Rail trails on the run

The Hudson Valley Rail Trail Association will host a 5K race and walk celebrating National Trail Running Day on October 8. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Several communities in Ulster County have turned old railbeds into multi-use linear public parks. Residents walk, bike, jog, horseback ride, ski and travel sans vehicle from place to place. Ulster County is blessed with a number of old railbeds, and now there’s even talk of connecting them with each other.

The Hudson Valley Rail Trail (the HVRT, the abandoned part of the New York, New Haven & Hartford line that includes 2.5 miles of paved railbed from the hamlet of Lloyd to Tony Williams Park) will connect through another 1.2 miles of rail-trail acquired by Lloyd to the Walkway Over the Hudson, the state historic park that spans the Hudson River on a renovated railroad bridge 212 feet tall and 1.28 miles long. This historic landmark opened to the public in October 2009. And the HVRT Association is working to connect the rail-trail in Lloyd westward towards the Wallkill Valley Rail-trail in New Paltz — another 2.5 miles.

Meanwhile, the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail (WVRT) is poised to double in length and by early fall will connect Gardiner and New Paltz to Rosendale, Ulster and Kingston via the 940-foot-long Rosendale Rrailroad trestle, perched 150 feet over the Rondout Creek in Rosendale.

According to Alan Bowdery, vice president of the Wallkill Valley Land Trust (WVLT), a not-for-profit organization that partnered with the Open Space Institute (OSI) to purchase 11.5 miles of rail-trail in 2009 and 65 additional acres, “The work on the trestle has begun and is expected to be completed by August 13,” Bowdery told the WVLT annual meeting.

The approximately $1.2-million project involves repairing the 114-year-old bridge’s steel infrastructure, installing wooden decks and railings, and doing drainage work. “If they don’t finish on time, it costs them $1300 a day,” said Bowdery. “So there is great impetus to stick to the deadline.”

You may have noticed new fencing and workers on the Rosendale railroad trestle. The bidding process for the fabrication and installation of new railings for the trestle is complete. Work has begun!

The railings are made of Cor-ten Steel, a natural weathering steel that will have a weathered look and still be durable. In preparation for the installation of the railings, existing railroad ties will be turned 90 degrees, and ties that are deteriorated will be removed. The new orientation of the ties will provide a larger surface area upon which to install the decking. Once all the ties are flipped, the railings will be installed in sections and attached directly to the steel of the trestle.

The Rosendale railroad trestle. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

Future maintenance will be simplified. Because the decking timbers will be installed after the railings, replacement of weathered boards will be simple. The railings will remain in place to protect the safety of anyone working on the decking.

On Friday, April 13, a small fire popped up among the existing railroad ties after the construction company had left for the day. Thanks to the quick work of the Rosendale and Tillson fire departments, the fire was quickly addressed.

The Wallkill Valley Land Trust is working closely with the fire departments and the project engineer to establish additional fire prevention measures as this project continues. With unseasonably dry conditions, appropriate precautions are being taken.

Work is also needed on the recently acquired miles of old railbed trails, including re-grading and widening. Rail-trail users will then be able to go from the hamlet of Gardiner north through New Paltz, Tillson, Rosendale and Ulster into the City of Kingston without having to get off the linear trail. The route is varied and interesting, passing through scenic woodlands, open fields and farmlands along the Wallkill River, over the Rondout Creek and past Rosendale’s old cement mines and Binnewater lakes.

WVLT and OSI have been working to secure easements along portions of the trail. “North of Williams Lake, there was a property owner who is a big rail-trail fan and user who gave us an easement without hesitation,” reported Bowdery. But another property owner just north of the Thruway wanted to put in a swimming pool and shed along the easement. “We’ve just filed a lawsuit, and they’ve yet to respond,” he added.

Ruth Elwell, longtime president of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail Association, said her group was hoping to partner with the various municipalities along the new section of the rail-trail, just as it has further south. The group agrees to care for and maintain the trail through volunteer labor and donations, and the various municipalities provide assistance in maintaining the trails.

