Trail Improves Access to Hudson Valley's Natural Resources and Provides New Educational Opportunities for Visitors
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today the completed restoration and improvement of an accessible trail at Stony Kill Farm Environmental Education Center in Wappingers Falls, Dutchess County. The half-mile Woodland Trail was destroyed by a microburst in May 2018, and repaired and improved thanks to a collaborative effort to make the trail more accessible to people of all abilities.
"The restored Woodland Trail is proof of New York State's sustained commitment to ensuring the outdoors are open for everyone," Commissioner Seggos said. "The hard work of the Excelsior Conservation Corps and our regional operations staff made this trail accessible to people of all abilities, and I expect many visitors to enjoy it in the years to come. I commend the young people who restored this trail. They performed a meaningful public service and helped to safeguard the State's natural resources and bolster its economic well-being."
The Woodland Trail was wheelchair accessible prior to a microburst that blew down trees and made the trail unusable. DEC Operations staff helped clear some of the trees, but the trail was no longer safe for those in a wheelchair or with limited mobility. DEC supplied the materials, equipment, staff guidance, and reviews by DEC's Accessibility Coordinator needed to complete the project, and the Excelsior Conservation Corps (ECC) spent the past summer restoring the trail to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. Located off the parking lot next to the Manor House, the trail is packed stone dust with an open area for lessons.
"We are so grateful for the Excelsior Conservation Corps' work reviving the Woodland Trail and bringing it back to being accessible for people with mobility challenges," said Stony Kill Foundation Executive Director Erik Fyfe. "Stony Kill is such an outstanding destination, and improvements like this one help make the farm and forests more accessible for everyone to enjoy!"
"The Stony Kill Farm crew of six SCA Excelsior Conservation Corps members completed more than 2,400 service hours on the Stony Kill ADA trail over the course of 10 weeks in the hottest and most humid part of the year," Zach Belis, ECC Program Manager said. "This crew started in May, a group of complete strangers from three different states. They learned how to communicate and work as a group in order to complete a trail that they know will provide access to the outdoors for thousands of New Yorkers."
"Taconic Resources for Independence would like to acknowledge the DEC for their efforts in restoring the accessible trail at the Stony Kill Environmental Education Center to increase recreational activities for persons with disabilities in Dutchess County," Lisa Tarricone, Executive Director of Taconic Resources for Independence said. "We are excited to have this wonderful accessible outdoor resource in the county and look forward to using it and spreading the word!"
"VA Hudson Valley Health Care is lucky to call one of the most beautiful places on earth home, and projects like this ensure people of all abilities can enjoy the beauty this area 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 doubt the restored trail will be a significant resource for some of our most vulnerable Veterans living right around the corner at our Castle Point Campus."
ECC member Andrea Cavaliere said, "Bringing the Woodland Trail up to ADA and accessible trail standards was a challenge. We are proud that our work will improve 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, planned for 2022, includes installing interpretive signage and benches.
The ECC is an AmeriCorps program that completes stewardship projects on DEC and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation lands and facilities open for public use. The Student Conservation Association (SCA) manages the ECC, which currently operates three crews with members ages 18 to 26 under the supervision of a crew leader. The 16 crew members received training in Game of Logging 1 & 2, Wilderness First Aid, Conservation Work Skills, Leave No Trace™ sustainable recreation principles, and basic carpentry.
In addition to working at 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 State Parks in the Palisades and Finger Lakes regions. Crews have created new trails, maintained and improved existing trails, removed invasive species, restored cabins, repaired a lean-to, installed trail bridges and culverts, and surveyed public lands.
Stony Kill Farm Environmental Education Center is operated by Stony Kill Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to educate the public and cultivate environmental stewardship through interpretation of the rich historical, environmental, and agricultural heritage of Stony Kill Farm. The Foundation's education and community programs include class field trips, homeschool and scout programs, workshops, guided outings, and special events. Each year, more than 19,000 people connect with hands-on experiences in nature and sustainable agriculture at Stony Kill. As a working farm, the Foundation is helping to restore heritage brands of cattle, sheep, chickens, and turkeys. The Farm is home to a Learning Center, mid-1700s tenant farmhouse, 1842 Italianate Manor House, and an 1800s barn. The grounds and seven trails are open from dawn to dusk, 365 days a year. For more information about the farm and education programs, visit the Stony Kill Foundation website.