Money will allow work to begin in the fall
A line item in this year’s state budget included $200 million for the state parks department for capital improvements, an $80 million increase over what is typical.
State Sen. James Skoufis, a Democrat whose district will include Beacon and Philipstown if he is re-elected in November, said it wasn’t enough.
In the end, the line was increased by $50 million — $30 million to be spent on upgrades at Harriman State Park and $20 million on the proposed Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail. The boost in funding will allow construction to begin this fall, officials said.
Skoufis announced the additional funding on Thursday (April 21) at the Breakneck Ridge train station with local elected officials and environmental leaders in attendance.
“You’re going to see all of these cars that clog up Route 9D and make for a really awful quality of life issue for local residents and businesses be ameliorated as part of this Phase 1,” said Skoufis. “Those cars will no longer be crowding the shoulder all up and down 9D.”
The Fjord Trail project was conceived years ago as a riverside trail running from Cold Spring to Beacon. But in light of Breakneck Ridge’s surging popularity as a day hike, resulting in overwhelming crowds, traffic and frequent visits from emergency responders, the project became more ambitious.
According to MJ Martin, director of development and community engagement for the Fjord Trail: “Phase 1 will involve the construction of more than 100 parking spaces adjacent to the Breakneck Ridge trailhead, along with bathrooms and other amenities, and a pedestrian bridge to cross over the tracks to the Shoreline segment of the trail, a 2-mile riverfront promenade heading south toward Little Stony Point, and ultimately Dockside Park. The Shoreline segment is planned as Phase 2 of the project.”
In addition, erosion damage caused by large numbers of hikers will be repaired. The Breakneck Ridge train station, which has been closed since the beginning of the pandemic shutdown, will be upgraded; a Metro-North representative confirmed this week that the agency plans to reopen the station following the installation of fencing that has been delayed by supply chain issues.
Ned Sullivan, the president of the nonprofit environmental group Scenic Hudson, said that while he believes New York has the best state parks in the country, the state budget has not kept pace.
“The safety, the health and the basic public amenities in our park system have fallen down because the funding has not been there,” he said. “Breakneck Ridge has exemplified that crisis. People have paid in life and limb, literally, for these deficiencies and safety hazards.”
Cold Spring Mayor Kathleen Foley noted that while the county and state have promoted the village as a tourist destination, it has largely borne the cost of that tourism alone.
“We have, if we’re honest, felt besieged by the crowds passing through the village on their way to the trails,” she said. “The crowds aren’t going away. So we have to manage them. The Fjord Trail will bring a rationalized pedestrian and vehicular traffic flow, and much-needed basics like toilets, which we just can’t afford to provide on our own. And God willing, it’s going to bring proper park staffing, so that our first responders stay safe and ready in our village, where they belong.”
Amy Kacala, the executive director of the Fjord Trail, said construction managers are planning on Phase I taking about 20 months. She noted that when it begins, Breakneck Ridge and the Wilkinson Trail will be temporarily closed. “There’s going to be a lot of construction activity happening in a very limited space,” she explained.
There is no good reason to terminate the Fjord Trail at Dockside park, and numerous reasons for Cold Spring and Nelsonville to demand safe pedestrian and bike access to Little Stony Point and the Fjord trail for Village residents, as was originally proposed by RBA.
Dockside Park has a special place in the hearts of many – I dare say ALL – residents of and visitors to Cold Spring, Nelsonville, and Philipstown. Whether it was a painting a sunset, watching a Film Society movie, skipping rocks at the old dock, or gazing at clouds rising over Storm King, a special moment at Dockside resides within all of us.
Too little consideration is being given to what will be lost if the intangible “End of the Earth” quality of Dockside is lost when it becomes the “terminus” to the Fjord Trail.
There is no good reason for the Fjord Trail, a rustic, riverside trail, to end at a rustic, riverside point in the village which has no public amenities, no food or water available, and no commercial destinations for people who have supposedly just walked or biked along the River for 8 miles. Why irrevocably alter the character of this Village treasure when perfectly viable sidewalk connections (9D/Morris and/or Fair St.) exist that will benefit Fjord Trail visitors as well as Village inhabitants?
The proposed route of the Fjord Trail passes over underwater Cold Spring Village and Town of Philipstown land. These entities should have an official seat at the table. If you read the article from 2014, you too will lament the loss of focus from safe bike/ped routes to and from Beacon and Cold Spring and a shift in emphasis to having people park cars somewhere along Route 9D to experience the Fjord Trail.
Dockside is worth protecting as a place in and of itself, and this can be done by shifting the Cold Spring Fjord Trail “terminus” to a two-pronged safe bike/ped route on both 9D/Morris and River/Fair Streets.
In response to Ethan Timm’s post, I’d like to share some facts on the Fjord Trail project.