Bowdery said that WVLT’s goal was to have the trestle and the 11.5 miles of trail “ready and open for the public by early fall.” The partnership has raised approximately $750,000 towards the $1.2-million project.

To learn more about this effort, follow its progress, or make a donation, go to www.trackthetrestle.org.

Two other significant old railbeds should also be mentioned. Ulster County government owns 38 miles of Ulster & Delaware Railroad right-of-way from the shores of the Hudson River in Kingston west to Highmount in the northwestern tip of the county. And much of the former Ontario & Western Railroad roadbed from Kingston down the Esopus and Rondout valleys are now in use as rail-trails. Finally, portions of the former route of the nineteenth-century Delaware & Hudson Canal, including some of the historic locks, are used for recreational purposes.

Lose weight, feel great?

Photo by David Plakke

Experts on intuitive eating, strengthening the brain, exercise for kids, and other health topics will be presenting at the twelfth annual Women’s Health and Fitness Expo this Saturday, May 19, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Miller Middle School in Lake Katrine. The focus this year will be on weight loss and the lifestyle changes to maintain it. It will also focus on the impact a healthy lifestyle can have on preventing illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.

In addition to presentations by speakers on weight control, the main-stage speakers will address the benefits of maintaining an ideal weight for overall health. Two Harvard Medical School physicians, neurologist Marie Pasinski and cardiologist Malissa Wood, will discuss the importance of a healthy lifestyle, including weight control, on heart and brain health. Experts will be available to answer questions.

The annual event will offer more than 20 health screenings, over 75 speakers, workshops, fitness demos, chef demos, spa services, a healthy food court and some 125 exhibitors. Expo participants will receive complimentary bags filled with health and wellness products and information.

The expo is moving from TechCity to the nearby Miller School in Lake Katrine, where the sponsors say the increased space and layout are better suited to main-stage needs, cooking facilities, weight and fitness rooms, and the ever-growing number of participating professionals and exhibitors. Admission is $7, and tickets may be purchased in advance at http://womenshealthexpo.com/.

Dr. Debra Karnasciewicz is founder and director of the not-for-profit Women’s Health and Fitness Foundation, which sponsors the expo.

This year’s theme was developed with the nation’s alarming obesity rates in mind. The state health department’s most recent statistics indicate that 59.6 percent of Ulster County adults and 62.6 percent of Dutchess County adults are obese or overweight. Though excess weight is often accompanied by chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, the lifestyle changes needed to lose weight and maintain weight loss can be challenging.

At any point in time, one in three women and one in five men in the United States are on some kind of diet, according to registered dietician and nutrition expert Mary Hartley, one of this year’s main-stage speakers. “These diets produce short-term weight loss, but two or three years later 95 percent of traditional dieters regain the weight,” she says. Hartley will discuss the concept of intuitive eating, a non-diet approach to weight loss that “shifts the paradigm from weight loss to wellness, from food fear to food pleasure, and from body dissatisfaction to body trust,” she states.

Neurologist and author Pasinski believes the key to changing our lives for the better involves improving the brain. She will present what she believes is a program for keeping the brain in peak condition, training it with the same intent as elite athletes train their bodies.

Jessica Smith, author of Thin in 10 and the person depicted on boxes of Special K cereal, will speak about her 10-minute exercise program, touting it as a way of improving health that fits into the modern lifestyle.

Other main-stage speakers include weight-loss blogger Diane Carbonell, kids’ exercise promoter and The Biggest Loser contestant Bernie Salazar, and Woodstock dentist Michael Tischler. A panel of speakers will be moderated by Liz Neporent, author and ABC News reporter who has covered diverse health topics including the psychology of barefoot running and obesity in fruit flies.

Eight workshops on a variety of topics will be offered during the day, including: Myths and Facts of the Supplement Industry, Living Well in Spite of Endometriosis, and You Have The Power to Heal Yourself. Eight fitness demonstrations will also take place, among them: Body Flow, Zumba and Zumba Gold for Seniors, Smart Bells, Dance Like No One is Watching, plus others in cooperation with the YMCA and Mac Fitness. More than half a dozen chefs will offer cooking demonstrations.

