unwavering advocacy efforts to key land acquisitions to an end-to-end race series, the Long Path—“New York’s Greatest Trail”—has an ever-evolving story to tell.

Get Involved

The Long Path exists because of the incredible passion of volunteers who want to be a part of the legacy of New York’s Greatest Trail.

Maintainers and trail managers are always needed—adopt a section of the Long Path to call your own! Or come spend a few hours with one of our crews and help with the ongoing task of reducing road walks by constructing new trail.

This fall, we have Long Path relocation projects in the northwest corner of Harriman State Park, on the Greene/Schoharie County line in the northern Catskills, and at the Schoharie/Albany County line connecting with the Partridge Run Wildlife Management Area.

Come help us improve the trail that runs from the Big Apple to the Big Park! Learn more and discover all the ways you can get involved by emailing [email protected]