Trail improves access to natural resources in the Hudson Valley and provides new educational opportunities for visitors
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the restoration and improvement of an accessible trail at the Stony Kill Farm Environmental Education Center in Wappingers Falls in Dutchess County. The half-mile Woodland Trail was destroyed by a microburst in May 2018, and repaired and improved through a collaborative effort to make the trail more accessible to people of all skill levels.
“The restored Woodland Trail is proof of New York State’s continued commitment to ensuring the outdoors are open to all” said Commissioner Seggos. “The hard work of the Excelsior Conservation Corps and our regional operations staff has made this trail accessible to people of all skill levels, and I expect many visitors to enjoy it in the years to come. I congratulate them. young people who restored this trail, played a significant public service and helped safeguard the state’s natural resources and enhance its economic well-being.
The Woodland Trail was wheelchair accessible before a microburst that blew up trees and made the trail unusable. DEC operations staff helped clear some trees, but the trail was no longer safe for people in wheelchairs or with reduced mobility. DEC provided the materials, equipment, staff guidance, and reviews by DEC’s accessibility coordinator needed to complete the project, and the Excelsior Conservation Corps (ECC) spent last summer in restore the trail to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. Located next to the parking lot next to the mansion, the trail is filled with stone dust with open space for classes.
“We are very grateful for the work of the Excelsior Conservation Corps in relaunching the Woodland Trail and making it accessible to people with reduced mobility”, said Erik Fyfe, executive director of the Stony Kill Foundation. “Stony Kill is a great destination, and upgrades like this help make the farm and the forests more accessible for everyone!”
“The Stony Kill Farm team of six members of the SCA Excelsior Conservation Corps completed over 2,400 hours of service on the Stony Kill ADA Trail over the course of 10 weeks during the hottest and wettest period of the year ” said Zach Belis, head of the ECC program. “This crew started in May, a group of complete strangers from three different states. They learned to communicate and work as a group in order to complete a course that they know will give access to the great outdoors to thousands of New- Yorker. “
“Taconic Resources for Independence would like to thank the DEC for their efforts in restoring the accessible trail at the Stony Kill Environmental Education Center to increase recreational activities for people with disabilities in Dutchess County,” Lisa Tarricone, executive director of Taconic Resources for Independence, said. “We are thrilled to have this wonderful outdoor resource accessible in the county and look forward to using it and spreading the word! “
“VA Hudson Valley Health Care is fortunate to be in one of the most beautiful places on the planet, and projects like this allow people of all skill levels to experience the beauty this region has to offer.” Dawn Schaal Medical Center Director, VA Hudson Valley Health Care System said. “I applaud the DEC for restoring the accessible trail at the Stony Kill Environmental Education Center and thank them for sharing it with our community. I have no doubts that the restored trail will be an important resource for some of our most vulnerable veterans living around the corner at our Castle Point campus. “
ECC member Andrea Cavaliere said: “Bringing the Woodland Trail up to ADA standards and accessible trails was a challenge. We are proud that our work improves the community’s access to its outdoor spaces. “
The improvements announced today complete the first phase of the project, with $ 2,800 provided by the state’s Environmental Protection Fund. The second phase of the project, scheduled for 2022, includes the installation of interpretive panels and benches.
The ECC is a program of AmeriCorps that completes stewardship projects on DEC lands and facilities and the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation open to the public. The Student Conservation Association (SCA) manages the ECC, which currently manages three teams of members aged 18-26 under the supervision of a team leader. The 16 crew members received training in Logging Game 1 and 2, Wilderness First Aid, Conservation Work Skills, Leave No Trace ™ Sustainable Recreation Principles and Basic Carpentry.
In addition to working at the Stony Kill Farm Environmental Education Center, corps members completed projects at DEC’s Camp DeBruce, Sugar Hill State Forest, Honeoye Inlet Wildlife Management Area, and Parks. State of Palisades and Finger Lakes Regions. Teams created new trails, maintained and improved existing trails, eliminated invasive species, restored cabins, repaired a lean-to, installed bridges and culverts, and surveyed public lands.
The Stony Kill Farm Environmental Education Center is operated by the Stony Kill Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to educate the public and cultivate environmental stewardship by interpreting the rich historical, environmental and agricultural heritage of Stony Kill Farm. The Foundation’s educational and community programs include field trips, home schooling and scouting programs, workshops, guided trips and special events. Each year, more than 19,000 people connect for hands-on experiences in nature and sustainable agriculture at Stony Kill. As a working farm, the Foundation helps restore heritage brands of cattle, sheep, chickens and turkeys. The farm is home to a learning center, a tenant farm from the mid-1700s, an Italian-style mansion from 1842, and a barn from the 1800s. The grounds and seven trails are open from dawn to dusk, 365 days. per year. For more information on the farm and education programs, visit the Stony Kill Foundation website.