Dirt-Road Fans Oppose East Mountain Paving

Town board workshop

The Philipstown Town Board workshop on Aug. 26 allowed room for debate. (Photo by L.S. Armstrong)

Residents warn of speeders and other dangers  

From South Mountain Pass in southernmost Philipstown to East Mountain on its northern border, dirt-road fans on Wednesday (Aug. 26) urged the Town Board to scrap plans to pave an 1,111-foot stretch of East Mountain Road South.

They commented during a board workshop held in Garrison at the town Recreation Center, where attendees — about 30, including at least one paving supporter — and board members wore masks and filled socially-distanced chairs. 

Supervisor Richard Shea said board members would likely vote on Thursday (Sept. 3) on whether to proceed with the project. 

The town wants to pave a dirt stretch between the paved portion of East Mountain Road South and paved East Mountain Road North. The two roads, which both run eastward from Route 9, are a few miles apart and twist upward until they join at a Y-shaped intersection. The right prong, East Mountain Road South, continues into the Wiccopee section of East Fishkill in Dutchess County.

Critics warned that paving the short stretch would encourage speeding and detract from the road’s natural beauty; they also said they fear for the remaining unpaved road to Wiccopee.

Shea, who once lived on East Mountain, expressed surprise at the furor. He said the project was approved in 2014 but delayed twice due to contingencies. Now, he said, the town can move ahead. 

 “It’s always been our intention to finish connecting paved section to paved section,” which “makes a lot of sense,” he explained. “I’m not talking about going down toward Wiccopee. I’m talking about 1,111 feet. That’s it.”

The supervisor agreed that paving the road to Wiccopee would probably increase traffic and cause other problems, “and that is a big concern.”

Garrison resident Barbara DeSilva advised the board to be wary. “Our dirt roads have a certain importance,” she said. “They’re assets to the town. Once you pave them, they no longer have the same appeal or meaning. They’re gone.” 

East Mountain Road resident Richard Butensky advised against paving the 1,111 feet. “The thing that’s not debatable is that traffic is faster on paved roads,” he said. “The more asphalt we have, the more traffic we’ll have and the faster it will go. I don’t think it’s worth it.”

Town Board Member John Van Tassel, who lives on East Mountain Road South, said that when residents complain about speeding, town officials typically discover that “95 percent of the tickets were given out to people who live on the road. Then we get complaints” from them, too. “Nothing controls your speed,” he added. “It’s not anything that has to do with the road. It’s the person driving the car.”

Vera Keil, who lives on Trout Brook, off the road to Wiccopee, praised the board for the paving that has already occurred on the mountain. She discounted the notion that paving wrecks aesthetics. “The 12-foot stretch of asphalt is not going to take the bucolic beauty away,” she said. 

Shea described dirt roads as “a maintenance issue, an environmental issue, a cost issue. It’s just become sort of prohibitive on all fronts.” 

He attributed the environmental expense to the fact the material used on dirt roads must be replaced yearly, cannot be obtained locally and must be mined and trucked some distance, consuming fuel and contributing to pollution. Also, he said, unlike paved roads, dirt roads do not qualify for state transportation aid. “It’s indisputable that paving is more cost-effective, especially now.” 

Those in the audience promptly disputed that. 

Betsy Calhoun, of Garrison, and DeSilva suggested that, if handled correctly, dirt roads are more economical than paved roads. 

Alex Clifton, a South Mountain Pass resident, wondered “when we’re going to start unpaving roads.” A dirt-road activist, he opposed a paving and drainage project on South Mountain Pass five years ago. “I love, love, love dirt roads,” he said. “I’m against all paving of dirt roads.”

6 thoughts on “Dirt-Road Fans Oppose East Mountain Paving

  1. Liz Armstrong describes the Town Board workshop very clearly. I appreciate her support in taking photos and being at the meeting. I am more than frustrated with the fact that the board was listening but not hearing the room of more than 25 people requesting not to pave the road. And more than 260 signatures that were submitted to the board against paving. Why are these voices not part of the democratic process? Why is no one listening to the majority of taxpaying land owners who voted for this board to represent them? Who can we turn to now for representation?

    I am baffled by this workshop, that seems to be for nothing. No one took minutes (except myself) and no video was made, although there are many videos of recent workshops available on the Town board website. Who in power decides how to keep a record of the voices of the people? I had a Powerpoint presentation that was not able to be shown as well, illustrating both the beauty and history of East Mountain Road South. How can this Powerpoint be shown? A copy was given to all board members. Did they look at it? Baffled, confused and disappointed.

  2. Wouldn’t a paved road be easier to plow? I used to live in Wiccopee and dreaded driving on the dirt roads in winter. [via Facebook]

  3. I live year-round on a dirt road and, while people drive too fast everywhere and winter driving is inherently dangerous, I find the dirt roads feel much safer and I head for them even if my route is longer. In my experience, people drive slower on dirt roads and fewer people use them. [via Facebook]

  4. I also live on a dirt road. They paved part of it and it’s now much more dangerous. Many more people now use it as a pass-through at much quicker speeds. [via Facebook]

  5. I walk dogs on dirt roads and paved roads and everyone drives fast on both types. The potholes, dust and washboard sections of these roads are unbearable and do damage to the vehicles that drive on them. I have seen Highway Department workers spend countless hours repairing dirt roads just to have a rain or snowstorm mess them up again. Paving would be more cost-effective. [via Facebook]

  6. Attention all who use Philipstown roads: At recent Town Board meetings, a board member expressed his opinion of local road usage and monitoring.

    First, despite the fact that the Philipstown roads have a speed limit of 25 mph, he terminated the ticketing of speed-ing drivers as they turned out to be neighbors! Second, he opined that “roads are for cars and trucks. All those others have the trails, parks, whatever…”

    “Those others” could be you: Stroller people, walkers (elderly and young), bikers, horsemen, those enjoying scenery, many of us. If you moved here recently, please be aware of the less-than-perfect long-term residents and keep your children close on the road.