State Closes Trails in Hudson Highlands Park

Hikers no longer allowed on Breakneck and Anthony’s Nose

On Tuesday (April 21), the state parks department announced it has closed all trails on Breakneck Ridge, Anthony’s Nose and Mount Taurus (Bull Hill), as well as at Little Stony Point and Indian Brook Falls in Philipstown.

“Due to the physical topography of the Hudson Highlands and the narrow roads that line the approaches to these congested trails, hikers are unable to practice appropriate social distancing,” the agency said in a statement. “The number of cars and pedestrians walking along the high-speed state road is creating a dangerous situation.”

A view from Breakneck (Photo by Brian PJ Cronin)

The trails and parking lots closed were at Mount Beacon; Breakneck Ridge, Wilkinson Trailhead and Notch Trail in Fishkill; the Washburn parking lot, Little Stony Point trails, Brook Trail and Indian Brook Falls Trail in Philipstown; and Anthony’s Nose, the Appalachian Trail connector, the U Bend parking on the Goat Trail and the Toll House parking lot in Cortlandt.

In addition, at the request of the Village of Cold Spring, the Haldane school district has closed its parking lot on the west side of Route 9D opposite the football field and tennis courts. The Open Space Institute also closed the parking area at The Chalet, which is located near the southern end of the Breakneck Tunnel, except for police and emergency services, according to Philipstown Supervisor Richard Shea. OSI bought the property last month.

Local officials have been pushing the state for several weeks to close the trails and have been doing everything they could to limit parking, particularly near Breakneck.

“Mayor Dave Merandy, Putnam County Legislator Nancy Montgomery and myself succeeded in getting through to the governor,” Shea wrote in an email on Wednesday. “This past weekend was a breaking point. I have never seen such disregard for public health and flouting of the law.

“There has been an uptick in cases here in Philipstown, which I believe is directly related to the number of visitors we are seeing from New York City and New Jersey,” he wrote. “Our only market, Foodtown, was devastated by Monday morning.”

Become a Member
Join The Highlands Current and support our independent local journalism for as little as $2 per month. Click here to see the benefits. As a nonprofit, we are able to provide our website and weekly print paper free to the community because of the generosity of our readers.

13 thoughts on “State Closes Trails in Hudson Highlands Park

  1. Closing the park seems to be the easy fix for the powers that be, rather than putting in some effort to actually manage the problem.

    The move to put the concrete barriers blocking the large parking lot a couple weeks ago at Breakneck only exacerbated the problem they mention above, eliminating the only parking that kept hikers safe accessing the trail. Why not put the barriers on the southbound side of the road and keep the parking open on the north side where it’s wider?

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Cold Spring cop dealing with traffic on a busy day, and am not sure why they’re not more involved. It seems that there should be a coordinated effort between park and police. Cold spring businesses reap the benefits of the hiking traffic during peak season. But now that there might be a little more effort involved in managing this situation, they’re just gonna close the park and turn their backs. It’s a real injustice for all of us local hikers who’ve been utilizing these trails for years.

  2. I salute the local politicians and individuals who made this trail-closing possible, and I believe we will all be safer and healthier because of it.

    As an environmental educator and board member of Putnam Highlands Audubon Society and the Little Stony Point Association, I’ve been extremely concerned about the out-of-control situation at Breakneck Ridge for years, and it seems like poor behavior and sheer numbers during this pandemic have been the straws that finally broke the camel’s back.

    Two thoughts at this point: The first is that State Parks and other agencies are immediately going to need a strategic management plan to deal with the influx of hikers who do come here and can’t go to their favorite spots. Where do we suggest they go? Fahnestock? Bear Mountain? The Catskills? Who is going to be out there on Route 9D, and online, managing this? And how do we keep crowding from happening at other locations?

    Secondly, let’s learn from this so that when the pandemic is over, the absurd and dangerous situation at Breakneck Ridge is finally handled so that all parking along 9D is prohibited, except for small discrete lots set off the road. One or two thousand people hiking at one general location during a busy weekend day seems to me the definition of insanity, or at the very least, a bureaucratic mess of titanic proportions.

