As part of an ongoing community conservation initiative, Mohonk Preserve met with a group of near neighbors in October and then held an open, public Community Engagement Meeting in November at the New Paltz Community Center to discuss plans for the Testimonial Gateway Trailhead project, including stabilizing the gatehouse structure, establishing safe and managed parking and trailhead facilities for property visitors, providing safe access to the site from public roadways, restoring Lenape Lane and the Butterville/Lenape Lane Bridge, and rehabilitating the historic site and surrounding landscape. Fo
The majority of community feedback focused on traffic and parking issues. Following are community comments and Preserve responses:
"Travelling on or turning onto Route 299 is dangerous."
The Preserve is committed to providing safe access to the Foothills property and we are analyzing a number of entry configurations and visitor parking locations.
"Stricter enforcement of traffic laws and a reduced speed limit on Route 299 are needed."
The Preserve would support a petition to the County and Town Highway Departments for a reduction in the speed limit.
"Park visitation results in extensive unauthorized parking on local roads."
A new, off-road visitor parking and trailhead facility will offset unauthorized roadside parking and will provide sufficient capacity to cover increased visitation. The Preserve will continue to cooperate with neighbors on this issue, including seeking enforceable roadside parking bans along Butterville and Gatehouse Roads, and possibly on Route 299.
"Alternative parking locations, such as near the Hasbrouck House, or additional smaller parking locations should also be considered."
As part of our planning process, the Preserve considered six potential trailhead sites, each with pros and cons. Our preferred alternative location continues to be a dedicated access driveway off of Route 299 just west of Gatehouse Road. The Hasbrouck House area was identitied in our original Land Asset Management Plan as a potential small-scale, or program-purposed parking location, and based on additional community imput, we are now revisiting developing parking plans for that area. After careful consideration, we have determined that adding any other additional small parking areas will, however, be much more difficult to properly manage and we want to make sure the impact on the environment and neighborhood can be properly managed.
"The Preserve should provide a sufficient number of parking spaces to help avoid spillover parking near neighboring homes."
The Preserve is working with our engineers to determine the optimal number and placement of parking spaces. We have a very positive track record on Route 44/55 of successfully accomodating former roadside parking in the West Trapps Trailhead parking lot, and will leverage that knowledge and experience at the Testimonial Gateway Trailhead.
"A more comprehensive user-demand analysis is needed."
The Preserve agrees that a comprehensive solution is needed at the community level. We will continue to work with the County, the Town, "near" neigbhors, other community members, and businesses toward a common solution that optimizes controlled off-road parking with roadside safety and aesthetics.
"The project entrance drive may create a line of cars that will block Route 299."
The planned trailhead entrance will be long enough to acommodate arriving and departing vehicles within the site.
"A round-about entry could lead to confusion, with drivers who don't know the difference between stopping and merging."
The Preserve is exploring several entrance alternatives and will conduct traffic studies and work with the Town and County in selecting the best and safest option.
"This project may eliminate free access for local users."
These lands have always been private property. As with all Mohonk Preserve lands, authorized access for Preserve members and general public day pass visitors will be the normal practice. We and the Open Space Institute, the current owner of the lands, also plan to continue the historical reciprocal policy of authorized access for Mohonk Mountain House guests for both the part of the Foothills Mohonk Preserve is purchasing and the part OSI is retaining.
"The Testimonial Gateway is not the best location for an entrance to the Preserve."
Each of the Preserve's four existing trailheads provide a distinct visitor experience and access to a particular section of the Preserve. The new Testimonial Gateway Trailhead will serve a similar purpose, providing access to the Foothills and a unique valley-to-ridge access through a locally and nationally designated historic landscape. The site was carefully designed as a Romantic landscape entrance experience to the Mohonk Mountain House in 1908. The Preserve's Visitor Center on Route 44/55 will continue to be the primary welcoming and orientation site for Preserve visitors.
The Preserve also received a number of positive comments about the benefits of the Testimonial Gateway Trailhead project. Following are a few examples:
"We are so grateful to all the folks at Open Space Institute and Mohonk Preserve for keeping this land wild! We appreciate it."
"I think the project and the efforts to preserve and steward the land are wonderful and I commend all who have come together to try to make it a true 'gateway' for all."
"The recent purchase/management agreement of the lands as described at tonight's meeting hugely benefits and enhances our community."
"Maintaining and managing this environment that can only see an ever increasing usage will require solid and intelligent planning. It is therefore that I fully support the Mohonk Preserve's current planning for the Testimonial Gateway which will provide continuation of this special place into the future, providing a positive experience for visitors and maintain a harmonious relationship with its neighbors."