July 23, 2020
The Ulster County Transportation Council (UCTC) recently announced the launch of its “2045 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) public planning process,” which includes an online survey to “solicit input on how to invest in our transportation future over the course of the next 25 years,” the UCTC said in a statement earlier this month.
The plan is updated regularly, and the last major update was in 2015. Recommendations from that update included bridge replacements, safe routes to schools, sidewalk upgrades and other various improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians. The UCTC’s new 2045 LRTP has a “planning horizon of 25 years and will include population and economic trends as they relate to transportation needs as well as policies related to climate change, resiliency and environmental justice.”
Here, Christie DeBoer, Executive Director of the Wallkill Valley Land Trust, shares insights into the importance of the planning process and how non-motorized transportation can be a viable solution.
What role do rail trails play in the transportation plan?
Christie: Linear parks such as rail trails not only provide links for fragmented habitats which is vital for wildlife, they also act as transportation corridors between neighborhoods and businesses. For example, the 22-plus mile Wallkill Valley Rail Trail (WVRT) transverses one village and four towns in Ulster County and the northern terminus is the City of Kingston which has multiple rail trail projects in development.
The WVRT passes directly through the main street/ business hamlets of Gardiner, New Paltz and Rosendale. As road congestion is an ever-increasing issue in these areas, the WVRT provides a healthy option for recreation, transportation to work, and destinations for everything from local foods to family owned businesses.
Are rail trails viable for non-motorized transport in Ulster County?
Christie: With the number of new trail projects opening in Ulster County, traveling by bicycle to other towns for both work and recreation/shopping has never been easier. In fact, the Wallkill Valley Land Trust’s Land Steward often rides her bike from her home in Kingston to the WVLT office in New Paltz and back!
Why are rail trails popular and what are the benefits?
Christie: There are more connections — both trail heads and parking areas, and links to other trail opportunities, which means rail trail users can travel for both work or fun without needing a motorized vehicle. A family can ride into the next town for ice cream or a movie. A group of friends can visit a farm to gather local foods and enjoy incredible scenic vistas.
Linear, recreational open spaces such as rail trails provide so many benefits to users and the community and include: healthy exercise, exposure to fresh air, natural habitats, cultural artifacts, local businesses, agricultural produce, and the tranquility of open spaces.
For more information about the UCTC planning process and to take the survey, click here