Hail to the trail, help keep it open - BlueStone Press
December 1, 2020

Hail to the trail, help keep it open

Posted: 'Please ... maintain physical distancing and follow the trail rules'

Posted

The O&W rail trail has provided a safe haven for bikers, runners, walkers, pets and people of all ages to be outdoors in these times of COVID-19

If you haven’t noticed, since the onset of COVID-19 people are “taking it to the streets” to exercise, specifically on the O&W rail trail. Community members are happy the trail has stayed open throughout the pandemic. Marbletown’s Rail Trail Committee head Carl Pezzino said, “I haven’t seen this kind of volume on the trail since it opened.” With gyms closed until recently and people at home more than ever, the O&W trail, which stretches from Kingston to Ellenville, has never been more popular.

“It was very crowded in March, but everybody on the trails have been great – they spread out,” said, Kate Burns of Hurley, who had a specially designed mask for biking she created.

In terms of safety protocol, Pezzino said, “The Rail Trail Committee put up the safety protocol signs on the trail with the information they received from the county and the help of the Ashokan rail trail people.”

“I’ve had a few people question me about masks,” Pezzino said. “But in general everybody has been very complimentary of the trail. Ultimately, it’s the trail users’ responsibility to follow the rules.” And it looks like they have done so. “Not only are they wearing masks, but there’s a feeling of politeness and respect of space on the trail!” said Shelia Atkinson of Saugerties.

Newcomers to the area have swelled the trail user numbers. Cottekill resident Lisa McGovern said, “I’ve met so many new people on the trail that recently left the city to escape COVID-19, and they are so happy to enjoy the fresh air and the outdoors.”

Supporting the new volume on the trail was a lucky coincidence that took years of planning. Pezzino said improvements to the trail were “10 years in the making. We obviously didn’t expect COVID. We just wanted to make the best trail we could.”

These improvements include: expanded parking, connecting the towns of Hurley and Rochester, the widening of the trail and bi-monthly mowing by the Highway Department. Other enhancements include the addition of two new bridges, at Rest Plaus Road in Marbletown and Kripplebush Creek in the Town of Rochester.

“The relationship between the Rail Trail Committee and the Highway Department has been a key; we need something like a chainsaw or a pickup truck, and they help us out,” said Pezzino. “Maintaining the trail hasn’t been an issue during COVID,” he continued.

Mary Matturo of Marcotte Road in Cottekill said, “The town has been absolutely wonderful maintaining the trail, they’ve done a great job. It feels like I’m on vacation when I’m on it!”

However, the trail isn’t just for physical activity. The Stone Ridge Library is also getting into the act. As part of their summer reading program for children, you can enjoy a book that begins at the Cottekill trailhead, near the water tower, and unfolds over several panels heading south. Additionally, Felice Degennaro, first-grade teacher at Marbletown Elementary School, put up a panel display of solar system planets, beginning with the sun at the Leggett trailhead, so her students could walk planet by planet through the solar system during distance learning. The Stone Ridge Library is currently helping create signage about local history and the fauna and flora, to be installed along the trail, using local artist Barbara Bash’s work.

Of course, these have been difficult times, but at least we know we have our local gem, the O&W rail trail, “to escape the horrors of COVID and experience the fresh air and get out of our homes!” as 14-year-old Trevor Gilliland put it.

See you out there. And don’t forget your mask!

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