Sibyl's Path: Opening & Dedication
June 6th, 2019
More than 50 family members, friends and colleagues came together on June 6 to celebrate Sibyl Golden and rename Black Rock Forest’s newly completed Visitor Access Pathway in her honor.
Officially christened Sibyl’s Path at 11:15 a.m., the trail is a gentle walking and hiking path that creates a safe connection for all, including seniors, the physically challenged and beginning hikers. It was designed and completed over two phases with an emphasis on increasing accessibility to the outdoors for people of all ages and abilities.
The pathway is also a fitting memorial to Sibyl, who spent much of her life championing the natural world, especially as Chair of Black Rock Forest (aka Black Rock Forest Consortium) from 2007 to 2017.
Dr. Lucy Waletzky, the chair of the New York State Council of Parks, spoke at the opening about her time working with Sibyl. “I was lucky enough to serve on the board of Black Rock Forest with Sibyl,” she said. “Her stunning intellect, tireless work and her vast knowledge of conservation was a great inspiration.”
Dr. Waletzky also spoke about the importance of maintaining connectivity between protected lands, and how Black Rock Forest links Schunnemunk and Storm King state parks — creating habitat connections for wildlife and migratory flyways for some 160 bird species.
“Not only will people be able to walk this path,” she said, “but there’s so much you’re going to be able to see.”
With the first phase of the Pathway opening in 2016 to significant media coverage due to its accessibility, it was fitting that the opening of phase two focused on Sibyl.
“I was always so impressed Sibyl’s keen mind, curiosity and her kindness,” said Hilary Callahan, the president of the Forest’s Board of Directors. “She was really remarkable.” Callahan continued, adding that, “Black Rock Forest is remarkably rugged and a real challenge to walk around. I’m so gratified today to make this forest widely available to anyone of any age.”
During her time as board chair, Sibyl’s impact was felt throughout every level of Black Rock Forest: the organization’s membership nearly doubled during her time leading its board, while student visitorship increased by 30 percent, and researchers published 60 peer-reviewed journal papers and graduate theses during her tenure.
But perhaps her greatest impact was in helping to create the framework for a conservation easement between New York State and the Open Space Institute that protected 3,777 acres of Black Rock Forest. The easement — the largest-ever of its kind in the Highlands — was announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Earth Day two years ago as a huge milestone for public access in New York State.
Sibyl’s Path takes another step toward that goal of creating access. Phase 1 of the path is a fully ADA-accessible trail that’s more than a quarter-mile long while the second phase, constructed in 2018, reaches Mailey’s Mill Bridge, where it connects with the nearly 4,000-acre forest’s larger network of hiking trails.
In all, the two pathways combine to create more than a mile-long roundtrip of remarkably accessible trail winding through some of the region’s most demanding outdoor terrain. The entire pathway was built with major funding of $571,000 from the New York State Environmental Protection Fund.
Although the two phases of Sibyl’s Path were constructed within a three-year period, Black Rock Forest Executive Director Bill Schuster noted at the opening that it had been nearly 20 years since the idea was first conceived. He likened the determination needed to see the project to completion to Sibyl Golden.
“Sibyl really understood the big picture,” Schuster said. “You have to be dedicated and you have to be persistent to get things done. Sibyl was an example of that for all of us.”