Philipstown: Close Hiker Stop Until Fjord Trail Arrives

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Board also OKs shared service pact with Cold Spring

The Philipstown Town Board last week asked Metro-North to keep the Breakneck Ridge train stop closed until the first stretch of the Fjord Trail debuts and gives hikers an alternative to the sometimes treacherous mountain. 

In a resolution unanimously adopted at an April 20 workshop at Town Hall, the board declared that postponing resumption of train service would “greatly alleviate” the burden borne by emergency responders called to aid injured or lost hikers. 

The station closed in 2020 when the COVID-19 shutdown began. Metro-North said it should reopen in late May. 

The completion of the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail, “at least partially,” the resolution says, should provide options to hikers beyond Breakneck. The Fjord Trail, a path for walking and bicycling along the Hudson River between Cold Spring and Beacon, recently received $20 million from New York State. Construction is expected to begin this fall. 

“If you take the train and get off at Breakneck, there’s no place to go but up the mountain,” which “is overwhelmed already,” said Supervisor John Van Tassel. Like the mountain itself, rescuers feel the impact. “It just seems that the more access people have to Breakneck, the more rescues they’re going to have.” He noted the Fjord Trail will also bring public restrooms, information sites and other resources.

Van Tassel downplayed suggestions that keeping the station closed would divert crowds to Cold Spring. He said people wanting to visit the village will do so anyway, while others intent on reaching Breakneck will stay away, deterred by the mile-long walk between the village and trailhead. 

On a related matter, the board passed a resolution to back the New York-New Jersey Watershed Protection Act, a bill in the U.S. House that would allocate $50 million to restore watersheds, including the Hudson River’s, that contribute to the New York-New Jersey ocean harbor. 

The board also voted 4-0 (one member missed the meeting) to share the town’s full-time building and code enforcement department with Cold Spring, whose part-time building inspector recently left to take a full-time job with the City of Newburgh.

Under the agreement, the village will pay the town $1,600 monthly ($19,200 annually) to review building applications and plans; inspect construction; issue permits, notices of violations, stop-work orders and other documents; appear in court as required; enforce the village zoning code and related laws, state code and flood plain regulations, and report regularly to village officials. Village Hall would continue to maintain records pertinent to activity in Cold Spring. 

From June 2018 until August 2020, the municipalities shared the town’s Building Department, until Cold Spring opted to go its own way. Now, according to the Philipstown resolution, the two have decided that a reinstated merger makes sense in order to reduce expenses for both, offer the most efficient service and promote “the best interests of the public.”

“It works well for the village, because it’s eight hours a day, five days a week” of coverage, Van Tassel said. “And it works well for us because it brings in income.”

At the same time, the board renewed agreements with Croton, Buchanan, Peekskill and Cortlandt to share trucks and other equipment.

One thought on “Philipstown: Close Hiker Stop Until Fjord Trail Arrives

  1. I really don’t understand the logic of keeping the Breakneck train station closed, despite the arguments put forward. It seems to be based on two misconceptions: First, that the only hiking option for those arriving by train is to go up the most difficult route; and second, that hikers either have to return home from the same station or walk along the road to Cold Spring. And it privileges those with cars over others.

    Before I moved to Cold Spring, I used to take the train from New York City to come to hike in the Highlands and I rarely hiked up the classic Breakneck route. There are numerous quieter options for loops avoiding that busy section. My favorite was to take the Wilkinson Memorial trail from Breakneck station up Sugarloaf and then loop back via the Notch trail or the Breakneck shortcut.

    But the big advantage of hiking by train over coming by car is the ability to hike between stations. So, more often than not, I would take the train to Breakneck and hike up to Mount Beacon and down to Beacon station, or hike down to Cold Spring station via Bull Hill.

    Keeping Breakneck station closed discourages this use of public transportation by hikers, not just around Breakneck but across the whole of the Highlands region. It privileges those who own and use their private cars, adding to parking and road congestion, pollution and climate change.

    Instead we should be encouraging more use of public transportation by hikers along the whole stretch from Peekskill to Beacon, through reduced fares for short return journeys to close a hike loop and through provision of bus routes meeting MTA trains and taking hikers to trailheads in less popular or accessible areas such as Fahnestock. The Beacon Bus Loop is a model that Philipstown could follow.

    The way to tackle congestion around a limited number of popular routes is not to restrict access by closing stations, but by promoting integrated transport networks, making other options accessible without the need for a car.