By Edie Johnson
Current map showing the Schunnemunk Rail Trail and its plans to like with other major regional hiking and biking trails
The Whole of Schunnemunk Rail Trail is Much More Than The Sum Of Its Parts
The Schunnemunk Rail has been a dream for many for such a long time that we sometimes need a reminder that while things may seem quiet there are small miracle steps happening in the background toward making this dream come true. There are at leat 5 exciting reminders that the project's puzzle pieces are beginning to demonstrate what Germans call a "Gestalt"; that is, the full fledged vision of the essential "whole" that the vision will be when complete.
A Washingtonville Trial Hike Along the SRT
First Schunnemunk Trail signs installed near WHS on Rt. 94
Moodna with trestle at the back by Sewell Park
First stretch of the trail through Washingtonville with .farmland and a field of solar, mountain range in the background
Johanna Kiernan hiking the first stretch in Washingtonville
Remnants of the Erie tracks that once brought thousands to the area
Moodna Creek just before the trestle being repaired
Native wildflowers along the trail in Spring
Trestle under repair. One of a series of trestle bridges along the Moodna and SRT
In the first week of June, Johanna Kiernan and I did a trial 'hike' of the northeast section of the future SRT, through the Village of Washingtonville and examined 3 of its developing trailheads. It exposed historic beauty of the Moodna Valley, and enough trestles to make one wonder if it should be called the "Creek of Trestle Bridges" rather than "Moodna" which is derived from "Murderer's Creek". The stretch through the Village is both "homespun" and an exciting trail, not only to Salisbury Mills and the Moodna Viaduct, but the entire future trail includes numerous venues to entice visitors and tourists that they hope will start thinking of this corner of the county as a destination, which by the way includes the Salisbury Mills Train Station at its current northern edge and where Trestle Valley Farm offers a full palate of equestrian activities, including cross country, along with wellness venues, overnight space and possible collaboration with a large complex across on the west side of Rt. 94 that may include a video gaming venue.
The stretch through Washingtonville begins at Washingtonville High School and Middle School where a piece of trail goes south all the way through Blooming Grove to its connection with the Heritage Trail at Camp LaGuardia. Orange Trailhead signs have been installed there.
Across from the High School and Middle School Athletic Fields it meets the Moodna Creek in a small section of woods and one of the trestle bridges. But before crossing the bridge, visitors will want to know that just a few hundred feet down the street, the brand new Sewell Park will be holding events throughout the year. On the event menu there are plans for art shows and visiting specialists in different art media, horticulture, pollinator pathways, some town and village history, environmental and wellness learning seminars, opportunities to propogate their own flowers and veggies, and a Summer Bandstand, just to mention a few. The best part is that the kids in the school are not only excited about it and eager to start, but happy that they will get some curriculum credits along the way. Back at the first trestle on the East side of the street, this trailhead comes out at the Route 208 bridge, with Fulton Square and quaint village shops to the left, and the existing trail that runs from there for about a mile between May's Field and beautiful historic farmland to the northeast before heading into the woods with the Creek along its side. This stretch is adventurous and dripping with history between the farmland and years of leftover rail piles from the Erie Railroad that helped grow the area in the 1800's. About 3/4 of a mile down the path it comes upon another trestle bridge, which is currently being restored in preparation for the many hikers and tourists expected to use it in the future. The trail was so inviting that two young children, a boy and girl about 8 years old were already having fun exploring just north of the ballfield. We cautioned them to have fun, but be sure to stay this side of the bridge. On the other side of this trestle bridge the trail continues all the way to the Cornwall and New Windsor border and the current end goal of Clove Road in full view of the Viaduct and Valley which include the main Schunnemunk State Park Trailhead which also connects with the Highland Trail, the Long Path, and ultimately with th Appalachian Trail which extends all the way from Maine to Georgia.
An Exciting New Schunnemunk Trail Amenity Near the Trail's Beginning
Now for the newest exciting addition. Back at the start of the Schunnemunk Rail at the Heritage Trail on the former Camp LaGuardia 250 acres, the Orange County Legislature is supportive of County Executive Steve Neuhaus' concept of the property becoming a county park. The possibilities this could offer are nearly endless.
Finally, at last week at Blooming Grove's Town Board Meeting, Supervisor Rob Jeroloman announced that he has met with the new owners of the town's beloved historic Stone House Farm, nearly adjacent to the LaGuardia property. The previous owners,, Fred and Chisty Mackerodt had spent over 20 years, restoring the house, built several large barns, and fenced hndreds of acres for their horses and a few cows and even This new owner, a local who Jeroloman said grew up right in Blooming Grove,plans to establish it as a wedding and farm to table venue, with a redo of the huge barn for events and food preparation, community garden plots and other activities. There are several horses back on the property and a small herd of beef and dairy cows.
This venue both for residents and the expectation of a growth of the Schunnemunk Rail Trail offers a rich history of the beauty of our area and its people, and of which this property played a significant part. The trail incudes pieces of history that played an important part in early America all the way from the Chester/Blooming Grove border through Cornwall and eventually to West Point and the Newburgh waterfront.
Stone Housr Farm on several hundred acres upon its 160th anniversary in 2014. It was a celebratory day an also functioned as a fundraiser for the 4-H Education Center in Otisville.
Sean Geiry, his Percheron driving horse and mascot pup gave rides to the attendees. The farm is under new ownership and has plans for the public including weding venues, farm to table, community growing plots an other communities. The farm is also raising beef an dairy cattle.