Top state officials tour area
By Kevin E. Foley
The effort to create a hiking and biking trail running from Cold Spring to Beacon along the Hudson River moved into a more realistic realm last week as two state government commissioners met with local officials and the heads or environmental organizations to map out the project’s way forward.
The Hudson Hil’s cafe on Main Street was the venue for a luncheon gathering on Friday, Oct. 11, that included Commissioner Joan McDonald of the New York State Department of Transportation and Commissioner Rose Harvey of the state’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Philipstown Town Supervisor Richard Shea, Fishkill Supervisor Robert LaColla, Ned Sullivan, the president of Scenic Hudson, and Andy Chmar, executive director of the Hudson Highlands Land Trust (HHLT) were also among the attendees.
The Hudson River Fjord Trail project, first proposed over five years ago by Shea among others, has gained momentum in the last two years with the formation of a coordinating coalition of local governments, nonprofit organizations and a citizens committee.
This last meeting brought everyone involved up to date and gave the commissioners, whose agencies will be crucial in decision-making, the opportunity to meet participants.
The commissioners also learned about specific issues such as the need for parking solutions on Route 9D, appropriate signage and safe pathways to hiking destinations on a tour of the proposed trail areas led by Scenic Hudson’s project manager Mark Wildonger.
“We are grateful for the interest and enthusiasm Commissioners Harvey and McDonald showed for this project during the tour Friday. They clearly understand the limitations posed by the current situation and pledged to cooperate with the partners in creating a terrific trail that will attract and retain visitors, boosting local economies,” said Sullivan of Scenic Hudson.
Sullivan also referenced the connection between this proposed project with his organization’s opening of the West Point Foundry Preserve park in Cold Spring on Saturday, Oct. 19.
“It was a great meeting to have everyone sit down and explain what’s going on,” Shea said. He said one important item discussed was the status of a pending consolidated funding application (CFA) wherein the coalition is applying for project money (as much as $1.2 million) from a number of state agencies at one time.
The CFA approach is a Cuomo administration initiative that seeks to reward public/private partnerships with a streamlined process for obtaining state funding. It is part of the administration’s emphasis on regional economic development.
Shea said the town would also have to put in some money (perhaps $15,000), but in-kind services from the town and also the Villages of Cold Spring and Nelsonville could help offset any need for actual dollar allocations. He also said that the HHLT had already been generous with startup funding for the project.
“The HHLT is proud to be a partner with this great group to bring this trail to fruition beginning with building a master plan,” said Chmar.
Shea said that the project’s steering committee was close to hiring a professional planner who would work over the course of a year or so developing plans for a trail that involves consideration of using a mix of public and private land. Shea said the planner’s work would mean, “we would get to a point where you have engineered plans for on-the-ground situations.”
Photos by M. Turton