  3. I think it’s unfortunate that these people from the city ruined it for us locals. It was a great form of exercise with the fiancé. It wasn’t hard to maintain the social distancing in the early spring, but the further into the season we noticed many people with New Jersey license plates, and groups of cars with families of seven or more. We knew it was only a matter of time until they closed, especially this past Sunday. It was like an amusement-park parking lot. I wish they could have stopped the people coming in from the city.

  4. That’s OK. Now they park in nearby residential neighborhoods and clog the streets, gather in big crowds, and ignore No Hiking signs to head up informal paths. It’s great.

  5. Roadside parking on Route 9D is a problem. However, solving that problem in the name of COVID-19, and more importantly, closing trails and roping off parking areas around town, is an overreach.

    There is no evidence that restrictions are warranted in Philipstown, or that limiting access to outdoor recreation slows virus transmission. However, we do know limiting access to fresh air, physical activity and general freedom of movement has deleterious consequences on well-being.

    The daily change in new COVID-19 cases in Philipstown is flat, as are countywide hospitalizations. Although testing has been limited, if we were experiencing the exponential increases seen in other communities, these metrics would reflect that, as we would expect a proportional increase in severe cases. This suggests local policies have been sufficient to flatten the curve and does not support more aggressive action.

    There is also no evidence that utilization of hiking trails increases virus transmission. Exposure is defined as being within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes. Even on a narrow trail it is not difficult to avoid exposure. Furthermore, there is evidence that virus droplets and aerosols disperse and become less concentrated in open air, and are less stable when exposed to the elements.

    These are worrying times, and our picture of this virus changes daily. However, that does not mean we should let hysteria take over. While the closing of trails and parking areas might seem relatively innocuous, we are setting a dangerous precedent by allowing restrictions to be placed on our daily lives which do not have clearly demonstrated benefits which outweigh their costs.

    • It’s not that difficult to take your hike elsewhere or around your neighborhood — if you are indeed a local — until this is over. Selfish! Clearly open air is important for health but to state your rights are being taken away is plain selfish.

  6. What we need to do is create legal parking spaces with barriers so that folks cannot create their own spaces at every trailhead in the state. Connect the state and local municipalities so they have consistent regulations and fines: $250 per car for illegal parking near a trailhead would make a dent. The current $75 fine is a joke to folks from Manhattan; they pay that much to park for the day there.

    Enforcement is key. This problem is going to get much worse as temperatures rise. The people who will be most negatively affected and will experience most deaths: small communities that border the parks. (Everyone stops for gas, to use the bath-room, to grab-and-go, for an illegal yard sale, for a farm store.) We are not prepared and we don’t have the facilities.

    People who come up and rub elbows in the time of plague don’t give a fig about your health or safety. They demonstrate this the moment they get in the car and drive to your trailhead. They are in clear defiance of state, local, somewhat federal and World Health Organization directives not to travel. Any negotiating and complaint beyond that is futile. Your granny’s life is not as valuable as their day. That’s the message. Fight back. Do it now because they will fight like hell to stop you when it gets warm. [via Facebook]

  7. Main Street is busy enough with people looking for air. Now a person cannot even hike alone on a weekday morning. It seems reckless to close the trails on Monday to Thursday when they are barely used. [via Facebook]

  8. People don’t seem to realize that risking their own health means risking the health of others. Some people who would prefer to stay home must leave their homes, whether for work, supplies or an emergency. They might have no way of avoiding the foolish people who believe they are only risking their own safety. It’s like drunken driving; it’s not only dangerous to you, but to society. [via Facebook]

  9. I hike many Philipstown trails every week. Regrettably, the only trails where about 90 percent of hikers didn’t practice physical distancing were those off Route 9D. Other local trails have been, by and large, used by hikers who step off the trail or turn their backs. [via Facebook]