After building a small bike jump and pump track about the size of a swimming pool in his backyard, Mike Benevento watched his 11-year-old son thrive outside. “With enough pleading, we could get our son to come on a hike to the stream behind our neighbor’s house, but riding the pump track became a self-selected outdoor activity—one that was competing with Minecraft and Fortnite for his time,” says Benevento.
Through the experience of watching his son connect with the natural world, Benevento and his partners recognized an opportunity to encourage those of all ages to get outside, be active, and interact with nature—a business was born. “We started Hudson Valley Trailworks during the pandemic, to inspire people to get outside in their own backyards,” says Benevento. “We believe that there is a lack of purpose-built bike trails in our area and we are on a mission to increase this segment of outdoor recreation in our community. We feel this not only as riders, but also as parents.”
The New Paltz-based cooperative is owned and operated by five friends and family—Mike and his sister Toni Benevento, Eric Hennessey, Clint Reynolds, and Tal Ilany Seweryn—who create trails and outdoor spaces to connect communities in and around the Hudson Valley.
Over the past few decades there’s been a growing interest and attention given to the benefits of connecting to the outdoors and spending time in natural spaces. There’s the obvious health benefits like decreased stress levels, better sleep, and the positive effects nature can have on young children. Hudson Valley Trailworks underscores that building trails and access to nature can also help bring people together and develop a sense of environmental stewardship. “Through the experience people can get on the trails we build, protecting nature becomes intertwined with having fun and feeling good,” says Benevento.
Although the cooperative specializes in building and maintaining bike trails, importantly, their overarching mission is creating opportunities for homeowners to access natural spaces. “We want to help people get into nature instead of viewing it from a distance,” says Benevento.
From landscaping you can play on to helping property and homeowners immerse themselves in their natural surroundings, Hudson Valley Trailworks starts each project through a collaborative process with a free consultation to examine property and put together a proposal. “We are not a traditional landscaping company,” says Benevento. “There are creative and adaptive opportunities to get outside in any backyard.”
The cooperative builds purpose-driven bike trails (single track, park, downhill, flow, jump lines, and pump tracks), backyard pathways to boardwalks, campgrounds, natural playgrounds and can help property owners understand just what flora and fauna live on the land. The team includes a professional forester, carpenter, welder, and stonemason, all with years of experience building trails with both hand tools and heavy equipment. Consultations can be completed in both commercial and residential builds. Hudson Valley Trailworks also works with businesses and property owners to extend the use of their land to the general public.
Some recent work includes a natural playground and hiking trails at Wildflower Farms in Gardiner, private bike trails and pump tracks in backyards, custom designed and landscaped fire pits, pathways from driveways to doorsteps, backyard boardwalks, and connecting trails between properties.
“Our roots are based in recreation and bike-focused opportunities, but what we do cuts across many activities and options for all ages,” he says. “As parents, we want more opportunities for our kids to be outside, but we see our endeavors as multi-generational opportunities.”
Since the cooperative launched, the business has grown to include a non-profit called Trail Unity and Full Circle. “Trailworks came first and it was born of our love for being outside, experiencing nature and sharing our passion for riding trails with people. Building and sharing the experiences trails provide is really at the heart of everything we do. For us it is so rewarding and enjoyable to see others have a great time on something we’ve built, it is why we do this. Both Trailunity and Full Circle were created to help us share these experiences with more people,” says Benevento. Hudson Valley Trailworks will eventually be based at Full Circle, a forthcoming group of physical venues which will also house local businesses, offer community space and an onsite pump track, and will be open to the general public.