Trail of the Month: October 2002
Wallkill Valley Rail-Trail, New York
The 15.2-mile Wallkill Valley Rail-Trail runs from the New Paltz/Rosendale town line to the Gardiner/Shawangunk town line in Ulster County, New York. The Wallkill Valley Rail-Trail is a special trail that combines history and natural beauty, and is only located a mere 90 miles north of New York City. The trail was contructed from an old corridor used by the Wallkill Valley Railroad Company. The original railroad contruction began in 1868 and, opened to Kingston, N.Y. in 1872.
Absorbed into the West Shore Railroad in 1881, it was made into a feeder line or branch of the West Shore's "High Iron" rail line along the Hudson River. The West Shore Railroad itself was absorbed into the New York Central System (NYCS) in 1885. Interestingly enough, the Wallkill was able to maintain a separate legal identity apart from both the West Shore and NYC until 1952. Conrail operated here in their early years until the last train came through in 1977.
The transportation of dairy products provided much of the traffic along the Walkill rail line. Creamery complexes existed in most of the towns along the line. One of the more notable was the first creamery ever built by the Borden's Dairy company, located along the trail in Gardiner, N.Y. Another attraction along the trail is Huguenot Street in New Paltz, N.Y. It is one of America's oldest streets and features stone houses dating back to the late 1600's.
As you traverse the trail, be sure to look for the spectacular horse farms that dot the area. There are many equestrians in the Wallkill Valley—so much so that they had a hand in some design elements of the trail—and the trail is considered to be very equestrian-friendly.
In 1983, the concept of the Wallkill Valley Rail-Trail was born in a report to the town of New Paltz by the New Paltz Environmental Conservation Commission. In 1991 the Wallkill Valley Rail-Trail Association (WVRTA) was formed to develop, maintain, and promote the multi-use trail. In New Paltz, at the northern end, the trail is owned by the village and town, while the southern section near Gardiner belongs to the Wallkill Valley Land Trust, Inc. The goal was to have local governments and volunteers work together to bring the idea to fruition while limiting costs to taxpayers. This trail is an excellent realization of that aim.