Cold Spring: Can We Influence Fjord Trail?

Lingering concern over impact on village

With initial construction on the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail drawing near, the Cold Spring Planning Board met with project officials via Zoom on Aug. 11 to discuss how the village can influence planning. 

Cold Spring will be the southern gateway to the 7.5-mile path, which will follow the Hudson River shoreline north to Beacon.

Trail development at Breakneck Ridge is slated to begin late this year. The second phase of construction, from Dockside Park to Little Stony Point and north along the shoreline, is scheduled for 2024, followed by the Breakneck-to-Beacon section. 

In May, Planning Board Chair Jack Goldstein expressed concern that “over-tourism intentionally generated” by the Fjord Trail will have a negative effect on Cold Spring, which already experiences summer and fall crowding, parking and traffic issues.

“There needs to be some way for the village to express itself in the moderation of this project,” Goldstein said, citing, as an example, plans for a swimming area at Little Stony Point. 

While the designs are beautiful, he said, the plans are ”presented in the context of usage by the community, but not all the people this project is going to bring here.”

Amy Kacala, the executive director of Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail (HHFT), said residents have provided input and want the trail to enhance the community’s quality of life by including amenities such as the swimming area and outdoor spaces for use by schools — facilities she said will help compensate for the disturbance caused by increased tourism. 

The project’s roots, Kacala said, were in managing visitation that has increased in recent years even without the trail, along with the need for improved infrastructure.

“The question is, do we do nothing, and just suffer?” she asked. “Or do we try to come up with ways to channel visitation and try to manage it?”

MJ Martin, the trail’s director of development and community engagement, underlined that she and others working on the project live locally and want the trail to be a community resource.

“I want it to work for the community,” she said. She added that the proposed trail goes through state park land that is “for New York state residents, all of them. Everyone has a right to use these parks.”

Goldstein agreed, but not, he said, to the extent that the park becomes unusable. “Simply saying that the problem is getting worse and so, let’s make it even worse, doesn’t make sense to me,” he said.

He asked to what extent local input can influence the trail’s master plan and questioned who, including the state parks department, has the authority to make final decisions. 

As an example, he asked, if the public spoke against building the trail out into the Hudson River to link Dockside with Little Stony Point, “can state parks compel HHFT to redesign the project?”  

Kacala said state parks is conducting the environmental review and is also the lead agency on the project. She said changes to the master plan would involve dialogue between HHFT and state parks, “but it is state parks’ process, and they’re the lead agency.” 

The village maintains Dockside Park though an agreement with state parks, which owns the property. The agreement can be canceled at any time by either party.

For HHFT, which will oversee the trail’s construction, to make improvements at Dockside, the agreement would have to be canceled and a new agreement created, Kacala said. 

Mayor Kathleen Foley expressed concern over Cold Spring’s ability to address the trail’s impact. “This is a project not of the village’s choosing,” she said. ”It is far beyond the scope of the village budget.”

She took exception to a consultant for HHFT’s Shuttle and Parking Committee referring to the village as “a market.”

Foley said while Main Street is important, “we can’t be looked at as a ‘market.’ We have to be looked at as a community that needs to maintain its residential quality of life.”

She asked that HHFT study vehicular and pedestrian traffic flows, which she said have shifted significantly since the pandemic.

Kacala said the vehicular study was done and is being updated and that HHFT intends to undertake a pedestrian study.

Planning Board Member Yaslyn Daniels suggested HHFT provide an “overlay” of the master plan, detailing the process and how and when the village can comment.

On Tuesday (Aug. 16), Kacala said Daniels’ idea was a “big takeaway” from the meeting and that HHFT will develop a concise summary of “all planning processes started or planned so that it is clear what is being studied, when, and who will be involved.”

Goldstein said on Tuesday that while the overlay summary will be helpful, “in the broad sense, we are still operating in a world of pretty pictures and vague projections.”

9 thoughts on “Cold Spring: Can We Influence Fjord Trail?

  1. Jack Goldstein is exactly right. HHFT will change Cold Spring, and not for the better if built as currently planned.

  2. Follow the money. What is the estimated cost to design and build the trail? How much will come from private donors and how much from government? Which agency is on the hook to cover the difference? What are the estimated costs to operate the trail annually and what are included in those costs? How far out have you projected those costs? What are the estimated revenue streams and how much will each produce? How much of an endowment has been pledged? What percentage of the estimated annual operating costs does that represent?

    If a shortfall who will cover those costs? If $20 million from Albany has already been secured what are those funds to be used for? NYS Parks does not own all the land from Dockside to Little Stony Point so what financial agreements have been made or will be made to compensate Metro-North or private owners?

