Fjord Trail Plan Draws Praise and Concern

A view of the proposed Breakneck Connector and bridge, at lower right

A view of the proposed Breakneck Connector and bridge, at lower right (Photos provided)

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Residents weigh in as construction nears 

Residents expressed both praise and concern on Wednesday (March 23) about the proposed Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail, a long-planned 7.5-mile pathway between Dockside Park in Cold Spring and Long Dock Park in Beacon aimed at relieving hiker congestion on Route 9D.

More than 50 people filled the boardroom at Philipstown Town Hall to hear a two-hour presentation by Amy Kacala and MJ Martin of Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail Inc., the nonprofit set up to oversee the design and construction and serve as its operator and manager in collaboration with the state parks department. 

The first phase of construction, envisioned more than 15 years ago, will begin this fall when work starts on a new station for trail stewards at Breakneck, an overlook and a stone staircase, said Kacala, executive director of HHFT.

Early next year, construction will start on a Breakneck connector and a pedestrian bridge over the Metro-North tracks. The state parks department, which will build the bridge, is overseeing an environmental review of that segment. Construction is expected to be completed in late 2024 or early 2025, said Kacala, adding that the design is 80 percent complete and the permit process underway.

An aerial view of the proposed pedestrian bridge that would extend over the Metro-North tracks

An aerial view of the proposed pedestrian bridge that would extend over the Metro-North tracks

Subsequent phases call for a 2-mile shoreline trail connecting Dockside Park with Little Stony Point to begin in 2024 and be completed in 2027; a pathway through a forested section from Dutchess Manor to Dennings Point; and a trail through marshland from there to Long Dock Park in Beacon. 

The project will be accessorized with new parking areas; sidewalks and designated crossings across Route 9D; bathrooms and benches; “trail banks” (widened areas where users can stop to rest); and a shuttle from train stations to the pathway. 

The main goal is to ease the congestion and safety problems created by the visitors who flock to Breakneck, parking along a narrow shoulder on 9D and walking in the roadway. Initially envisioned as a single trail, the project has expanded into a multi-use pathway with features designed to give visitors more options than Breakneck. 

“There was an understanding that, to deal with the Breakneck issue, we needed to spread and circulate visitation in the area,” said Martin, director of development and community engagement for HHFT. “We were not going to solve the Breakneck problem by just focusing on Breakneck.” 

The plan includes "forest nets" that would offer an "immersive forest experience" and native plants.

The plan includes “forest nets” that would offer an “immersive forest experience” and native plants.

The plans, which can be found at hudsonfjordtrail.org, also include a parking area for emergency responders, who are frequently called to rescue lost, injured or stranded hikers. 

Kacala said HHFT has also been talking with local businesses and educators from the Beacon, Garrison and Haldane school districts about how they would use the trail. 

Philipstown Supervisor John Van Tassel said he would like Metro-North to close its Breakneck stop, which is scheduled to open on Memorial Day, until there is access to the trail, but otherwise called it “a great plan” that will “alleviate a lot of problems for first responders.” 

Claudio Marzollo, a member of Philipstown’s Recreation Commission, also expressed support, saying that visitors are going to keep coming and “what we have to do is try to figure out how to deal with it.” 

“Let’s try to work with the people who are trying to do something,” he said. 

A map shows the full length of the trail.

A map shows the full length of the trail.

Others attending the meeting shared a range of worries, however. 

Ned Rauch, who lives in Garrison, said he is concerned that the plans for the trail are more extensive that what was originally proposed. Kenneth Levine of Nelsonville said he believes the parking plan, which calls for about 400 new spots, will not be enough. 

Rebeca Ramirez and Dar Williams, Cold Spring residents who support the project, encouraged HHFT to work with the Philipstown Climate Smart Task Force and Metro-North to encourage more visitors to use public transportation. 

“People will come and there’s going to be more cars,” said Ramirez. 

Jack Goldstein, chair of the Cold Spring Planning Board, also raised concerns about how the trail’s new concept differs from the original and said that HHFT has failed to consult with Cold Spring officials on the design. 

Cold Spring residents will be “profoundly” impacted, said Goldstein. “There are major issues that will need to be put before the public,” he said.

5 thoughts on “Fjord Trail Plan Draws Praise and Concern

  1. I greatly appreciated the front-page space you gave to the Fjord Trail presentation, but the article did not adequately describe more of the comments and questions from the 50-plus people in the room, especially the ones which radically questioned some proposed aspects of this multimillion-dollar tourist attraction.

    I believe there is widespread shock at the size of this project, how it will directly affect the village and local area, and the overall sense that it will bring more people to Philipstown and create more traffic and people problems than we have. This was articulated, as you noted, by Jack Goldstein, the chairman of the Cold Spring Planning Board. If a person of his stature and knowledge believes there are some profound issues with the Fjord Trail as planned, then we’d all better listen to his thoughts, which should, I believe, be further explored and detailed by The Current.