First and foremost, it’s important to recall the origin of the Fjord Trail project: managing critical safety issues along Route 9D related to the popularity of Breakneck Ridge and other nearby public trails. The Fjord Trail is a local solution, thought up by some of the same residents who are working on it today, in response to a problem that needs attention now more than ever.
The special magic of Dockside Park is not at all lost on me. Nearly 28 years ago, my husband and I were married at Dockside looking out at Storm King, with a reception at Jim and Lori Ely’s former restaurant on the site.
There are several good reasons to have the trail begin/end at Dockside Park. All of these have been borne out by a comprehensive alternatives analysis and public input.
1) The trail has always been planned as a safe and scenic 7.5-mile walk/bike route between Cold Spring and Beacon through the Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve. As the Fjord Trail has evolved, the desire to build in ADA accessibility for people of all ages and abilities has become a guiding principle. The trail is now envisioned as a favorite spot for families with small children to go for a bike ride; for walkers and runners to get outside for some exercise; and for seniors to enjoy a mid-day stroll to Little Stony Point or beyond.
2) With Dockside Park as the southern gateway, Cold Spring residents can easily walk or bike to this trailhead. Likewise, visitors from farther away can easily access the trail from the Cold Spring train station. Fewer cars circulating in search of parking spots is good for the environment, as well as the Village’s existing congestion problem, and safer for cyclists and pedestrians.
3) The first iteration of the Fjord Trail design by RBA included a plan for all hikers to travel through the Village after disembarking the train or parking, making their way up Main Street and along Fair Street to Little Stony Point, the Cornish trail and beyond. Feedback from the Village opposed this route, considering it invasive to Cold Spring neighborhoods and unnecessarily congesting on Main Street, where shop keepers and restaurateurs wanted earnest customers. HHFT took this feedback seriously. The new route will bring hikers from the train station along the waterfront to Dockside Park, which is part of the public Hudson Highlands State Park. Those that choose instead to meander along Main Street to shop and dine, will still be able to do so. In this way, visitor flow will be split, further reducing congestion.
4) The plan to increase parking options north of the Village is a direct response to the critical problem of dangerous pedestrian and vehicular congestion at hyper-popular hiking destinations like Breakneck and Bull Hill. By developing organized and rational parking options for visitors and locals alike at Breakneck Ridge and points north, and connecting the entire route through a shuttle system, visitors will be dispersed along the 7.5-mile route and fewer cars will need to cruise Route 9D and Main Street for parking spots.
5) The proposed route of the Fjord Trail does NOT pass over underwater Cold Spring Village and Town of Philipstown land. The land where the Shoreline Trail is planned belongs to Metro-North Railroad. Both Dockside Park and Little Stony Point are part of the Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve.
6) Both the Village of Cold Spring and the Town of Philipstown DO have a “seat at the table.” Elected leadership from these two communities, along with the Town of Fishkill and the City of Beacon, is part of the nineteen-entity Steering Committee that has helped to move the Fjord Trail project forward from the beginning. Mayor Foley and Supervisor Van Tassel, and their predecessors, have brought great value to this coalition of partners. We look forward to continued thoughtful engagement.
HHFT’s plan for Dockside Park is by no means complete and public input is welcomed. There will be restrooms and trash receptacles maintained by HHFT staff, and management responsibility and expense will be removed from the Village once Dockside is incorporated into the Fjord Trail. Additionally, HHFT is keen on finding the best ways to ensure that current beloved community uses like fireworks and outdoor movies can continue at Dockside. We are open to other ideas and there will be several additional opportunities for residents to weigh in before a plan is finalized.
It’s time to solve the problem that has been plaguing this community for decades. The Fjord Trail is an essential part of that solution.
Martin is the director of development and community engagement for the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail.
Thank you for your response. If the Dockside terminus to the Fjord trail cannot be moved, I suggest again that the villages of Cold Spring and Nelsonville demand that attention (and money from this project) be paid for safe bike and pedestrian access to the Fjord Trail via Fair Street and Morris/9D in addition to the proposed Dockside Terminus.
I appreciate that the residents of Fair Street were given a voice in this planning process. Were the residents of Market, Lower Main, New, Fish, West, and North Streets also consulted about the further influx of visitors — not to mention cars circling and Ubers making drop-offs — that the Dockside Fjord Terminus is bound to attract? Is it “fair” that the residents of one street can veto safe pedestrian access to that street for an entire community just because they don’t want people walking there? Regardless, by my count there are about 25 homes on Fair Street between Main Street and Little Stony Point. There are roughly the same number of homes on the streets surrounding Dockside.
Unless significant improvements are made to the Lunn Terrace/Market Street intersection and sidewalk improvements are completed on Lower Main as well as New and North Streets, the notion of safe bike/pedestrian/senior access to the Fjord Trail via Dockside for anyone other than the fortunate few who can find parking for their cars down there is a canard.
