NEW PALTZ, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Open Space Institute (OSI), in partnership with Ulster County, announced an $885,000 project Thursday to improve a five-and-a-half-mile stretch of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail between Plains Road in New Paltz and Main Street in Gardiner. The project is expected to improve overall public access to the trail and establish additional safety upgrades and measures for residents and visitors.

The improvement project began earlier this month, with work starting in Gardiner, and will be completed by Spring 2023. This project is the first of three trail improvement projects in Ulster County that OSI is spearheading over the next two years.

“Well maintained trails play an important role in making communities more livable, healthy, and prosperous. This project is another step toward establishing Ulster County as a world-class recreational destination,” said OSI president and CEO Kim Elliman, who noted that the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail project builds on the organization’s recent success in creating the River-to-Ridge Trail in New Paltz, the protection and restoration of the Rosendale Trestle, and the most recent upgrades to the northern 13.5 miles of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail in the Towns of New Paltz, Rosendale, and Ulster. “These trail projects not only connect people with nature and each other, but they also reinforce the great sense of community here in Ulster County,” Elliman added.

The trail improvement plan includes resurfacing the trail path, vegetation maintenance, rebuilding existing bridges, upgrades to off-road crossings, and improved grading, drainage, and structural enhancements along the trail. Project leaders said it will also improve safety by creating universally accessible entry points and installing welcoming trailheads and improved signage.

The project is being completed by local contractor P.E. Colucci Excavating and is managed by OSI in partnership with the Wallkill Valley Land Trust. The trail improvements are funded through OSI-secured grants and private funds.

In 2021, Ulster County awarded OSI $2.1 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds toward three rail trail improvement projects, with OSI using private support to provide an additional $95,000 worth of project management services. This Wallkill Valley Rail Trail project from Plains Road in New Paltz to Main Street in Gardiner is the first of the three ARPA-funded projects. The project is also being supported by in-kind services by partner municipalities.

For public safety, trail users are asked to stay clear of all construction equipment and heavy machinery along the trail and follow all posted signage. Trail closures should be expected during the week to accommodate construction schedules; however, the trail will be fully open to trail users on weekends and holidays.

As work progresses, the series of rolling trail closures will be communicated as they happen on the Wallkill Valley Land Trust website and social media. Trail users are encouraged to check the site for the latest construction updates.