Walden seeks a rail trail connection

Posted 7/26/22

Walden residents who dream that their three-mile rail trail to Wallkill could one day be connected to the region’s vast trail network may have an ally in Alan Sorenson.

Sorenson, a former …

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Walden seeks a rail trail connection

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Walden residents who dream that their three-mile rail trail to Wallkill could one day be connected to the region’s vast trail network may have an ally in Alan Sorenson.

Sorenson, a former planning consultant to the village of Walden, is now the Orange County Commissioner of Planning, having been appointed to the job in the spring of 2020. He returned to his roots last week to update Walden trustees on future plans for Orange County’s 30-mile network of trails.

“I’m always thinking about Walden, having worked here in the past,” Sorenson said.

The county, with the help of the Open Space Insistute, (OSI)recently secured $18 million to acquire nine miles of former railroad property that will connect the Schunnemunk Trail with the Heritage Trail. The trails converge at Camp LaGuardia, a former work camp for homeless men in the town of Chester. New York City sold the property to Orange County in 2007.

“We will be transforming Camp LaGuardia into a new county park,” Sorenson said, adding that it could have become a warehouse distribution center. Instead it will become a bicycle hub.

A decade ago, OSI created Schunnemunk Mountain State Park in the Town of Cornwall and have steadily added to it. Today, Sorenson said, more than 2,700 acres of hiking trails are attributable to OSI’s land preservation work.

And where does Walden fit in to these plans?
“It always feels like this side of the county always seems to get left out,” said Walden Trustee Lynn Thompson.

Sorenson noted that a study was conducted a few years ago on the feasibility of bringing light passenger rail transportation back to Walden, utilizing a spur that links Campbell Hall to Walden that is now operated by the Middletown and New Jersey Freight Line. The plan would have enabled Walden commuters to connect with the Metro North Port Jervis Line at Campbell Hall, but the numbers weren’t there to justify the 28 million expenditure.

Since then, he said, the Department of Transportation has established standards to create trails alongside existing rail lines.

“If you can imagine the ability to go from Walden to Campbell Hall on a bike, it would provide some opportunities,” Sorenson said.

Walden trustees also wondered about the possibility of connecting to Ulster County’s network of rail trail, one of which leads to the Walkway Over the Hudson and connect to Dutchess County.

“My concern was getting into Ulster County and getting around the prisons,” said Trustee Becky Pearson.

In addition to the Walden to Wallkill link, there is also a 22-mile stretch of rail trail operated by the Wallkill Valley Land Trust, along the former Wallkill Valley Railroad corridor. It goes through the towns of Gardiner, New Paltz, Rosendale, and Ulster to the Kingston city line. Activities include walking, jogging, bike riding, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing.

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