The recent public meeting about the Fjord Trail (aka, “Highline-on-Hudson”) at the Philipstown Town Hall raised serious practical concerns (Fjord Trail Plan Draws Praise and Concern, March 25).
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.
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 from 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 our emergency responders.
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 in Cold Spring, 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 or other official says.
Derek Graham, Cold Spring
The Fjord Trail master plan is in environmental review, with OPRHP as lead agency. We have been going through a robust process evaluating habitat, projecting visitation, studying traffic impacts, completing an archeological field inventory, and all the rest of the suite of evaluations, inventories and studies that need to be completed for the environmental review process.
The process began in 2017 with a strongly attended public presentation at Dutchess Manor. While a public hearing is not required at the start of an environmental review, we believe deeply in community process and involvement and felt it was important to have that time for additional community dialogue. This built on the many public workshops that were held in the master planning process and we were happy to see many return attendees among the 150 to 200 people who turned out for each meeting.
At that 2017 meeting, Cold Spring residents comprised the majority of the attendance and strongly asked for additional review and consideration of routes through the village so as to not unnecessarily congest Main Street with through traffic and to lessen the impact on Fair Street homes. The project essentially took a pause and studied those routes, some of which were identified by then-Mayor Dave Merandy. The result was the change in the updated master plan to have the trail route start in Dockside rather than directing people down Fair Street. The updated master plan was the subject of two well-attended webinars, as COVID prohibited meeting in person at that time. Recordings of these are available at hhft.org/news. The full alternatives analysis will be part of the environmental review document.
A public hearing will be held when the public review draft of the GEIS is available.
In the meantime, we look forward to continuing the 10+ year conversation with the community on how to manage the high and growing visitation to the village. The idea for this project was started by residents of Cold Spring and Philipstown. It grew to a 20-member steering committee and now also a small nonprofit given the complexity of dealing with a host of agencies and a challenging site, but our commitment has always been to keep this as a project that serves the community and helps alleviate quality-of-life impacts.
We hope this sets your mind to rest and encourage you to stay apprised of project progress by signing up for our newsletter at hhft.org/support/connect.
Kacala is the executive director of the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail.