By Sona Mason, West Hudson Program Coordinator
The towns of Suffern, Hillburn, Sloatsburg, and Tuxedo, surrounded by the great green havens of Harriman and Sterling Forest state parks, are recognizing an economic opportunity at their doorstep. Mass transit is bringing in visitors from New York City and beyond, and the towns need only to help connect them with the restaurants, shops, and other conveniently placed amenities these burgs have to offer. Day trippers are already seeking places to pick up sandwiches and sunscreen before their hikes, and a friendly pub or restaurant post-adventure before the next train home. Now, it’s becoming easier than ever to linger in these trail towns before heading into the woods.
Events like the first annual Explore Harriman: Adventure in the Trail Town Corridor, promoting cultural and outdoor activities along the west side of the park, are making that clear. Sponsored by the Suffern Chamber of Commerce, Explore Harriman took place on September 19 and encouraged visitors and residents alike to tour these communities and partake in all of the great food, music, art, and happenings they offer. Buses conveniently shuttled visitors from town to town for a full day of celebration.
“The Greater Suffern Chamber of Commerce is excited to be uniting with Hillburn, Sloatsburg, and Tuxedo on this project,” said Suffern Chamber of Commerce President Aurelius Licata of Licata Insurance Management Corp. “We thank Alden Wolfe, Chairman of the Rockland County Legislature, for pulling together an enthusiastic group of movers and shakers, especially all the fantastic people at the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, who have a love for our area’s greatest asset, Harriman State Park.”
Speaking of buses, the Harriman Shuttle, sponsored by MyHarriman.com, the Tuxedo Chamber of Commerce, and A Better Tuxedo, is affordably increasing access to the parks, especially for those traveling to this area of the Lower Hudson Valley via train from Manhattan. The big yellow bus is bringing visitors to camps, trailheads, and beaches that used to require a car to reach for just $5 per trip, which helps offset the cost of the bus. Town-to-town hikes and stayovers can now be more easily planned, allowing visitors to take in new views and experiences en route.
“The shuttle has been a blast, and enthusiasm from hikers for the new service is over the top,” said Suzy Allman, founder of MyHarriman.com. “While our ridership is almost exclusively young ‘urbaneers’ from Manhattan and Brooklyn, we’re also picking up groups who are looking for a four-to-seven-hour hike for the day. We’ve had groups using the park as a shakedown location, training for longer thru-hikes in the Sierras, Glacier Park, and the northern part of the Appalachian Trail. We’ve had tourists from Russia, Australia, China, and the U.K.; we’ve had families going to the group camps and individuals staying at Nawakwa.”
Local citizens, too, have risen to the challenge of creating a “trail town” feel for visitors, volunteering their time to promote trails and outdoor recreation. A group of Trail Conference volunteers are helping people obtain maps at the Suffern and Tuxedo Farmers’ Markets every Saturday, while others are assisting hikers in choosing appropriate trails for their day. The Harriman Shuttle route begins at the Tuxedo Train Station, where volunteers hop onboard and lend their experience and knowledge of the park to riders.
Others have led town tours and meetings to brainstorm with local residents and businesses on how best to attract visitors to the towns’ historic and scenic attractions. Kiosks are being planned at strategic locations to provide information on the recreational opportunities in the area, while there are plans to install maps and traffic signage to direct hikers on safe route through the towns. Suffern is already making its mark in that regard, literally—blazes have been painted from the Suffern Train Station to the Suffern-Bear Mountain Trail, and a kiosk is being placed at the SBM trail head.
If you’re interested in getting involved in the trail town movement happening in these communities, contact Trail Conference West Hudson Program Coordinator Sona Mason: firstname.lastname@example.org or 201.512.9348 x16. The Harriman Shuttle is looking for volunteers to ride along and share park information with hikers. The Shuttle is also in need of sponsors so the program can continue next year. Find more info at myharriman.com/ride-harriman-shuttle.