Black Rock Forest Consortium opens ADA-accessible nature trail

Pathway provides outdoors access for wheelchairs, walkers and strollers


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  • Photos by Jeff Simms The Black Rock Forest Consortium has opened a quarter-mile of ADA-accessible pathway that showcases views up the Hudson Valley to the Shawangunk and Catskill mountains at the entrance of the Black Rock Forest in Cornwall. Pictured at the ribbon-cutting on Friday, Oct. 31, from left to right, are: Jeannette Redden, representing the Palisade Interstate Park Commission as well as stepping in for her husband and Black Rock Forest Consortium board co-chair David Redden; Lucy Waletzky, chairperson of the state Council of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; Fred Osborn, representing the NY-NJ Trail Conference; Assemblyman James Skoufis; state Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey; Doug Hovey, executive director of Independent Living; Ann Marie Maglione, director of Orange County Office for the Aging; Michael Summerfield, Cornwall Town Council; Brendan Coyne, Cornwall-on-Hudson mayor; Richard Randazzo, Cornwall town supervisor; John Blenninger, NY-NJ Trail Conference trail supervisor; Bill Schuster, executive director of the Black Rock Forest Consortium; Ed Goodell, NY-NJ Trail Conference executive director; and trail contractor Eddie Walsh of Tahawus Trails.




  • Black Rock Forest, a diverse, natural ecosystem, is home to many rare species of flora and fauna. The forest and the adjacent Storm King Mountain are two of the most outstanding natural features in the Hudson Highlands, attracting tens of thousand of hikers and visitors each year.




  • The 10-foot-wide packed stone Visitor Access Pathway (VAP), which meanders through mature forests and past fern-covered cliffs, now offers access to some of the Hudson Highlands' most challenging and rewarding vistas.




— The Black Rock Forest Consortium has opened a quarter-mile of ADA-accessible pathway that showcases breathtaking views up the Hudson Valley to the Shawangunk and Catskill mountains at the entrance of the 3,870-acre Black Rock Forest in Cornwall.

The 10-foot-wide packed stone Visitor Access Pathway (VAP) — which meanders through mature forests and past fern-covered cliffs — now offers access to some of the Hudson Highlands’ most challenging and rewarding vistas.

Because the trail was constructed in compliance with ADA building standards and trail guidelines, it can be safely accessed by just about anyone — including people using wheelchairs or walkers, as well as families with young children in strollers.

“We are looking forward to welcoming many people to Black Rock Forest for the first time, where they will discover an intact, native ecosystem that is home to a great diversity of wildlife, including more than 160 bird species,” said Bill Schuster, the executive director of the Black Rock Forest Consortium. “Black Rock Forest has been largely undisturbed for 100 years, and offers a distinctly different outdoor experience that all will now be able to enjoy, thanks to the generous support of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.”

State funding and in-kind contributions

The Black Rock Forest VAP was constructed over a six-month period, beginning in March 2016 using almost $217,000 in funding from the New York State Environmental Protection Fund and equivalent in-kind contributions of labor and materials from the Black Rock Forest Consortium.

It was completed in time to open in October, which is National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

Black Rock Forest, a highly diverse, natural ecosystem, is home to many rare species of flora and fauna. The forest and the adjacent Storm King Mountain are two of the most outstanding natural features in the Hudson Highlands, attracting tens of thousand of hikers and other visitors each year. Access to these areas, however, has been problematic for some due to the rocky, mountainous terrain.

Very few outdoor resources for people with disabilities

For people with mobility impairments, these challenges can be substantial, and have historically prevented many seniors and people with disabilities from accessing these beautiful wilderness trails.

“The Black Rock Forest Visitor Access Pathway will provide meaningful outdoor experiences for people in places where they have not had them before,” said Douglas Hovey, the executive director of Independent Living, Inc. “As a person who uses a wheelchair, being able to experience nature and the great outdoors is such an essential part of my well-being. There are very few outdoor resources for people with disabilities, therefore this addition at Black Rock Forest is significant for the thousands of people living with disabilities in the Hudson Valley.”

The trail opening last Friday, Oct. 21, represents the first of two phases of a project designed to improve that experience and connect other regional trails.

The Visitor Access Pathway

The first half of the Visitor Access Pathway was constructed primarily by expert contractor Tahawus Trails using a combination of styles that literally carved the trail into the landscape. With grades not exceeding seven percent and a width of 8 to 10 feet, this initial section is accessible for wheelchairs due to its small-grain, evenly packed tread material.

The trail crosses three stone covered culverts that let surface water pass underneath while traversing through a 100-year-old oak forest, a young stand of pines and a dense area of striped maple before ending at a broad overlook that boasts views across Black Rock Forest and up the Hudson Valley to the Shawangunk and Catskill ranges.

The pathway will also be equipped with ADA-accessible benches along the hiking corridor and at the viewpoint. Each bench will be 17 to 19 inches above ground, at least 42 inches in length, and will be built using wood from Black Rock Forest.

The second and final phase of the Visitor Access Pathway, which will also be suitable for use by people with moderate disabilities, is being planned for construction in 2017 and opening in 2018.

Essential information

Black Rock Forest Consortium advances scientific understanding of the natural world through research, education and conservation. The Consortium maintains a 3,870-acre forest and scientific field station in the Hudson Highlands.

For more information on the Consortium, visit www.blackrockforest.org.





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