The Open Space Institute (OSI) has announced the start of two projects intended to further transform the Ontario and Western (“O&W”) Rail Trail into a public recreational destination: the launch of the O&W Comprehensive Feasibility Study and the restoration of two separate sections of the O&W Rail Trail in Ulster County. (Photos and map available here.)
The O&W Comprehensive Feasibility Study marks the first step in the effort to transform the fragmented former O&W Railroad corridor, including sections of the historic D&H Canal corridor, into a contiguous, 57-mile shared-use greenway trail reaching from the City of Kingston in Ulster County southwest to the City of Port Jervis in Orange County.
The study will include a detailed corridor inventory and assessment, stakeholder and community outreach, and trail routing and access alternatives. The study will also include an engineering and construction analysis, cost estimating, and project prioritization. OSI has hired regional consulting firm Greenman-Pedersen, Inc. to support the study, which is expected to be completed this winter.
“As demand for greenway trails increases — for transportation, recreation, and community connection —O SI is leading the effort to repurpose the entire O&W line,” said Peter Karis, OSI’s vice president of Parks and Stewardship.
From planning initiatives and outreach to design and construction, our goal is to create a transformative corridor within New York State’s burgeoning trail network that expands public recreational access to the region’s town centers, parks, forests, and other outdoor space.”
When reconnected and restored, the O&W Rail Trail will serve as a southwestward extension of the NYS Empire State Trail, connecting communities between the Hudson and Delaware rivers.
The Growing Greenways Plan proposes connecting, extending and improving the O&W Rail Trail, the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, Catskill Mountain Rail Corridor, Sullivan O&W Rail Trail, Schunnemunk Rail Trail, Orange County Heritage Trail and Shawangunk Ridge Carriage Roads. Once completed, the unified trail system will improve public access to nature, expand recreational opportunities and promote local economic activity and tourism.
Having attracted and invested more than $100 million in public and private funds toward land acquisition, trails, and other visitor amenities in the region over the last decade alone, OSI is pursuing additional partnerships, private funds and grants to raise an initial $8 million to support the Growing Greenways Plan.