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Sullivan Renaissance’s Helen Budrock stands along a stretch of the O&W Rail Trail near Woodridge – already open for hiking and biking. Improvements and expansion of the trail are in the near future, thanks to a variety of local groups working together.

Groups blaze new trails in Renaissance pilot program

By Dan Hust
FALLSBURG — April 30, 2010 — Defunct for more than a half-century, the New York, Ontario and Western (O&W) Railway may now be the key for Sullivan Renaissance to – as Program Director Glenn Pontier put it – “take it to the next level.”
“This is our first intermunicipal project,” he said this week, shortly after the announcement of the Fallsburg O&W Rails to Trails Enhancement Project.
Provided with $5,000 in Renaissance funds and two interns, it involves Renaissance, the Town of Fallsburg, the Woodridge Kiwanis, the Mountaindale Community Development Project (MCDP), the Mountaindale Action Committee (MAC) and the Sullivan Striders.
Under the leadership of Fallsburg Code Enforcement Officer and O&W Rail Trail promoter Allen Frishman, the groups will spend this spring and summer rehabbing and enhancing 4.7 miles of the former O&W railbed between Mountaindale and the Neversink River.
It’s part of an overall plan to create a walkable and bikable rail trail from Summitville in the Town of Mamakating all the way to Liberty.
“We’re excited about the possibilities,” confirmed Pontier. “It’s an experiment, but it opens up the idea of a scenic byway project.”
Frishman said the involved groups will operate under both Renaissance’s and the Town of Fallsburg’s banners, working together but also maintaining responsibility for particular segments of the project.
MCDP, said leader Barb Schmitt, will maintain all that it’s created thus far, plus add some boulders to the trail for sitting and eating on.
But the group’s main focus will be on providing information – through signage, programming at the newly-built Mountaindale visitor’s center (created in the image of a once-planned O&W train station), and distributing 2,500 foldable maps showcasing area businesses, attractions and history.
MAC, said Pontier and Frishman, will focus primarily on Mountaindale, installing interpretive signs and seeding plants along the right-of-way.
The Woodridge Kiwanis will install similar signage and plantings at the western end of the project, where the railbed meets the Neversink River.
Kiwanian Ken Kalter said the intent is not just to make a trailhead and picnic area but to put an end to illegal dumping.
“We’ll make it look like something we feel will discourage dumpers,” he explained.
The Sullivan Striders – a running/walking club which often uses the trail – will be aiding in all these efforts.
“We’re going to show up, be there and do the work,” promised Tom Manza, a Striders member and former president. “We like our club to be active in the community, and anytime we can be involved in Renaissance, we jump at that.”
The trailhead near the Neversink will also have the help of the Village of Woodridge (which has donated fill), the Town of Fallsburg Parks and Recreation Department (which is handling the two interns) and a variety of private contractors.
Frishman said local logger Ron Klein and area general contractors Chris Sutton, Paul Lucyk and Mendel Alenick have already done or promised to do work on the trail, at no charge.
“It’s all volunteer,” he related.
Longtime volunteers like Kalter appreciate the help.
“I like the idea,” he said of the project. “It’s hard for each individual little group to keep the momentum going. This is less pressure ... and it spreads the responsibility around.”
“It’s really nice to work with the Woodridge folks and the Sullivan Striders,” added Schmitt. “Sometimes in Renaissance, you get a sense of competition, and this kind of blurs that.”
“I think it’s a natural progression of where individual groups have been going over the last 10 years,” Kalter concluded.
And it’s where Sullivan Renaissance wants to go, too.
Pontier said the project will not be part of this summer’s Renaissance competition, but it will set the stage for similar multi-group efforts Renaissance is even now developing.
“We want to make a big deal of this,” he said, “because it IS a big deal.”

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