The Orange County Water Authority recently created a Wallkill River Trail, which raises awareness of the recreational aspects of the river by mapping and improving public access points on the Wallkill.
The Orange County Water Authority received a $8,850 Hudson River Valley Greenway grant, which covered the cost of services provided by planning consultant Arif Khan, the design and manufacturing of access signs, promotional materials and a new website. The project is also executed with the help of Ulster County, the Wallkill River Watershed Alliance and others.
Khan identified all public access points and river barriers, such as dams and rapids, and mapped them on an interactive map on the project’s website.
The project goal is to prioritize public access improvements by publicizing and promoting those access points. The Orange County Water Authority will also install uniform signage to identify public access points.
“The idea behind this project is to increase public use and awareness of the river and to increase stewardship of this shared natural resource,” says Dave Church, Orange County Commissioner of Planning and Executive Director of the Orange County Water Authority.
“The Wallkill is an under-appreciated public resource, and this project will help towns along the river prioritize improvements to support river access.”
Several municipalities have plans to improve their access points.
Village of Walden Recreation Coordinator Michael Bliss said the village is planning to build a kayak rental and one-block boardwalk at the existing access above the dam. Boaters will be able to paddle to and from a potential access at the City Winery project in the Village of Montgomery.
Bliss said the village hopes to complete the project this year. Funding was provided by Senator William Larkin’s office.
Shawangunk town supervisor John Valk said the town has plans to install a handicap accessible dock at the access at Popp’s Memorial Park, pending funding.
Khan said promoting recreation on the river improves quality of life by providing health, environmental and economic benefits.
“Here’s another opportunity for people to get out and find some solitude and there are public health benefits of that,” Khan said. “There are environmental benefits too of people getting on the river to experience the river and appreciate the river, and in a lot of places around the country that has led to great environmental improvements.”
In the 65 miles between the New York/New Jersey border and Esopus Creek, the Wallkill River has 37 public access points, 25 of which have legal parking, according to Khan. There are also 6 private properties that could be used to provide access.
With a couple exceptions, access points are spaced at maximum two hours apart. Access points come at a variety of ease of access, from handicap-accessible docks to fighting through brush and steep embankments. Khan said the variety of access points is a positive because it provides a variety of experiences.
“I would not advocate for all the access points to be paved and easy. I think giving a variety for multiple types of users is the best approach,” Khan said. “In some place there’s plans to put in an ADA-accessible dock, so that would give more people access to the river. But to some, cutting through the stinging nettles is part of the experience.”
Khan said Orange County is also in negotiations with several private property owners for additional access points.
The Wallkill River is a slow, north-moving river that originates in Sparta, New Jersey, and joins the Roundout Creek near Rosendale, New York, before emptying into the Hudson River. The river passes through 48 municipalities and has about 70 named tributaries.
To learn more or view the Wallkill River Trail map, visit paddlethewallkill.org.