by Marie Solis
History isn't something that exists merely in the past: it breathes, it lurches, it changes, it grows. This Saturday, Rosendale's 118-year-old railroad trestle will begin a new chapter of its story as it reopens to the public as a pedestrian walkway over Rondout Creek. The rail trail is a nearly continuous 24 miles, running from Gardiner to Kingston. Standing at 150 feet and spanning 940 feet across, it boasts views of the Shawangunk Ridge, Jopenbergh Mountain, and the Binnewater Hills.
The truss bridge was originally used to connect the railways of New Paltz and Kingston, but fell into disrepair in 1977. Since then, there have been a few other attempts to reappropriate the trestle. Of these was a businessman who bought the structure in the '90s, for just $1, with the intention to make it into a bungee-jumping platform. He was unsuccessful. Luckily, the Open Space Institute (OSI) and Wallkill Valley Land Trust (WVLT) were more persistent in their efforts to bring the trestle into use, and now locals can enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Speakers from the OSI and WVLT, along with other sponsors and local dignitaries, will kick off the day at 11:30am. Once they cut the ribbon, the bridge is open for business. You can stick around and be one of the first to set foot on the walkway, or travel around the town for other festivities memorializing this historic event. From 12 to 3pm, there will be face painting, opportunities to tie-dye "Track the Trestle" shirts, music at Willow Kiln Park, and guided nature hikes up Joppenbergh Mountain. At 2:30pm, kids and adults can meet at the park to join the Rosendale Brass Band in a parade that will conclude the celebration.
The walkway will be open every day from dawn until dusk and is open to hikers, bikers, and even horseback riders. Though this Saturday marks the opening of the trestle, the 11.5 miles of railroad bed surrounding it remains part of OSI and WVLT's ongoing project. The organizations are moving forward with the design and development of this trail which will run under the bridge and alongside the river. Ultimately, their hope is to extend the trail 32 miles from the village of Walden up to Kingston.
Donations to the project can be made at Trackthetrestle.org or through the Wallkill Valley Land Trust. OSI has committed a 4:1 matching challenge grant for additional money raised for the Trestle’s grand opening.