But KLT is also involved in open space planning for the Hudson Landing housing development to be built on the shore of the Hudson in East Kingston and in organizing the rededication of Kingston’s historic Mount Zion African American Burial Ground. And perhaps the biggest thing that it has bitten off, in hopes of somehow coming by the resources needed in order to chew it properly, is a commitment to reclaim and clean up the abandoned railbeds that crisscross the City in order to reconnect them with the rail trails that currently end at or near its borders. The Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, for instance, is currently in the process of being extended from the Rondout trestle crossing at Rosendale through Binnewater, Hurley and the Town of Ulster, while the Hurley/Marbletown Rail Trail currently stops at the border between Hurley and the Town of Ulster. Creating rail trails through the City of Kingston itself could eventually yield pedestrian and bicycle access from Orange County clear to the Catskills.
It’s a grand and glorious vision, complicated by the fact that Kingston’s intracity rail corridors pass through some of the most blighted sections of Midtown. Potential pathways are buried under decades’ worth of trash. But KLT is finally getting a bit of outside help in achieving this dream – or at least in formulating a plan for doing so. In November, a not-for-profit advocacy group called Parks & Trails New York (PTNY) chose three communities in the state to receive assistance from its Healthy Trails, Healthy People program, whose mission is to “increase the number of physically active New Yorkers by helping communities create new or increase the usage of existing multi-use trails.” Low-income communities receive the highest priority for assistance from the program.
Though this award is being widely reported as a “grant,” there is actually no transfer of cash involved. Instead, it’s what is known as a technical assistance grant. The experts at PTNY act as pro bono consultants, helping the grantee organization to complete a feasibility study for its proposed project. Presumably, this will in turn help the organization leverage additional funding from government agencies and private foundations for implementation of the study’s recommendations.
“What we offer is the advice, expertise and the wide-ranging network of connections of our staff, gained through decades of experience with community organizing and trail development,” says PTNY’s website. “Our work is very hands-on. Based on visits to your community and discussions with community members, we provide customized assistance to meet the individual needs of your project: help with technical issues, planning, public outreach, grantwriting, fundraising, public meetings, promotion, programming, organizational development and other activities critical to the long-term success of trail projects.”
KLT executive director Rebecca Martin and members of the KLT board of directors – including Gregg Swanzey, a Kingston resident who works in the development department at the Mohonk Preserve – have already met with PTNY representatives and walked the trail corridor from Kingston Hospital in Midtown to the Trolley Museum in the Rondout District. “We have been working as a Rail Trail Committee to understand the railbeds and different collaborations necessary to accomplish our goal. Parks and Trails New York are familiar with Kingston, and it’s really just the beginning of giving them all the info to discuss to proper steps,” notes Martin, adding that community outreach will be necessary on a massive scale to make the project a reality.
Intrigued? Now would be a great time to help kick-start this promising effort, since KLT has recently secured a challenge grant from an anonymous donor matching up to $5,000 in individual contributions. The match expires January 31, so visit KLT’s donation page at www.justgive.org/nonprofits/donate.jsp?ein=26-2338986 if you’re in a position to help out. For more info about the Healthy Trails, Healthy People award or about the Kingston Land Trust’s programs in general, visit www.kingstonlandtrust.org/news or call (845) 877-LAND. And you can find out more about Parks & Trails New York at www.ptny.org.