Trailhead to be moved in first phase of Fjord Trail
The first section of the Breakneck Ridge trail — from the tunnel to the flagpole — will be closed beginning March 1 so that initial work can begin on what will eventually become the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail, a 7.5-mile linear park connecting Cold Spring and Beacon.
Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail Inc., a Scenic Hudson organization that is overseeing the Fjord Trail construction, said the project is being designed to manage crowds along Route 9D and among the trails of Hudson Highlands State Park, particularly Breakneck Ridge.
The first phase of the Fjord Trail, which is scheduled to be finished by July 1, will move the Breakneck trailhead off Route 9D and farther toward the Hudson River, where parking lots are planned.
The work requires the construction of a new structure for trail stewards and trail repair, the closing of unauthorized “social trails” created by hikers who go off-route and the creation of a set of stone steps that will lead up to the first major ascent.
Although the first section of the Breakneck Trail will be closed, the upper portions of the climb will remain accessible via the recently built Nimham Trail, which connects Breakneck’s first summit to the Wilkinson Memorial Trail.
The first major construction phase of the Fjord Trail, known as the Breakneck Bridge & Connector, is scheduled to begin next winter and projected to be completed by the end of 2025.
This phase will include the construction of a shared-use trail parallel to Route 9D from the Metro-North train station at Breakneck Ridge to the newly positioned trailhead, new parking areas, ADA-compliant restrooms, an ADA-compliant bridge over the train tracks and the replanting of native species. The full project is scheduled for completion by 2030.
Having read The Current’s fine reporting on the looming disaster of the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail along the shoreline, I tried to do further online research. Going to the HHFT site, one is greeted with a lot of white space, no plans, no architectural renderings. The same is true for Scenic Hudson.
These developers (Scenic Hudson has long abandoned preserving the Hudson Valley in favor of developing it) are following the 21st-century political mantra of keeping the public in the dark except when it (a) serves their own purposes; or, (b) they can make good use of ill-intended, misleading and self-serving propaganda.
Having serendipitously met a state parks department official at Dockside one early Saturday morning, we discussed the project. His final remarks were, to the effect, this thing is not going to happen for years, if ever. This casual comment is the best news this reader has heard regarding this destructive project since it became the buzz of the villages.
If they continue on the path of making Dockside more accessible to outside areas, then the day will likely come when we may see Dockside, and likely the entire village, beset by migrations from the now-wide-open northern border and ease of access from the south.
People move to our area to enjoy our unique and historic features, and we support these through our taxes and often volunteerism. Cold Spring, Nelsonville and Philipstown are unusual in that they still reflect something of a way of life that was, perhaps, more pleasant than that “enjoyed” elsewhere. To sell this out to developers seeking to create an unnatural amusement area of questionable — perhaps political — motivation is an unforgiveable travesty.
There are a number of documents available for review on the HHFT site, including the Master Plan and environmental scoping documents.
Breakneck Ridge is one of the great draws of the Hudson Highlands. Unfortunately, it stresses the resources of the park and emergency services, and impacts Cold Spring’s quality of life. The future Fjord Trail along the river will make a bad situation worse.
But this story can have a happy ending. With electronic ticket reservations, we could control visitation to a level that preserves our natural environment and allows even the locals to enjoy our premier trails. This system is used in parks across the country
Next time you see a village, town or park official, ask them why we haven’t tried electronic ticketing for Breakneck Ridge. It’s a 21st-century solution to an increasingly damaging problem.
While it is true that the Fjord Trail website has documents regarding design of the program, these are chiefly limited to pie-in-the-sky renderings: There are few, if any, design documents developed more than 30 percent for most of the trail, including Dockside.
The last phase between Little Stony Point and Breakneck is up in the air, as the shoreline profile is mostly rock that might entail untenable degrees of drilling for the walkway piles that support the tourist bridge. According to HHFT, there will be at least a two-year gap between the completion of the last two phases (Little Stony Point and Breakneck), as that scope of work is unknown.
As for the environmental impact studies, most of those posted are redacted pending completion, or simply not done. Few, if any, pertain to the Village of Cold Spring. If we put the horse before the cart, these studies are completed before design development. Sadly, that horse has left the barn.
This is a problem-solving technique that asks how to make the problem worse, then uses the results to help solve the problem. It seems in our town and parks that traffic congestion and overcrowding in peak times are the problem, so encouraging greater visitation, more driving and new bus traffic is the reverse solution. But we didn’t follow through to develop the actual solutions.
We are instituting more parking, more attractions and more circulating buses, which will increase visitation, congestion and crowding — the exact opposite of what we need.
After having closely read both the Fjord Trail’s 472-page Master Plan and the final scoping document for the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement, it is clear that the Trail Corridor as described in the Master Plan is an overblown folly, designed in a vacuum, with assumptions 15 years out of date.
It is out of scale with the area, unsupportable by and detrimental to the local infrastructure and economy, and not reasonably accessed. It would desecrate the Highlands shoreline it means to celebrate. Dockside, apparently included in the plan as an afterthought, would be destroyed as any form of village square for Cold Spring. On fall days, traffic is already backed up more than a quarter-mile on Route 9D south of Route 301. The narrow intersection would be impassable in all directions. Haldane travel teams would never get out of the driveway on weekends or during the week in summer.
A much-better version of the trail corridor would be for it to be scaled way down to fulfill the original intention of providing pedestrian safety for a point-to-point trail that is closer in design to the Appalachian Trail than to Acadia National Park.
My hope is that the Cold Spring planning and village boards will work together constructively with our concerned citizens, as well as Nelsonville, Philipstown and Beacon, to take action necessary to protect the village and the Highlands from the ruinous execution of its master plan as currently designed.
People need to chill about the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail. I’m getting a little tired of the hysteria around the project “making a bad situation worse,” “decreasing our quality of life” and opening up the village to unwanted “migrations.”
Let’s call this dog-whistling for what it is: xenophobia cloaked as concern for our village. You can’t have your cake and eat it. Tourists are a side effect of living in a beautiful place. For perspective, consider the other side of the county, where they complain about not getting enough tourism.
I understand the concerns about increased congestion and crowding, but these issues can be managed and will be outweighed by the tremendous benefits the Fjord Trail will bring to our community. The project will be an economic boon to the Highlands. It will increase our property values and support local businesses. Sure, all the sales tax goes to the county, but the tourists bring cash into the village — it’s unlikely any Main Street business could survive without them.
In his comment, Steven Sohn ominously describes the Fjord Trail opening the village to “migrations from the now-wide-open northern border and ease of access from the south.” By the northern border, does he mean the Canadian border?
As a former Breakneck Ridge trail steward, lifelong village resident and the proud son of a Canadian, I wholeheartedly support the Fjord Trail project. Any project that improves pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure is a positive investment in the future and will improve our quality of life.