For the Times Herald-Record as featured on recordonline.com
FALLSBURG — Some 4.2 miles of trail under a canopy of trees offers shade and breeze, beautiful flowers and bubbling streams — and makes for a lovely walk or bicycle ride through the Town of Fallsburg.
The town-owned Rails-to-Trails path follows the old Ontario & Western Railway Co. bed; the gravel trail begins in the hamlet of Mountaindale and extends, with one break in Woodridge, to the Neversink Trailhead near the village.
People can choose to take a short, peaceful walk along one segment of the path where you might see fluttering butterflies and dragonflies; or hike the entire route and back from the train depot and museum near Mountaindale’s post office — through the village of Wood-ridge with its restaurants, and on to a birdwatching wetland area with ducks and herons, to the Neversink River.
Volunteer groups connected to Sullivan County Renaissance have worked hard over the years to improve this section of the O&W trail.The Mountaindale Action Committee and the Sullivan Striders have crafted several landscaping exhibits and gardens. Sullivan Striders holds an annual race in July. All the money raised goes into the trail.
“It is really beautiful out here,” said Allen Frishman, seasonal development coordinator for Sullivan Renaissance. Frishman has been involved in several trail projects, both as a volunteer and as Fallsburg’s former building inspector.
Frishman said the trail from Mountaindale to Woodridge has been used as a walking path for several years, and is better known. But Fallsburg and volunteer groups are promoting the trail with a new brochure and signage. More people are trying the Woodridge-to-Neversink walk, a segment featuring a newly painted gazebo, veterans memorial and bird observation area.
“We spent a lot of money this fall in cleaning it up, and taking out a lot of the wet spots,” Frishman said. “There are a lot of things to see.”
The trail’s interpretive signage explains the history of the railway; the O&W carried anthracite coal from northeastern Pennsylvania beginning around 1890.
One recent addition to the trail is an O&W train sculpture with flower planters. This is near the mouth of the Mountaindale segment, where there’s also an exercise area. A historic watchmen’s shanty was also moved from Hurleyville and renovated.
Don’t forget to visit the visitors center in Mountaindale across from the post office. Modeled after a train depot, the air-conditioned room contains black-and-white photos of the original train station, and shots of trains, engineers and passengers, some pictures pre-dating 1905. The building has ample parking and public bathrooms.
Fallsburg’s O&W trail might be off the beaten path, but it is a good way to spend a few minutes, or a few hours, walking or biking in the Catskills.