March 25, 2022
Dan Keefe | Brian Nearing
(518) 486-1868 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Volunteer Crew Rebuilds Cliffside Stairs Dating To 1860s
Provides Safer, Easier Access To Shawangunk Ridge
Photographs Available Here
The State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the Palisades Interstate Park Commission announced today the reopening of historic cliffside steps at Sam's Point Area of Minnewaska State Park Preserve after a three-year rebuilding project.
The Lenape Steps, located at the base of the Shawangunk Ridge in the Ulster County hamlet of Cragsmoor, date to the 1860s when an early hotel owner built them in a narrow chasm for guests to reach the top of the ridge. The stairs remained a popular tourist attraction after the hotel was destroyed by fire in 1874 but had been in a state of disrepair for many decades.
State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, "Having the Lenape Steps restored to their former glory represents another improvement to one of the Hudson Valley's premier recreational attractions. This gives visitors a now much-safer way to reach Sam's Point, the highest point on the Shawangunk Ridge with its panoramic vistas."
Restoration of the stairs was the result of a three-year project by about 50 volunteers from the Jolly Rovers, a Hudson Valley group specializing in the building of natural stone pathways in difficult to reach areas.
Palisades Interstate Parks Commission (PIPC) Executive Director Joshua Laird said, "The Commission was very pleased to partner with the Jolly Rovers to support the restoration of the Lenape Steps. This project brings back a historic feature that has helped visitors reach Sam's Point, the highest point on the Shawangunk Ridge, for over 150 years. We salute the Rovers for their dedication and hard work that helps us keep important park trails and stonework in good shape for the future."
Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan said, "I want to thank the volunteers from the Jolly Rovers for their tireless dedication to the restoration of the historic cliffside Lenape Steps and congratulate the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the Palisades Interstate Park Commission on their support of this project. From the artistry of the Lenape Steps themselves to the destination of Sam's Point at the top, which offers gorgeous views of Southern Ulster County, the Sam's Point Area of Minnewaska State Park Preserve is a real treasure for the 180,000 residents and more than three million visitors per year to Ulster County."
Wawarsing Town Supervisor Terry Houck said, "I want to thank New York State and PIPC for their cooperative efforts to refurbish and re-open the historic cliffside steps here at Sam's Point. The town also wants to recognize and thank the Jolly Rovers for their amazing work. Sam's Point is such an integral part of our parklands in the town that many look at their stewardship as if it were a national park! Wawarsing also thanks State Parks and PIPC for introducing an online reservation system at Sam's Point solely for weekends and holidays starting in May of this year."
Starting in July 2019, volunteer crews from the Jolly Rovers primarily using hand tools cut, shaped, and set about 100 stone steps made from nearby boulders. More than 7,000 man-hours were devoted to the work. PIPC provided $32,000 to support the project, and the Jolly Rovers also raised more than $4,200.
Jolly Rovers Board Chairwoman Emily Hague said, "This was the most technically challenging project we've ever done, due to the custom and precise stone shaping involved. This project employed collective skills our crew had been honing over the last decade, and it advanced our collective ability. We are grateful for the opportunity to complete such an incredible project, in a location that will be enjoyed by thousands and last for generations to come."
The Lenape Steps are the latest project at Minnewaska to involve the Jolly Rovers, whose members have also worked on the stairway that leads to the base of Stony Kill Falls and the staircase that connects Rainbow Falls to the Upper Awosting Carriage Road Trail, as well as the stairway connecting the Mohonk Visitor's Center to Undercliff Carriage Road in the West Trapps Climbing Area in the nearby Mohonk Preserve further north on the ridge. The group has also been involved in several projects in Bear Mountain State Park in Rockland and Orange counties, and Hudson Highland State Park Preserve in Putnam, Dutchess, and Westchester counties.
Future plans by the Jolly Rovers at Minnewaska include installation of stone steps starting this spring through a talus slope on the popular Gertrude's Nose Trail.
The Lenape Steps were constructed originally in the 1860s by Thomas Botsford, who subsequently built a hotel nearby against the base of the escarpment. After the hotel was destroyed by fire in 1874, the steps remained in use, but gradually fell into disrepair from damage caused by water, freezing temperatures and thawing.
Botsford was an early example of recreational hospitality entrepreneur in the Shawangunk region and a contemporary of the more well-known Smiley Brothers, who in the 1870s developed the world-famous Mohonk Mountain House atop the ridge further north.
Sam's Point Area is part of the 24,000-acre Minnewaska State Park Preserve, one of the most popular State Parks in the Hudson Valley, drawing more than a half-million visitors annually. The park features numerous waterfalls, three crystalline sky lakes, dense hardwood forests, incising sheer cliffs and ledges opening to beautiful views, clear streams cut into valleys, 35 miles of carriage roads and 50 miles of footpaths.
This spring, State Parks and PIPC are introducing an online pilot reservation system for parking at Sam's Point Area on weekends and holidays from the first weekend in May through the last weekend of October.
The goal of the system is to prevent visitor overuse at Sam's Point and resulting ecological damage. Annual visitation to Sam's Point has steadily increased in recent years to more than 92,000 visitors in 2021, with a nearly 48 percent increase in visitors since 2015. This increase has led to severe traffic congestion, illegal parking on local roads, and negative impacts on the park's natural resources and the surrounding areas with documented trail erosion, littering, and trampling of vegetation.
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees more than 250 parks, historic sites, recreational trails, golf courses, boat launches and more, which in 2021 were visited by a record 78.4 million people. For more information on any of these recreation areas, visit www.parks.ny.gov, download the free NY State Parks Explorer mobile app or call 518.474.0456. Also, connect on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
The Palisades Interstate Park Commission (PIPC) was formed under an interstate compact in 1900 to protect the Palisades from destruction by stone and gravel quarries operating along the western banks of the Lower Hudson River. As the nation's first bi-state partnership established to protect and conserve natural lands, the Commission's role expanded through the years to incorporate 20 parks and 8 historic sites in New York and New Jersey that are visited by over 9 million visitors annually. The Commission's early work helped inspire the fields of environmental stewardship and education, pioneered the goal of exposing children to nature through its group camps, and served as a model for the initial growth of the national park system.