“On that day I did not have my phone with me and I was bleeding pretty badly,” said Father Mark Kurowski.
Kurowski approached the Shawangunk Town Board on Thursday, requesting safety measures on the Walden-Wallkill Rail Trail after recent assaults on the trail—including the one that sent him to the hospital.
“On June 21 I was riding my bike through Wallkill for exercise and a young man decided to stalk me in his car,” said Kurowski, dean of a local church in New Paltz and a Shawangunk town resident.
According to Father Kurowski, the man in the car realized he was going on the rail trail and drove ahead to Walden and waited for him.
“[He] ambushed me on the trail because he was angry that I was riding my bike on the street. It’s a crazy situation, I know,” said Father Kurowski.
He thought it was an isolated incident until he learned that a man in his eighties was assaulted earlier this month and that there was an incident prior to his own assault. He is proposing that safety measures be installed along the trail so that people can call for help.
“On that day I did not have my phone with me and I was bleeding pretty badly. I went out to the road, and no one would help me,” said Father Kurowski. “I had to get on my bike and ride the three miles back to the police station to get assistance. It would have been a great help to me on that day if I could have had an emergency light and alarm system where I could have just pressed the button and had assistance come my way right away.”
The town board agreed that the proposal was good idea and is referring the issue to their police chief and will reach out to both the village of Walden and the town of Montgomery, which also govern the 3-mile paved trail stretching from Route 208 in the hamlet of Wallkill to Woodruff Street in Walden.
Father Kurowski volunteered to help raise funds for the proposal and also to help with any future Chamber of Commerce the town might form.
“I’ve loved living here,” said Father Kurowski. “I’ve lived in 11 different places, and there is a great charm to the town of Shawangunk and the hamlet of Wallkill and I’d like to do my part to help promote that.”
The board also addressed concerns from residents on Apple Lane and Blossom Lane. In August, the residents came together and signed a petition, asking the town board to address issues ranging from road repair to ditches and drainage, a sight distance issue due to overgrown weeds, and a “zombie house” they believe needs to be removed.
Since then, Supervisor John Valk, Jr. and other members of the board have visited the area in question and the highway superintendent has met with Joseph Sosler of Blossom Lane, who has stepped forward as a spokesperson for his neighbors.
Sosler said they have been dealing with the issues for years and many of his neighbors are very frustrated. Since his letter and the petition last month however, they have seen positive responses from town officials. He said that whatever was done in the past, or wasn’t done, doesn’t matter anymore. Instead, they are all working together to see what can be done to fix the problems.
“That’s my motto: go forward,” said Sosler.
Sosler said the town supervisor is looking at getting the two streets added to the lighting and sewer districts.
Highway Superintendent Joseph Locicero stated that he is working to address the drainage issues, which entails obtaining an engineer and coordination with Ostrander Elementary and the Wallkill Central School District.
“I’ve got to look at their plans to see where their water drainage is behind the houses and then we can connect and get the water out of there, because I don’t want to flood Ostrander either. I want to make sure it’s done right,” said Locicero.
Once the drainage issues are addressed, he intends to pave the entirety of both Apple Lane and Blossom Lane.
“I’m not going to come in and do half a road. It will all be completed. We’ll do the whole development,” promised Locicero, but added that it would have to wait until after the drainage issue has been solved. “I don’t want to spend money on blacktop now and then find out the drainage isn’t working and then have to dig it all up. I’d rather do it one time and have it all completed and looking beautiful.”
Until then, Locicero plans to patch the potholes and sweep the streets.
Locicero also advised the board that the town has lost $56,000 in CHIPS funding, which means the planned paving of at least one road is now out of the budget for the year. He said the town now has approximately $8,000 left in the budget.
“We’re out of money when it comes to roads,” said Locicero, adding that it looks like his department will be focusing on ditching and getting the plows ready for what is anticipated to be a bad winter.
Supervisor John Valk was not present for the meeting due to the passing of his wife, Barbara Riemer-Valk. There was an extended moment of silence at the beginning of the meeting.