From the Executive Director: Creating Parkland Through the Stewardship of Trails

May 30, 2018
Edward Goodell
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference


From the Executive Director: Creating Parkland Through the Stewardship of Trails
Sunrise from Roosa Gap Fire Tower in the Shawangunk Ridge. Photo by Steve Aaron.


The creation of long-distance trails help us disconnect from the everyday, while working to connect parklands, greenways and further land conservation.

Planning, patience, and a fair amount of luck are requirements when working on completing a long-distance trail—not just in the adventure of a successful thru-hike, but even more so in the actual creation of one of these trails.

Years—often decades—of coordination among public, private, and non-profit agencies and land owners goes into developing a long-distance trail, followed by the ongoing construction and maintenance it then requires. Early in the conception of a long-distance trail, the path is often laid out on the side of country roads or on private lands with permission from the landowners. But in the continuous efforts to reroute these trails onto undeveloped land—not only to protect the trail user, but also to improve the overall user experience—long-distance trails actually have a tendency to create new parks and greenways.

The Trail Conference has played a significant role in establishing and stewarding not just one, but four long-distance trails in the greater New York metropolitan region: the Appalachian Trail, Long Path, Shawangunk Ridge Trail, and Highlands Trail. And through our efforts to conserve open space for these trails to traverse, the Trail Conference has acquired lands that have led to the formation of new public parkland.

A recent example is the Shawangunk Ridge Trail, where since 2002, four new state forests (Huckleberry Ridge, Graham Mountain, Gobbler’s Nob, and Roosa Gap) have been created, and another (Shawangunk Ridge) has been significantly enlarged.

Lately, the Trail Conference has purchased lands for the Highlands Trail, which will stretch across New Jersey and New York, from the Pennsylvania to Connecticut borders, when completed. In Orange County, N.Y., specifically, the trail traverses five protected parks and one forest—and we view the Highlands Trail as an opportunity to create an uninterrupted green corridor that connects all of them.

We have been calling this the Storm King to Sterling Forest Greenway. Though there are still major gaps between the parks, in collaboration with longtime partners Open Space Institute and Orange County Land Trust, we are working on inventorying the potential connections.

The goal for this study is to create a comprehensive vision for a high-quality, interconnected public trail system through a green corridor that will improve the quality of life for local communities while protecting precious wildlife habitat. The Greenway, with the Highlands Trail as its backbone, will showcase the western Hudson Highlands as a premier destination for outdoor recreation and magnificent scenery for residents and visitors alike.

This vision for the Highlands Trail will be completed with the help of our partners and volunteers—particularly those on our Conservation Committee, who help identify and purchase parcels for preservation, and our trail crews. It will be a challenge, but it is one the Trail Conference is well-prepared for, and eager to see “thru.”

Get Involved

Our long-distance trails exist because of the incredible passion of volunteers who want to be a part of their legacy. Maintainers and trail managers are always needed—adopt a section of the Highlands Trail, Shawangunk Ridge Trail, Long Path, or Appalachian Trail to call your own! Or come spend a few hours with one of our crews and help with the ongoing task of reducing road walks by constructing new trail. Field-checkers and off-trail researchers may also be needed as the Storm King to Sterling Forest Greenway study moves forward. Help us preserve and expand our long-distance trail corridors! Learn more and discover all the ways you can get involved by emailing [email protected].