Improved road and trail-access projects set to begin
Conservation officials say Fahnestock will be getting better this year, as well as bigger.
The Open Space Institute on Feb. 13 announced a series of upgrades to the northern section of the Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park just a few weeks after the Hudson Highlands Land Trust said it will add 150 acres to its southern edge. The projects are being funded by state grants and private donations.
“Fahnestock is a place where we’re working to deepen our history,” said Peter Karis, director of capital projects and design for the Open Space Institute. “Thirty years ago, OSI helped protect that part of Fahnestock, doubling the size of the park.” OSI was also responsible for the 2016 improvement of the Canopus Lake Beach Complex.
One upgrade, Karis said, will improve access to the northern part of the 14,337-acre preserve, which is now a series of pull-offs from Route 301, between Cold Spring and Carmel.
The hope is that “more people will want to go there when they don’t have to get out of their cars on a 55-mph zone and cross the highway with their kids to go to Jordan Pond,” said Karis. “We’re going to put this northern part of the park online in a meaningful way and get people off 301.”
The organization plans to create what it’s calling Big Woods Drive that will connect 301 to trailheads and a parking lot near Glynwood Farm, where the Perkins and Cabot trails meet. “Crossing culverts” near the wetlands will allow wildlife, particularly amphibians, to safely travel beneath the road.
Tree removal for Big Woods Drive will begin soon, Karis said, with the project scheduled to be completed by the end of the year. The planting of native trees and other aesthetic improvements will finish up in the spring of 2021, he said, and OSI will rework the Appalachian Trail where it crosses 301 along the southern edge of Canopus Lake, including the addition of a 15-space parking lot, to reduce the amount of time hikers spend along the highway.
He said OSI also has plans for a two-year project to rework the 9-mile Hubbard-Perkins loop trail that begins at Hubbard Lodge. Working with OSI, West Point cadets have already replaced the cinder-block creek crossing just past the lodge with a bridge they designed.
More bridges will also be installed along the route, Karis said, including the creek crossing just past the new bridge where a steel beam provides footing. Karis said that before a bridge is installed at that crossing, the state will implement a stream-bank stabilization plan to stop erosion.
The rest of the work on the loop will include “tread improvements” to some sections of the trail and a reworking of narrow, interior passages.
“We’re going to artfully put the trails in places where they’re going to last and not have too much of an environmental impact,” Karis explained. “And we’ll pick some great, picturesque crossing locations where you get a real sense of Fahnestock’s northern half and why we call that part ‘the big woods.’ There’s not many places left like that.”