This Historic Tuxedo Trail Transforms Into a Community Space

A group of local citizens are turning a forgotten historic landmark into a place for all to enjoy.

It the intersection of Route 17 and Route 17A in Tuxedo, you’ll find a patch of land that has been designated as the oldest Marked Nature Trail in the country. In the 1920s, it was an exploring ground for wealthy families like the Rockefellers and Roosevelts, who lived in nearby Tuxedo Park, yet in recent years it had become overgrown and littered with trash.

But all that changed during the pandemic lockdown in 2020, when Tuxedo resident Kelly Spranger was looking for an activity for her kids. They started gardening in their backyard and planted a pollination meadow—native plants and grasses that create habitats for bees and butterflies. It brought her family such joy, that Spranger wondered if the entire town might benefit as well. After a little “digging” revealed that the Sterling Forest Visitor’s Center managed the neglected land, an informal group led by Spranger and Sue Scher, another Tuxedo resident, asked if they could clean it up. Since then, that handful of volunteers has grown to over 40 people who have weeded out invasive species, cleared pathways, planted seeds, installed bird boxes and a bench, and established a children’s garden with stepping stones that will eventually become a labyrinth. Last year, volunteers planted 55 live plants, including New England asters, scarlet beebalm, Joe-Pye weeds, and native trumpet honeysuckle.

Garden
Garden life on the historic Tuxedo trail. Photo by Kelly Spranger

In 2023, the group received money from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to help with the site’s development. This allowed them to purchase plants from local nurseries and a shed to store tools. “Our biggest focus for the first two years was to plant milkweed because not only does it kill invasive species like lantern flies, but it’s food for butterflies,” says Spranger. Students from Tuxedo’s George F. Baker High School volunteer in the Pollination Meadow and local scout troops help with planting.

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In May, the group will host an art auction to raise money to purchase a solar-powered watering system. And they plan to install a sundial in the children’s garden that was donated by a Tuxedo resident. “The cool thing about this space is that it’s beautiful year-round,” explains Spranger. “We want people to see and walk and observe just like they did in the 1920s.”

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