Further, the notion that visitors will orderly follow a line on a map is foolhardy. Despite the Fjord Trail’s best wayfinding signage efforts, without safe passage through the Village there will still be countless unfortunate souls (including hapless residents) wandering aimlessly in the middle of Fair Street and 9D looking desperately for a safe way to walk to Little Stony Point and the Fjord Trail while dodging car traffic.
If the Fjord Trail is indeed coming, the only rational solution for Cold Spring is to provide multiple safe routes for both residents and visitors alike, so as not to concentrate foot and vehicular traffic, particularly not if they are to be concentrated at Dockside.
While I remain convinced that the Dockside Terminus is foolhardy, I suggest that all parties involved consider real improvements to Fair Street and 9D/Morris. This will make the Fjord Trail a real success and also benefit the residents of Cold Spring and Nelsonville.
There is a hidden, unfortunate, and troubling contradiction between Scenic Hudson, State Senator James Skoufis, and we the public in your front-page article on the Fiord Trail regarding the key issue of continued parking along Route 9D.
At the March 23 meeting of the Town Board, two representatives from Scenic Hudson told the crowd of approximately 70 people that even though some tens of millions of dollars were going to be spent on fixing and re-constructing the situation at Breakneck Ridge, there would still be parking allowed along the east side of 9D.
A number of us immediately objected to this and questioned the bizarre logic of it. However, in your article, you quote State Sen. James Skoufis as saying “You’re going to see all of these cars that clog up Route 9D and make for a really awful quality of life issue for local residents and businesses be ameliorated as part of this Phase 1. Those cars will no longer be crowding the shoulder all up and down 9D.”
Thus, is the senator not clued in to Scenic Hudson’s very quiet plan for parking along 9D? Did Scenic Hudson not share this with him? This is a disturbing discussion because I would bet that a huge majority of Philipstown residents are against any continued parking along Route 9D north of the Breakneck Tunnel. We know it is a dangerous, unsafe portion of the road, with drivers doing U-turns, back-parking, and causing a situation known far and wide as an accident waiting to happen. Why is Scenic Hudson committed to this self-sabotaging plan? And why should we trust them with their other plans which could cause irreparable damage to the rural character of Cold Spring?
The Fjord Trail presenters literally said that they are keeping the parallel parking on 9D in order to force the New York State Department of Transportation to lower the speed limit along the Fjord Trail corridor. This does not seem like a rational design decision, and is perhaps indicative of a “cart before the horse” situation.
The Fjord Trail committee seems to be tragically ignoring the induced demand that will be created by all the additional parking they are proposing.
Pete, we’ve had this discussion with you many times in meetings and individually. We’re sorry you don’t agree with keeping limited and controlled parking on a small portion of 9D at Breakneck, but that doesn’t mean it’s the wrong answer. While we’re clearly going to have to agree to disagree, I’ll take a minute to explain for the rest of the readers.
As Sen. Skoufis is quoted as accurately saying: “You’re going to see all of these cars that clog up Route 9D and make for a really awful quality of life issue for local residents and businesses be ameliorated as part of this Phase 1. Those cars will no longer be crowding the shoulder all up and down 9D.”
In the past few years the parking behavior on Route 9D has gone to new levels of chaos and congestion. What used to be excessive parallel parking on either side of the road became nose-in parking, particularly on the east side of the road, with people backing into the high-speed highway. This needs to be fixed.
Breakneck Connector will implement a five-point strategy of traffic calming improvements in the mile area north of the tunnel. This includes:
1. A new “Welcome to Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve” gateway sign on the hill as drivers descend toward Breakneck southbound, signaling the entry to a recreation use area.
2. Vegetated bump-outs to and provide a safe space for pedestrians to gather as they wait to cross the road.
3. New crosswalks to control and direct street crossing behavior which is currently chaos.
4. Sidewalks to provide a safe walking route to the nearest crosswalk for those exiting their cars.
5. Formal parallel parking spaces, which will remove the opportunity for unsafe and illegal nose-in parking and constrict the road in a way that alerts drivers to slow down.
With this entire package of improvements installed, DOT will lower the speed limit to 40 mph, which will help safety as well.
As the senator correctly noted, these measures will ameliorate the haphazard parking and congestion that has made for a dangerous and stressful condition for visitors and locals along 9D.
Whereas 250 cars might have squeezed themselves along the road in the past, the new design will allow for 77 cars in painted, formal parallel parking spaces. Even with an additional 36 spaces in parking lots, the total number of cars parked in that area will be greatly reduced with people directed to find overflow parking at Dutchess Manor and other points north and take the shuttle.
We are grateful for the state support and the senator who stepped up as a champion to bring the resources needed to advance this overdue and much needed improvement to public infrastructure and safety at Breakneck.
For those interested in learning more about the planned improvements, please visit our website (hhft.org) where you can find lots of info and watch a recorded public presentation from 2020. We’ll also be having a public meeting with Cold Spring and Nelsonville on May 25. Hope to see you there!
Kacala is the executive director of the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail.