The Fjord Trail: Good or Bad for Cold Spring?

Jack Goldstein

Jack Goldstein (File photo)

Jack Goldstein, who chairs the Cold Spring Planning Board, has been outspoken about plans to connect the village and Beacon with the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail. The HHFT is scheduled to address the Cold Spring Village Board on May 25.

Are you speaking here as chair of the Planning Board or as a village resident?
The Planning Board has been discussing the HHFT at its public meetings. If a question pertains to something the board has addressed, I’ll answer as its chair. Also, the board has authorized me to investigate the [potential impacts of] HHFT, but if a question pertains to an issue the Planning Board hasn’t reached a consensus on, I’ll speak as an individual.

Do you think the Fjord Trail will be of net benefit?
I can’t answer that question at this point. But speaking as an individual, I do not think it will be of net benefit to the Village of Cold Spring.

The Planning Board typically comments on proposed development within the village boundaries. Should it play a role in the Fjord Trail, which will extend to Beacon?
The Village Code authorizes the Planning Board to investigate matters relating to planning and development in Cold Spring. The Fjord Trail is a 7.5-mile linear development of which approximately half is in the Town of Philipstown, in which Cold Spring is located. It is a large, unified project that will affect our interests. In this case, the role of the Planning Board is to investigate, and if it so chooses, share its findings with the Village Board and the public. Our discussions to date are available at coldspringny.gov.

Are there avenues for formal input from the planning boards of the four municipalities along the trail’s proposed route — Cold Spring, Philipstown, Fishkill and Beacon?
That is a question for the HHFT, but, speaking personally, in my experience there are always avenues. Nothing could be simpler than to share facts in a timely way.

A map of the Fjord Trail on a sign in Beacon. (File photo)

Won’t the state-mandated Environmental Quality Review address many concerns related to the trail?
The Planning Board hasn’t yet gone into the matter of environmental reviews. I’m speaking as an individual who knows enough about best practices to be concerned. HHFT is effectively segmenting their environmental review by beginning in the middle, in the Breakneck Ridge area. They are sophisticated people. They understand the implications. Again, my opinion and my words: The village is a sitting duck with no resources to deal with the overcrowding the trail will produce.

What concerns you about the work being done at Dockside Park, which will serve as a gateway to the HHFT?
I expressed concern over the secrecy in which the state parks department designed Dockside, and its lack of candor since. I used the boat ramp and its potential negative impacts on traffic and parking as one example of how little thought the parks department has given to Cold Spring as a stakeholder. The same can be said of the HHFT.

Can an increase in Metro-North Railroad ridership alleviate concerns over traffic and parking posed by the trail?
Speaking for myself: If successful in its own eyes, HHFT will significantly increase both car and train traffic. It is just common sense. That is what it is meant to do. HHFT started at the local level to conserve the trails and improve public safety. It has ballooned into a grandiose plan for a destination amusement park — my view. Do we want that here? At least, shouldn’t we be asked before the state awards it $20 million?

Has the potential impact of the Fjord Trail been adequately documented in your view? 
No.

What is your biggest concern; what would you like changed in the trail’s design?
My personal concern is that the over-tourism intentionally generated by the project, as planned, will destroy the quality of life in our village. I would like to see HHFT improve their work product to prevent that. Cold Spring, precariously balanced and geographically confined, is an organic, living space, every bit as fragile and endangered as any trail, just as rare and just as important. Not to mention the village lies entirely within a local and federal historic district.

You helped formulate Cold Spring’s effort to deal with its parking problem. Do we know how the Fjord Trail will affect parking in the village?
Speaking as someone who worked on that project with other citizens, in my view, it will make it worse.

Several public meetings have been held over the years and there is no shortage of opinions on the Fjord Trail. Hasn’t public input been adequate?
Actually, there is a shortage of opinions on the Fjord Trail. The public meetings were held years ago. The project has been totally “re-imagined” — their term — behind closed doors during the last five years, with no external communications. In my view, timely public involvement is an obligation and should be part of such major projects.

Is there still time to improve communications as plans for the Fjord Trail go forward?
I don’t see any other option than for HHFT to make time, unless they wish to cause irrevocable damage to the home of 2,000 people. That outcome is not in their mission statement, nor would it be a legacy of which they will be proud.

9 thoughts on “The Fjord Trail: Good or Bad for Cold Spring?

  1. I think the trail is going to be a big problem with traffic. Who is going to maintain it? It’s going to make a great impact in the village. It’s a waste of money. I, for one, don’t want it. It’s bad enough the mountains are ruined, now you take our land. Kids paint the mountains and bathrooms. Don’t you think they will do the same to the trail?

  2. In its previous iteration, the Fjord Trail officially ran along Fair Street. Its new route runs along Market Street, past Lunn Terrace, and then on either New, West, Lower Main or North Streets (this part is unclear to me) to the reimagined “gateway” at Dockside Park. This new proposed route has specifically been suggested as a response to concerns raised by residents of Fair Street about the initial proposed route at meeting held in 2016 in the Town of Fishkill.

