Breakneck to Close for Repairs

Town Board also talks merger for highway departments

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

New York State will close the Breakneck Ridge trail, parking lot and area around the train stop indefinitely as of Jan. 1 to survey trail conditions, undertake repairs and begin constructing the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail.

Philipstown Supervisor Richard Shea announced the closure at the Town Board’s monthly meeting on Sept. 7. Shea also said the state has started placing no-parking signs on Route 9D from Little Stony Point Park, just past Cold Spring, to the ruined Cornish estate.

In other business, Town Board members suggested Cold Spring and Philipstown consolidate their highway departments.

The board also honored the Garrison Volunteer Ambulance Corps, which won the Putnam County Emergency Services Agency of the Year Award.

Breakneck closure

Shea said the state planned to close the entrances to the mountain “until they get a handle on things.” During the closure, the Metro-North train will no longer stop at Breakneck, and “the whole area is going to be closed,” he said.

On Monday (Sept. 11), regional park staff referred questions about the duration of the closure to Albany, where higher-ups did not immediately respond.

Along with temporarily closing Breakneck, park authorities plan “to educate people and disperse them into the other 60 or 70 square miles of parkland,” create a park-and-ride lot on the Taconic Parkway with shuttles to the state parks, and ferry visitors from the Cold Spring train station to parks, Shea said. Philipstown contains sections of both Hudson Highlands and Fahnestock state parks.

Parking will be prohibited on the east side of Rte 9D just north of Little Stony Point Park. (Photo by Michael Turton)

“We have other hikes that are just as nice” as the trek up Breakneck, said Barbara Scuccimarra, who represents Philipstown in the Putnam County Legislature. “This is a beautiful spot we live in and people want to come. I can’t blame them.”

Unfortunately, she said, “Breakneck is a mess. The mountain is a mess. The Route 9D corridor is a mess. I don’t know what the solution is. We need some answers, now.”

Scuccimara said she has met with county transportation manager Vinny Tamagna and Linda Cooper, director of the park system’s Taconic Region, to discuss using the county-operated green trolleys for the    planned runs between the Cold Spring station and parks, starting in the spring.

County, town and state officials intend to meet in Philipstown on Tuesday, Sept. 19, to discuss Breakneck, which attracts more than a thousand visitors a day on summer weekends and crowds the two-lane Route 9D with parked vehicles.

Highway departments

Shea remarked that the Philipstown Highway Department, based on Fishkill Road in Nelsonville, needs an updated building, and that the garage itself is “an eyesore.”

Councilor Nancy Montgomery proposed they think in broader terms. “Are we ever ready to have a conversation about consolidation with the Cold Spring Highway Department?” she asked, adding that state funding exists for evaluating and implementing municipal consolidations.

Conceding that consolidation frequently “is a scary word,” Montgomery said that less drastic-sounding options include sharing services, “which we already do,” and having a common headquarters.

A view of the Hudson in 2011 from the Cold Spring Highway Department garage on Fair Street (Photo by L.S. Armstrong)

“It’s a great idea,” Shea responded. He noted the merger this summer of the village and town building departments went well and that a joint highway operation could reduce overhead costs while preserving employment levels.

“We’re not talking about getting rid of any positions,” he said. “We’d still need the people to work” on both village streets and town roads.

Shea suggested a merger could free up valuable real estate: a picturesque bluff, overlooking the Hudson, now occupied by the Cold Spring garage.

“I just don’t see that as the highest and best use of that property,” he said. “It’s a beautiful waterfront piece” that could possibly be a park, he said; other board members concurred. The Cold Spring Comprehensive Plan recommends the same and also endorses use of a common facility.

16 thoughts on “Breakneck to Close for Repairs

    • Breakneck is already a park. What a great idea making the state a whole park! The more, the merrier…

    • It already is a park. They are closing it to take care of safety issues of hikers who come to this trail and are ill-prepared of how difficult and dangerous it can be if you are not experienced. The more parks in our state, the better. More people need to get out and explore the land our beautiful state has to offer.

  1. I’ve always liked the long-floated idea of a small inn/conference center for that parcel. A model green construction building would be great.

  2. Thank you for reminding readers of the Village’s Comprehensive Plan. The issue of potential uses for the Village garage site was discussed by residents at multiple public meetings organized and moderated by the Special Board for the Comprehensive Plan.

    Recommendations resulting from those meetings can be found in the adopted Comprehensive Plan, found on the Village website. See page 69 Village of Cold Spring Comprehensive Plan, Objective 7.3.

