GOSHEN—On Feb. 4, Orange County legislators unanimously passed a resolution to finance a section of the Heritage Trail that would extend it from Middletown to Howells.
The resolution amended a former bond resolution by $317,074, which would increase the amount the county is paying to $524,674.
The entire project is estimated to cost about $12 million, but the federal government has pledged to finance 80 percent of it, and last December the Orange County Industrial Development Agency gave $1 million and New York State another $500,000 to the project.
The Heritage Trail goes along the old Erie Railroad track and currently runs 11.5 miles from Monroe to Goshen. The addition from Goshen to Howells would extend it another 10 miles, running through Goshen, Middletown, Wallkill, and Wawayanda.
According to Parks and Rec. Commissioner, Richard Rose, the Heritage Trail is the second most widely-used park in Orange County with 150,000 visitors annually.
“The economic impacts on the city of Middletown are significant as we have seen with the location of two breweries along the trail along with several other economic development projects proposed,” said Middletown Mayor Joseph DeStefano in a press release before the vote. “This is big news for the city of Middletown.”
Legislator Jeff Berkman, who represents Middletown, quietly clapped after the vote.
Jerry Kleiner, a Middletown Alderman spoke before the legislature. He has been following the development of the trail for many years and estimated it first started around 1994.
“We’ve had a lot of people advocating for a long time,” he said. “We think it’s not just overdue but that it’s really important for our overall development.”
He said progress had been stalled from lack of leadership and political will, but now that the legislature, the county executive, and municipal officials are behind it, all that has changed.
County Executive Steven Neuhaus applauded the legislature after the vote, saying he is glad the legislature, “agreed to support my plan to get this project started now.”
“The Heritage Trail is a great asset to Orange County and I encourage everyone to get outside and enjoy the trail,” he said in the press release.
He is hoping the project will start later this year.
Next year the legislature is expected to vote on another $1.9 million for the trail, which would be the final funding for all three sections.
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