Since its inception, the 307-acre Port Jervis Watershed has been an isolated piece of land, in the town of Deerpark, owned by the city of Port Jervis that provides drinking water for the city residents. Adjacent to the watershed is the186-acre Elks-Brox Park that was dedicated to the city in the early 1900’s. Both parcels are in natural pristine condition and despite close proximity to the city's neighborhoods and business district, both parcels have been underutilized by the public.
In 2014, the City was contacted by Dejay Birtch, a world class mountain biker who had grown up in the Port Jervis/Deerpark area. He pitched the idea that Port Jervis had a unique opportunity to draw hundreds, if not thousands, of people to the city by creating a trail system for hikers and bikers. The concept was approved by city council and work on the dream began. The top priority was to preserve the natural condition of the watershed and park. The City wanted to preserve a natural atmosphere to attract visitors and future residents by ensuring they will have pristine drinking water and open space to experience a healthy lifestyle.
Led by Dejay Birtch, the trail system, first a 12-mile length, then 18 miles, then 26 and now a nearly 30-mile stretch was built by an all-volunteer workforce. In 2016 the City received a NY State Aid Municipal Grant for $65,000.00 to help create parking areas, kiosks, informational trail posts, a gating system for emergency vehicle response, new picnic tables and grills and future trail development to include an overnight campground.
Mayor Kelly Decker points out that Port Jervis is located near to metropolitan areas with significant populations of outdoor sporting enthusiasts willing and able to drive short distances to experience nature. “We were able to take advantage of that opportunity by making a minimal investment. The great part about the trails is that they are free to ride, hike and experience. 30 miles can give plenty of time to recreate as each trail has varying difficulty levels. Additionally, our trails provide some of the most magnificent views in the region. Long weekend stays provide an economic advantage as well. People need a place to stay, which is why we are focusing on future campground development of cabins and tent sites. We envision the trail system stimulating the growth of eateries, specialty shops, family entertainment and increased visitation to the many local historical sites and breathtaking views along the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway - the famous Rt. 97".