    If shuttle busses are used to ferry hikers to the trails who will manage those contracts? Did parks do an EIS before or after The plan was revised? Is it public? Where can we read it. If it’s being updated can we see the scope of that contract!

    These questions need answers and no project, whether small or large, should ever begin before all hard and soft costs are estimated and verified and revenue sources are clearly identified. Beware of projects that promise the moon to gain public support without knowing or telling who will pay how much for how long for what.

  3. Will the trail be open all year? If so, who will be responsible for snow removal and salting of the miles of trail? Will there be trail marshals patrolling these miles of trails since it will be next to the Metro-North railroad tracks?

  4. It will take away from Cold Spring as a village. It should never happen. As resident, I do not want it. It’s not necessary.

  5. Since this is a manmade trail that is being built for the sole purpose of hiking (walking, jogging and maybe biking) and will be advertised as such, who will be responsible for any mishaps that may occur?

    Cold Spring does not need any lawsuits. I truly believe a caged-in trail is not necessary. It takes something away from the great outdoors. A shuttle bus from Cold Spring to Little Stony Point is all we need, and we have one now. If the powers to be want this trail, they would be happy to supply a bus.

  6. Thank you, Highlands Current and Mike Turton, for following this vitally important topic. The comments from those representing the Fjord Trail seem to me and many others like an ongoing cascade of cleverly-crafted mumbo-jumbo, or as Jack Goldstein aptly puts it, “pretty pictures and vague projections.”

    If built, this regional mega-tourist attraction would ruin Cold Spring with untold numbers of visitors. Goodbye to our beloved village, and hello to a widely-publicized “High Line of Putnam County” and the suburbanization and grievous loss of what we presently cherish. There is absolutely no way this should be built into the very small and greatly limited geography of Cold Spring. We must stop this now.

  7. I live in the village, right on Fair Street, and I cannot wait for the Fjord Trail. This is the most exciting thing to happen in years. I am growing increasingly annoyed by the comments from people — some of whom do not live in the village — who want to force Cold Spring to become a retirement community. I hope someone runs against the obstructionist mayor and board.

  8. Like Mr. Szyszka, I look forward to the opening of the Fjord Trail. It will be a wonderful addition to our community and, most importantly, solve the dangerous pedestrian issues along Route 9D and Fair Street arising from the popularity of Breakneck Ridge.

    I’ve lived in and visited a number of communities that built greenways and designated pedestrian paths despite loud kvetching from a few loud residents and NIMBYists. After a short period, everyone embraced the pathways as a benefit to their community and as healthier, safer alternatives to walking and biking along vehicular thoroughfares. I doubt anyone complained about the rise in property values after the paths were built. I predict the same will happen here.

    I vividly remember all the pushback some locals gave Scenic Hudson over the low-impact development of the Foundry Preserve. All kinds of hysterical predictions about overwhelming busloads of tourists never materialized, did they?

    It’s the same show this time. Fears that the Fjord Trail itself will detract and diminish the small-town character of Cold Spring by becoming, in and of itself, some kind of tourist mecca are overblown. Breakneck Ridge is already a tourist mecca and too many people come here unaware of the many alternative, and for some, more appropriate, hikes we are so lucky to have.

    Building a pathway for safer enjoyment and better access to Hudson River views and trails is nothing akin to installing a Six Flags or Legoland in Cold Spring. The Fjord Trail solves more problems than it creates. Doing nothing but griping, stirring up conflicts and fretting about semantics only allows existing problems to multiply and throws up roadblocks to the enhancement of our community.

    My particular hope is that Fjord Trail planners include strict safety protections for those who enjoy leisurely cycling, and kids who are learning to ride their bikes, from maniac cyclists who insist on riding three-abreast and intimidating those who don’t ride as fast as they do.

  9. I agree with Eric Szyszka and Lynn Miller. Everyone I know in the village cannot wait for the Fjord Trail to arrive, and the fact that the finish line is so many years out is a consistent point of frustration for those of us who eagerly await the day when we’ll have a beautiful riverfront trail to walk, run or bike.

    Seeing how beautiful Dockside Park will be adds to the excitement and the frustration. The sentiment that the Fjord Trail is going to ruin Cold Spring is preposterous. The visitors are here and have been for decades. Let’s face it, most people who live here were once people who loved visiting Cold Spring. And this idea, from relative newcomers to town, that all change should stop the moment they arrive is insulting to those of us who have been here our whole lives and to the local business owners whose blood, sweat and tears help make this village what it is.

    I welcome Scenic Hudson’s management and funding, as well as SCAPE Studio’s deep well of landscape architecture experience, to bring our community a world-class linear park connecting Cold Spring and Beacon.