    Additionally, the so-called main problem that the Fjord Trail presenters believe this project will address — dealing with cars, people and safety issues around Breakneck Ridge — contains a glaring and self-sabotaging contradiction. The plan calls for the continuation of parallel parking along the east side of Route 9D north of the tunnel. There will be designated parking areas, such as at the old Dutchess Manor, which is great, but how can this idea of using Route 9D be anything other than a continuation of people doing back-parks and three-point turns along this busy roadway, along with many people crossing the highway, even with crosswalks?

    This is not getting rid of our No. 1 safety problem. This part of the plan needs to be dropped immediately. The proposed Fjord Trail and the proposed Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival share one obvious and unfortunate thing in common: They are way too big for our beloved town, and will radically change the rural nature here, with untold additional numbers of people and cars coming to Philipstown.

  2. The Fjord Trail is going to be a wonderful addition to both Beacon and Cold Spring, but I am concerned about all of the parking that is being planned. I would very much like to see less parking and far more use of mass transit. Four hundred spots are too many and yet, still not enough — if you build it, they will come in far greater numbers than is comfortable and/or safe.

    I would like to be able to drive on Route 9D the way I used to, and see no cars parked along its edge. Not only has that proven dangerous for pedestrians, but Breakneck Ridge could use a break (pun intended) from the trampling feet of thou-sands of tourists, who continue to cause a great deal of erosion and falling boulders.

    I don’t know why people wait in long lines to go up that trail when there are plenty of other places to explore, but a not-so-subtle way to discourage overuse is by reducing the amount of available parking.

  3. How about they fix the parking situation on Route 9D before starting any new projects? And how about enforcing the current parking restrictions? [via Facebook]

  4. The parking situation is part of the plan and it’s already underway. Just adding the parking lot across from Little Stony Point has been a huge improvement. [via Facebook]

  5. The recent public meeting re: the Fjord Trail (Highline-on-Hudson) at the Philipstown Towne Hall raises serious practical concerns about the Fjord Trail project and the fabric of the Cold Spring community. There is a striking lack of due diligence and transparency in the project that is only exceeded by its insidiousness. Typically, feasibility studies are concluded before a plan is pitched. This plan has done no such study.

    While the presenter’s flashy presentation eye-candy of sylvan riverside trails sparked the imagination, the unreadable tiny type of the slides denoted rank amateurism, as does the scarcity of information about the project on the Fjord website: “Under Construction.”

    The major missteps and ill conceptions are as follows:

    The project lacks proper pro forma environmental and traffic studies that would have otherwise quickly derailed this fantasy. Traffic already inundates Cold Spring from spring through fall, to the extent that streets and sidewalks are snarled and impassable for entire weekends. The notion of drawing more traffic and redirecting it to the lower village is untenable, as the area already lacks parking and sidewalks.

    The addition of 400 parking spots and creation of several parking lots, alarms locals and first responders who depend on these single-lane Revolutionary War-era carriage roads for reasonable conveyance. The promise of additional armies of tourists and hikers will be resented by all residents, excepting shopkeepers who may benefit: but who else does? No one.

    The Fjord team never consulted with the village regarding its expansion of the plan to include a river walkway thru Dockside to Little Stony Point. The function of the walkway is to divert foot traffic away from hikers heading north on Fair Street. This part of the project seems most ill-conceived and superfluous, and offers no benefit to the community other than to saddle out emergency responders with more amenities to monitor and service. The impact of impounding the shoreline for this walkway has an environmental effect that has not been considered. There simply aren’t enough parking spots in the lower village, nor is there proper access, with only one sidewalk leading to the park — this sidewalk belongs to the ice-cream line.

    Cold Spring is already in danger of losing its provincial charm to throngs of well-heeled tourists and transient hikers who have made the village one of the most crowded destinations on the East Coast. There’s nothing quaint about the scow that deposits its bounty of 800 tourists on its ‘scow’ line on our Dockside doorstep, nor is the inability to walk on the sidewalk charming. The incessant noise at Dockside makes it a poor choice for a place for anyone to relax. What quality of life impacts were considered by the Fjord team? Only that it would enhance. The only enhancement I feel is anxiety.

    Understand that adding an unnecessary and unwanted amenity that could exacerbate our already severely strained resources will change the fabric of the community forever. Before the Fjord megaproject loomed, weren’t we all discussing ideas for how to decompress the onslaught, not exacerbate it? I am confident the new Foley administration and other local governments will not endorse the plan, and seek to abolish it. As a resident, attend the meetings as I did, and don’t be afraid to voice your concerns, regardless of what any Philipstown Town or other official says.