It’s a hybrid

Chad Foti of the New Paltz Climbing Cooperative at 91 North Chestnut Street. (photo by Lauren Thomas)

New Paltz has taken rock climbing to even greater heights. The recently opened “climbing cooperative” occupies a 2000-square-foot post-industrial space in the heart of the village which was converted by climbing enthusiasts into a 24-hour indoor rock-climbing gym and community space.

Located in the back of Mike Rizza’s auto-body shop and car dealership at 91 North Chestnut Street, bordering the rail-trail and Huguenot Street, the New Paltz Climbing Cooperative has been a labor of love. It has surpassed the goals of its founder, Chad Foti, an active climber as well as a New Paltz High School teacher of earth science.

“It was a community effort,” said Foti, who refuses to take credit for the climbing gym. “So many people contributed. It blew my mind. All of the holds [rock-climbing holds that simulate rocks and crevices] were donated. All of the wood [to build the walls] was donated, the labor, the couches, the mats, this incredible art work,” he said. The walls are bursting with pop-art painted in a day by Paul St. Savage, a good friend who is a street artist in New York City. “I mentioned something to him,” said Foti, “and he came up and all I did was feed him and he did this in one day. It’s amazing.”

As Foti gives a tour of the gym, there are numerous people laboring up and down walls, hanging off of faux-overhangs, stretching, chatting on the comfortable couches, or utilizing the free weights and punching bag — all donated to the cooperative.

Their goal was hopefully to get 20 to 30 memberships the first couple of months and 50 by the year’s end. “But everyone came out of the woodwork to support us and be part of this cooperative,” said Foti. “We opened in December and met our goal within the first two months, we had 120 visitors our first month and now we’re up to 60 year-round memberships. I’m shocked and relieved and just excited. It’s such a great place and used by so many great people.”

A year-round membership, which gives the individual access (via a code key to the gym) every day of the year 24 hours a day, costs $350. A day pass is $10. Members can bring two guests free of charge and for liability’s sake members must be 18 years or older. “If a member wants to bring their children in for the day that’s fine,” noted Foti.

There are six walls, all of which are curved, bowed, some with steep angles, others with complicated overhangs and dozens of routes mapped out by color-coded tape — offering many beginner routes up to professional-level routes.

“We have a community night every Tuesday where people can map out their own routes,” he said. “We have movie nights, pot-lucks, parties … and it’s very local. Almost all of our members are from New Paltz, Gardiner and Rosendale.”

The idea was to create something that would cater to local climbers and those that wanted to learn to climb but who could not make it to the cliffs every day, and those who wanted to work out and keep their climbing skills sharp during the winter months, after work, during inclement weather.

“Who does it cater to?” Foti asked himself. “It caters to people who like to be on their own schedule, which rock climbers generally do. It caters to individuals, which climbers definitely are. And it caters to our community where we all want to play an integral role in and offer something healthy and organic. It’s part hang-outage and part working-outage. It’s a hybrid.”

Foti admitted that he felt very nervous when he began this endeavor. “I had some moments when I was like What am I doing? I’m going to be shackled to this.” Instead he discovered that people from all walks of life loved the community-cooperative aspect of it and put in sweat equity, donated, painted, created routes, brought in lights and tunes and helped turn those six walls into works of art with wild color schemes, challenging holds, and irregular forms.

“Even on an off day there could be seven or eight people here, or 30. Part of it provides a great workout, and the other part just allows people who enjoy climbing to get together and have fun.”

Foti said he could not have done it without Mike Rizza. “He was instrumental in making this happen,” said Foti. “Every time I ran into a stumbling block or needed something he was right there to help me out. He’s been so supportive as a landlord and as a wonderful New Paltz person.”

The people behind the enterprise are not in this for money. “Any bit of money we make beyond paying our rent and utilities will go right back into improving the gym, creating more climbing walls, purchasing necessary equipment,” said Foti. “We’re already designing a new wall that should be up in a few weeks.”

