I’m sure at one time or another you may have strolled or biked along the scenic, wooded path in Tallman Mountain State Park, but did you know that that path is part of a 358-mile long hiking trail known as the Long Path? Conceived in 1931 by Vincent J. Schaefer, the idea for the Long Path was to create an unmarked route connecting scenic and historic points of interest stretching from northern Manhattan to the Adirondacks. The opening stanza of Walt Whitman’s iconic poem “Song of the Open Road” inspired the path’s name.

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.

Schaefer’s idea was that, with the use of a guidebook and map, hikers would find their way along a trail winding through the breathtaking landscapes of the Hudson River Valley, through the Catskills and up into the Adirondacks.

Today, beginning at the 175th Street subway station and crossing over the George Washington Bridge, the trail meanders through the Palisades Interstate Park before entering Palisades at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory campus. It briefly exits onto Route 9W just a bit south of the Lamont-Doherty Child Development Center and hikers must walk alongside this dangerous stretch of road until the trail picks up again at the Tallman Mountain State Park entrance just north of the 9W Market.

But soon, thanks to a generous donation by Simon and Stefany Bergson, 4.2 acres of private property adjacent to Tallman Mountain State Park and Route 9W will be added to the Long Path and placed under the purview of the NY/NJ Trail Conference, the organization that maintains the trail. The donated property includes 265 feet of frontage on Route 9W and surrounds the 9W Market. Hikers will be able to access the new portion of the trail by entering off of Route 9W and walking on raised paths leading through the wetlands and connecting with the existing trail. There are still several kinks to be worked out between the town, New York State and various parks departments, but the end result will not only increase the trail system and improve hiker safety, but the four acres will now remain undeveloped and forever green, a much needed and greatly appreciated gift to maintain the rural atmosphere of our community.

In addition, Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee is working to obtain a grant to install a sidewalk on the east side of Route 9W from Washington Spring Road to the Tallman Park entrance just north of the 9W Market. If successful, this too would greatly improve local pedestrian and Long Path hiker safety.

The Long Path continues to be a work in progress. While over 30 percent of Rockland County is designated parkland, its suburbanization has forced parts of the trail onto local roadways. The NY/NJ Trail Conference’s mission is to obtain land throughout New York State to move hikers off of busy roads and into wooded areas, to integrate the Long Path with new and existing trails, and ultimately to extend the trail closer to the Canadian border. To date, several hikers have completed the 358- mile trek with the average completion time of 25 days. If you are up for an adventure, and want to embrace the spirit of Walt Whitman and Vincent J Schaefer, more information can be obtained by searching the NY/NJ Trail Conference or NY/NJ Long Path sites.