Provided by Albert Valk in his speech for the Rail Trail Grand Opening on May 2, 2009
In 1985 the Town of Montgomery and the Town of Shawangunk purchased the old single-track railroad bed, known as the Wallkill Valley Branch, from Con Rail. Both municipalities purchased the property for economic development of a commercial corridor, also for utility easements and access to the Old Borden Farm Reservoir. The reservoir, which is high yielding, could someday provide water for the Village of Walden or the Hamlet of Wallkill. The Town of Montgomery performed research and extensive testing on the reservoir looking for water resources for economic development and for the future, based on a study done by Phillip J. Clark Consultants (1981), which indicated an overflow of the dam of 300 - 400,000 g.p.d, a strong water source.
The Town of Shawangunk, in the Hamlet of Wallkill, built up around the rail bed. They built Railroad Avenue, providing access to the schools, residential development along CE Penney Drive, and Little League fields to the North of Route 208. To the South they provided a nature / rail trail, which they opened in 1995 and named it after former Supervisor Jesse McHugh. North of the Hamlet of Wallkill, the rail bed is owned by the NYS Dept. Of Corrections, with no public access allowed. Further north, in Gardiner NY, by Denniston Road, public access to the rail bed is once again allowed.
The Town of Montgomery had done nothing to the railroad property they purchased, letting it sit dormant. In the Village of Walden, the railroad tracks from Route 52, where the Old Scalper Bridge was, is a very active rail-car line providing products to Interstate Bag Company, American Lumber and a number of other businesses along the way.
In 2002, the Federal Highway Administration held TEA-21 grant information meetings in the Legislative Chambers in Goshen NY. The question of allowing utilities, such as water lines, electric and phone lines to be placed alongside or as part of the trail was asked. It was the opinion of those in attendance from the Federal Highway Administration that it was allowed and was smart planning for the future, especially for the three municipalities and two counties working together for the benefit of their residents.
A discussion developed at the Walden Diner between Mayor Rocky Pelligrino, Village Manager Jim Politi, Supervisor John Valk and Supervisor Al Valk about a joint application to develop a fully ADA compliant trail connecting the two population centers, just like the Heritage Trail that runs between Goshen and Chester, which has achieved great success and usage. The idea to connect the Village of Walden (population 6,100) and the Hamlet of Wallkill (population 2,500) was exciting and those involved were enthusiastic in providing handicapped accessibility for wheelchairs, bicycles, roller bladders, joggers and walkers of all ages. The combined population of the two towns is 33,000+ residents. According to a former railroad employee, who worked on the railroad line for 30 years, there is a 3% grade between Walden and Wallkill, which is almost flat terrain.
In 2003, to compliment the Walden Rail Trail project, Bob and Doris Kimball donated 21 acres of land right alongside the Rail Trail. This is designated to be the "Kimball Park." Restrooms, picnic areas and a parking lot could be in the future if money becomes available.