It seems like the pandemic inspired nearly everyone to hit the Hudson Valley trails, where they could recharge their batteries and safely spend time with family and friends. For the Benevento family, the urge was the same—except they had the know-how to forge their own trails.
“It all started pretty organically,” says Mike Benevento, who co-founded Hudson Valley Trailworks last year with his sister Toni Benevento, Toni’s partner Eric Hennessey, and their brother-in-law Clint Reynolds.
Over the past four years, the family property in Gardiner has been homebase for their outdoor endeavors, which included a concrete skate bowl built by Clint and a community of local and regional skaters and friends, as well as dirt BMX jumps and self-made hiking trails that led from the backyard up to the Shawangunk Ridge. When Covid hit, Mike, his wife Christina, and their two kids also created a trail at their own property down the road. “Being able to hike right out of our own back door was such a nice escape,” he says. “It really got us through those first months when we were feeling really isolated and bummed out.”
Soon, the family realized that they had the combined know-how to help others enjoy the same kind of easy, screen-time-free backyard experiences that they had been craving during the pandemic.
Eric and Clint, both professional BMX riders, had been building their own single track, pump tracks, and dirt jumps for years. Toni, who recently relocated from Utah, had experience as a town planner focusing on alternative modes of transit like trails. Add to all that Mike’s background in project management and the whole family’s shared love of nature, and a recipe for Hudson Valley Trailworks was born. “We immediately got requests from our friends who also wanted to build something at their homes, but knew they could use some expertise dialing it in,” Toni says.
Working with homeowners to design and build personal hiking trails, trail systems, single track, pump tracks, and dirt jumps is a collaborative, hands-on process. At the start of any project, the team visits a property—which can be as intimate as a quarter-acre suburban plot or as expansive as a hundred-acre estate—to meet the owners, walk the site, and explore the client’s vision.
As they walk, they keep an eye out for natural elements that can become focal points, like a picturesque view, unique rock formations or plantlife, and the way the terrain itself undulates. “The biking side of it is a fun element to think about because not only are you building a trail, but you’re finding ways to sculpt and ride the earth,” Eric says.
Depending on size and scale, projects can take anywhere from a week to three to complete. And one or more of the team are always on-site to guide construction and educate owners about maintaining their new trails, tracks, and jumps, which will need to be freshened up about once a season.
“Ultimately, this work is really about community building,” says Eric. “The experiences people are able to have together by using the trails that we’re building is the main reason we started doing this, and why I think we’ll continue to love doing it—to get to see the smile on everyone’s faces.”
As a business born out of a love of nature, Hudson Valley Trailworks is also committed to giving back in ways that will benefit both the Hudson Valley community and the environment as a whole. As a member of Patagonia’s 1% For the Planet, the team donates one percent of its revenue to local conservation organizations and several of the founders are currently volunteering for local trail and recreation advocacy groups. “It is important to us as a company to put our money where our mouth is,” says Toni. “We live here, we work here, we’re invested in the community, and we want our business to show that as well.”