Foti is there three to four times a week to work out, see friends and manage the co-op. But the space largely runs itself. “This kind of thing keeps honest people honest,” he said. “They clean up, they tend to the books, they treat it like it’s their home, their space, which it is, and that’s what I love about it.”

To learn more go to their Facebook page at New Paltz Climbing Cooperative or go to www.npclimbingcooperative.wordpress.com or email [email protected]

“The best way to contact us is to just come by,” said Foti. “Every Tuesday night we have a community night from 6:30 to 9 p.m. and you can check out the space, talk with people and learn if this would be something you’d be interested in. We work out, but we also socialize and have a great time.”

Race you to the top

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[/wide]Me, competitive? Don’t be ridiculous. Now get out of my way.”

There’s a reason I’ve avoided joining a gym for all these years. I managed to put it completely out of my mind during my years away, but one week with my old friends the Nautilus machines and pedaling, walking and running to nowhere has brought it back. I am a competitive maniac.

I don’t like to think of myself that way. I avoided team sports as a young person and as a parent I favored cooperative games, hoping to teach my children the value of working together toward a goal.

Sadly, they preferred cutthroat games of Chutes and Ladders, crowing as one of them stood atop a ladder watching the other slide back to “Start.” It didn’t get better as they got older; they can get into a fist fight over a game of Monopoly. I refuse to play any more because I do not consider games blood sport.

That’s apparently true only up to a point.

The first inkling I had was when I did my orientation on the weight-lifting machines.

“Start very slowly,” I was told. “You recently hurt your back, so you have to take it easy.”

A little voice in my head, a voice I hadn’t heard for years whispered, ‘Make the weights heavier.’

I looked around and didn’t see any bad trainers whispering behind me, so I shook it off and wrote down the weights the sane trainer suggested.

My first day on my own at the gym found me following a wiry little woman who looked to be 90 years old. She was hoisting those weights while hardly breaking a sweat. I followed her on each machine and discovered that all of her weights were set at least fifty pounds heavier than mine.

You can lift as much as she can!, whispered my evil little internal voice. Go for it.

Common sense won out, for the most part. But where did that voice come from?

Fast forward to the treadmill. I hate treadmills. They’re boring. And, I discover, they bring out the worst in me.

I was on a machine beside a woman ten years young than me, at least. She was in good shape, too. Her feet beat out a steady thump, thump, thump rhythm and she glistened with a well-earned sweat. I found myself peeking at the setting on her machine, looking to see what her pace was. I matched it. And then, god help me, I sped it up so if we were walking beside each other on the road, I’d have left her behind.

Ha!, cried my inner voice triumphantly.

What kind of sick puppy would compete with people working out at a gym? Woof. That would be me.

It happened again on my last visit. I was beside an extraordinarily sweaty man who was on the treadmill (yes, the treadmill again) alternating between jogging and a brisk walk. So I kept pace with him. And when he slowed down from his jog to a walk, I jogged for just a little longer. When we walked, I raised the incline on my machine so it was just a little harder.

I didn’t say anything, of course. I’m not that far gone. But I knew. And I knew that I knew and that was very, very worrisome.

I saw a woman doing some amazing exercises for the lower back and abdominal obliques. I had to try. And I suspect I am drawn to it because it looks so damned hard. It is.

This is not good. First, this goes against the image I have of myself.

I’m not competitive. I like games where everyone wins.

That’s apparently true unless I’m in a gym.

I’m not alone. I see people looking around at the people working out near them, then watch them pick up their pace. I see people pushing themselves so hard that they’re either punishing themselves, or trying to show up the rest of us. Even in the gentle stretch class, people are looking around to see if they can’t be just a little more flexible, a little more relaxed than the guy on the next mat.

I didn’t expect a gym membership to be an opportunity to analyze myself, but this is what it’s become. My long walks by myself allowed me to avoid confronting my inner crazy competitive person. I avoided her for so long that I actually forgot she existed. But it’s winter, I’m out of shape and I’m going to have to learn what she wants and how to keep her under control. Or I’m going to be a completely unhinged woman with an incredible physique.