  3. I don’t know how they will stop people from going into the woods? We all love this place. Maybe we can plan out a better solution to the problems facing the area together, and make it a better place.

  4. I think it’s ridiculous that they’re going to close it. It’s going to create problems. People have been going there for years. How do they plan on keeping people out of Breakneck? I can understand them prohibiting parking, but I don’t think it’s going to stop the hikers from going there.

    • I absolutely agree and imagine they were going to have a lot more missing, injured, or worse, deaths, by prohibiting use. Want to know what people love? Doing something they’re not allowed to do that most other people won’t get to see or do. Hell, I’m probably one of them. You guys are about to lose so many tourism dollars, to boot.

    • All of this is happening because our government officials, elected and unelected, are too lazy and incompetent to do their jobs and come up with a solution.

      We have at least three different police agencies that should be out on Route 9D dealing with the hikers and their vehicles. This is not rocket science — it is known as crowd control and it is part and parcel of what the police are supposed to be doing. Before they shut down our biggest tourist attraction, how about ticketing and towing the vehicles that are illegally parked? Also, at a certain point, if it seems like there are too many people, maybe some of them will have to be turned away for safety reasons.

      But no, that would require too much actual work for Merandy, Shea and the rest of them who want to do as little as possible in their elected positions. Where are the taxpayers and stakeholders who are going to be affected by this?

    • No, they probably can’t keep people out. However, the safety issues generally arise when inexperienced people end up in terrain they’re not prepared for, not when experienced hikers are doing something they’ve done many times before. The removal of parking and discontinuation of the train stop will probably deter most of the inexperienced people.

  5. The Go Peekskill Shuttle will continue to provide service for hikers to Blue Mountain and Camp Smith. Visitors can meet the shuttle at the center island in front of the Peekskill Train Station. This is a complimentary service provided by the Peekskill Business Improvement District and the Peekskill Industrial Development Agency. For information, call 914-584-8711.

  6. I have been hiking Breakneck Ridge for 50 years. I am now 67. I am sad to find out that Breakneck Ridge will be closed indefinitely. I have hiked all over this magnificent country and Breakneck is my favorite hike, with the first peak of Breakneck being the crown jewel of hiking.

    Please don’t close this trail. Figure out another way of handling the parking on 9D while allowing the trail to stay open.

    • People like Ranger Barry need to have their voices heard before any drastic decisions are made about closing off Breakneck. This is why public hearings should have been held prior to any action being taken.

      The Village of Cold Spring has public hearings on what color paint you’re supposed to use if you renovate your house. You mean to tell me there wasn’t one board or agency that could have called such a hearing on Breakneck?

  7. I’m afraid all that is happening here is that the traffic will be shifted to another trailhead! I’ll still climb Breakneck, but probably from the Old Fishkill Mall trailhead.

    All those dollars I spent in Cold Spring buying beers, burgers, ice cream and knick-knacks from the antique shops…. I wish I could take them all back! Shame on you, Metro-North, for caving at the first sign of dissent.

    I didn’t realize that Cold Spring was such an unfriendly town. I’m afraid this hiker is not going to be spending any more money in this town. Perhaps Fishkill wouldn’t mind me dropping by for dinner after my Breakneck hikes? You people are so shortsighted.

  8. As a car-less Manhattan resident who takes the train to Cold Spring and/or Breakneck to hike, there is a yin and yang in this news. The bad part is the loss of the Metro-North stop and what will amount to the closing of the main trail. The good part is a proposed shuttle service which will ferry me to trails I currently cannot access via public transportation.

    But where safety is concerned, I wonder if closing that main trail will lower the number of emergencies and injuries in the Hudson Highlands. I assume that the authorities will station somebody at the trail head to keep hikers from ascending at the tunnel. But what about people who decide to climb Breakneck from the numerous other trails and then descend to a number of scenic overlooks — and even down to the flag — before returning the way they came? Right now almost nobody attempts to descend the white trail from the top. But once the tunnel trail closes, some will no doubt. And we all know that can be extremely dangerous.

    While posting a policeman at the bottom is easy enough, I don’t picture the town paying a cop to climb to the every day hoping to keep hikers from making the aforementioned descent. I don’t know. Maybe they’ll hire a ranger to camp out a week at a time at the peak. And I wonder from the tone of some of the other commenters if they’ve even considered that because trust me, it would be a good idea.

    Anyway … all in all … I can live without Breakneck with the prospect of accessing other trails I currently cannot via public transportation. I look forward to the future and care little about the effect of the town of Cold Spring — even if Don McLean wrote most of “American Pie” while staying there.