Climbers and tourists visiting the Trapps can soon look forward to an enhanced experience at the scenic overlook nearest the Mohonk Preserve’s Overcliff/Undercliff trail. A million-dollar grant offered several years ago by the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) to “modernize and beautify” several overlooks along Route 44/55 will finally come to fruition, thanks to a vote taken at the Gardiner Town Board meeting on Tuesday, May 13.
Town supervisor Carl Zatz explained that at the time that the grant was awarded, Gardiner officials were unable to accept the terms of the grant, which required each affected town along the Shawangunk Scenic Byway to agree to maintain the islands, kiosks and planting beds to be constructed at the overlooks within its borders. According to Zatz, Gardiner did not have the infrastructure, budget or personnel available to devote to such tasks as emptying trash containers and weeding flowerbeds at the one overlook in the town, situated between the hairpin turn and the Trapps Bridge.
But now a solution to the maintenance problem has been found. The supervisor said that the Scenic Byway’s executive director, Al Wegener, approached Mohonk Preserve officials and asked them to take over the task of maintenance at the overlook, which is largely patronized by Preserve users.
“Mohonk has agreed to this?” asked Town Board member Mike Reynolds.
“Yes,” Zatz responded. “The state will pay for the improvements. Mohonk will provide the services. We’re not contractually bound; we’re not liable.”
The Town Board voted unanimously to approve the resolution to sign the contract, which will activate the dormant grant funding and enable the Scenic Byway improvement project to go forward at last.
The work in Gardiner will take about two months. When it is completed, open for traffic and safe for pedestrians, work will start on the overlook further north along Route 44/55 in the Town of Rochester. When that’s done, in about another two months, the crew will move on to the Route 52 overlook in the Town of Wawarsing.
“The overlook, located in Gardiner, is the gateway to the Wallkill Valley,” said Zatz. “The stunning views from the base of the Shawangunk Cliffs point to a valley rich in history, agriculture and boundless recreation. The overlook has always begged for more accessible parking, available information and a landscaping vision that would frame the open vista. The new beautiful design will provide these and much more. The local community and its visitors will be well served upon its completion.”
“We are delighted to see the municipalities in the Shawangunk Mountains Scenic Byway Regional Partnership working with the State DOT to enhance the scenic pull-offs along the byway,” said Mohonk Preserve Executive Director Glenn Hoagland. “Making these historic overlooks more accessible, interpretive and tourist-friendly will add another appealing feature to the Ridge for tourists and local residents. In particular, the Mohonk Preserve is glad to support the Town of Gardiner by performing the maintenance of the Wallkill Valley Scenic Overlook on Route 44/55 in the Trapps.”