Phase 2 of Visitor Access Pathway Will Open in 2019 for Hikers
Creates long-term solution by providing outdoor access for all
 
Black Rock Forest is in the process of completing the second phase of its Visitor Access Pathway (VAP), a gentle walking and hiking path that creates a safe connection for senior, physically challenged and beginning hikers who may need a more moderate terrain but thrive on the hands-on experience that only comes with access to the natural world. 
 
Phase 1 of the path, a fully ADA-accessible trail that’s more than a quarter-mile long, opened in late 2016 and leads walkers through mature forest before ending at an overlook with spectacular views of the Shawangunk and Catskill mountains. 
 
The second phase of the VAP is under construction now, and extends the original trail to the historic Mailley’s Mill Bridge, where it connects with the forest’s 23-mile network of hiking trails. In all, the two pathways combine to create over a half mile of meandering carriage road, winding through some of the Hudson Highlands’ most demanding but also rewarding outdoor terrain. 
 
Built into steep talus and supported in places with eight-foot stone walls, the second VAP phase is more challenging than the first. The new trail will be equipped with railings along steep slopes, and is appropriate for beginning and casual hikers, as well as parents pushing strollers. 
 
The second phase of the VAP is not recommended for hikers using wheelchairs or walkers, due to a slightly steeper grade near its end, said Eddie Walsh, the manager of Tahawus Trails, which constructed both phases of the pathway.
 
The second phase, like the first, was funded by a grant from New York State’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), administered by the state’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. EPF funding totaled nearly $570,000, and is being matched through in-kind contributions of materials, volunteer and staff labor, support from private donors, and funding secured through the office of State Senator Bill Larkin.  
 
“It’s been so gratifying to complete this project with such generous support from New York State,” said Bill Schuster, the executive director of the nonprofit organization Black Rock Forest, which maintains the 3,914-acre forest preserve. “This creates a safe connection for our hikers and allows people of all ages to get outdoors and experience the natural beauty of the Hudson Highlands.”
 
The second phase differs from the first by narrowing the trail in spots to six feet wide. Its grade also exceeds 8 percent in some places. However, it is constructed with the same packed stone material that’s easy on the feet and can accommodate nearly every trail user.
 
When complete, the pathway will also be equipped with ADA-accessible benches along the hiking corridor and at the Phase 1 overlook. Each bench will be 17 to 19 inches above the ground, at least 42 inches in length, and will be built using wood from Black Rock Forest.