Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Trail Conference Shows off Its New Home

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Trail Conference Shows off Its New Home

Article excerpt

MAHWAH -- Using a black and blue rake, Edward Goodell finished mulching a young, swamp white oak tree, planted Saturday morning in front of the new headquarters for the New York New Jersey Trail Conference, the historic Darlington Schoolhouse.

It was one of a series of finishing touches applied Saturday as the conference celebrated the formal opening of the headquarters as well as its 95th year in existence, a span that has seen it grow from a collection of hiking clubs in New York City in 1920 to a 1,750-member volunteer organization that maintains more than 2,100 miles of trails.

"And it will be here at our 500th anniversary," Goodell, the group's executive director, said of the newly planted tree.

The organization moved into the new headquarters, off Ramapo Valley Road at the edge of the Ramapo Valley County Reservation, in March after purchasing the property in 2007. The total cost for the building -- originally constructed in 1891 as a gift to the Mahwah community by Alfred B. Darling and Theodore Havemeyer -- and the renovations will approach $5 million. About $1.8 million of that comes from state and county funds, Goodell said.

The group began in 1920, when Maj. William Welch -- who played a key role in the development of the region's park system -- helped to bring together many of the hiking clubs that existed in the New York City area at the time. They met on the roof of New York City's Abercrombie and Fitch store -- at the time the biggest outdoor retailer -- and formed the Palisades Interstate Park Trail Conference, the precursor to the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference.

The goal then was to spur recreational use of the land with trails and shelter systems.

"Fundamentally, we're still doing exactly the same thing," Goodell said.

The organization eventually grew in size and scope, adding more regions to cover and growing its membership. Over the past 15 years that Goodell has been with the conference, there has been a more than 50 percent increase in the number of trails it maintains, he said, attributing the growth to the desire for more open space and preserving clean water and watersheds. …

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