    Local residents deserve a real voice in this matter — residents of the streets around Lower Main who will be affected by this modification, as well as the rest of us who have been eagerly awaiting the previously promised improvements to village access to Little Stony Point and beyond via Fair Street.

    Anyone who suggests that a route to the Fjord Trail via Lunn Terrace, Market Street and Lower Main (in their current configurations) count as safe access for seniors, pedestrians and bicyclists, has clearly not gone through a rigorous exercise studying the traffic and road/sidewalk configurations at those locations.

  3. Goldstein’s point regarding the segmentation of the environmental review process for the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail is a good one. Why isn’t the entire project, and its impacts on Philipstown in its entirety, being reviewed as a whole?

    I attended a few of the planning meetings for the trail, but it was apparent from the start that there was a well-funded force behind the scenes that was going to make this happen, no matter what. If the true intention of the Fjord Trail is to address and help the communities impacted by the increased use of the trails, why can’t Cold Spring, Philipstown and Nelsonville have a seat at the table during the environmental review process of the entire trail?

    As of now, the Town of Fishkill, which historically has had zero interest in the Breakneck corridor besides writing a few speeding tickets, would have the majority of the input on a project that will impact their residents the least.

    Bowman is the former mayor of Nelsonville.

  4. It strikes me as wrong to call this a “fjord” trail. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a fjord is “a long, narrow, deep in-let of the sea between high cliffs, typically formed by submergence of a glaciated valley and found predominantly in Norway.”

    Clearly, this development and exploitation of a beautiful natural and historic setting, including Dockside Park, is not situated in a fjord; it is a development of a river valley, specifically, the Hudson River Valley, to host an amusement park.

    Why call it a fjord trail? Only two reasons seem fit: (1) The parties behind HHFT are ignorant as to what constitutes a proper fjord; or (2) These parties thought that fjord better connotes fanciful, if misplaced, romantic ideas of rustic and scenic Norse fjords, longboats and rural coastal villages, all of which stand in contrast to what has been revealed about the wretched development they are planning.

    While the name of this amusement park is likely the least of its offensive qualities, it does seem to reflect something, in these days of Orwellian politics, that might be intended to continue the apparent intention of the powers behind the HHFT (most prominently the shadowy Scenic Hudson bunch) to carry forth a scheme that will likely be something other than that for which expectations and hopes may have been cultivated.

    • This section of the river has been referred to as a fjord for decades.

      From my 1984 edition of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference’s New York Walk Book, “Introduction to the Geology of the New York Region” (an even older chapter, copyright 1971), Page 6:

      “As the majestic Hudson River slices through the Highlands, it illustrates yet another effect of the Pleistocene Era. Ice speeding up as it cut through the narrow Hudson Gorge cut the river channel well below sea level. Thus the river here is a fjord, the only one on the East Coast south of Maine.”

  5. It is important to clarify that Cold Spring does not, in fact, lie “entirely within a local and federal historic district.” Only a portion of the village is designated as a Local Historic District, and a smaller portion of that is listed on the National Register. Dockside Park, Mayors’ Park, the village Highway Department, the Metro-North property in question, Spring Brook condominiums and Fair Street from Northern Avenue to the village line are not located within the Historic District.

    Conway is a member of the Historic District Review Board.

  6. I work for the MTA. I am also an avid hiker. Before the Breakneck Ridge station closed temporarily, the trains used to drop off 300 to 400 people four or five times every Saturday and Sunday, amounting to 1,200 to 1,500 people daily climbing the mountain. Since the station has been closed, not even a quarter of that gets dropped off at Cold Spring for hiking.

    I know: I work it, I see it. I have read many things about the Fjord Trail, good and bad. I have also seen how the mountain has been damaged and closed down multiple times because of boulders falling and the trail being widened so much that there is not anything to follow anymore. Personally, I don’t even go there because of all the tourist activity and how badly the mountain has been damaged.

    The best thing that can happen for the mountain, rescue squads and Cold Spring residents would be to close Breakneck Ridge permanently. I love the idea of the Fjord Trail, but the amount of tourism and extra people it will bring will devastate the mountain further. [via Facebook]

  7. I appreciated Dave Mueller’s comments about Breakneck Ridge, especially the data on train usage, which is staggering in terms of the numbers (Letters and Comments, May 13). I agree with his sad conclusion that the best thing would be to close Breakneck permanently.

    Like Dave, I am an avid hiker, but I avoid Breakneck and the other trails in the vicinity like the plague. I don’t even like driving on Route 9D on the weekend because I don’t want to be the driver who kills some idiot who wanders into the road. The proposed Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail will only worsen what is already a bad situation.

    To top it off, I looked recently at the substantial concrete boat launch under construction at Dockside Park in Cold Spring. I thought the plan was for a place to drag in a canoe or kayak; this is clearly designed for trailered boats, although where any-one is supposed to park is a mystery. It’s another great spot on the verge of being ruined.

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