Through my years of public service in this community and others I’ve always tried to be reasonable and pragmatic. It’s somewhat of a dying art. As it relates to the large Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail project, it may come in handy.

Many, like me, have recently dug into what this project is and how it’s changed through the years as large private money entered the process. As a resident of Cold Spring, my main concern is an already overburdened small community and what will happen when large numbers of visitors arrive over and above the numbers we see now.

Local reactions vary, and at times can be extreme: “This will destroy our village as we know it!” (A touch dramatic, in my view.) Or: “Think of all the great things this will bring [to] our village!” (I’m still waiting on this, and eight bathrooms isn’t exactly going to cut it for me.) I encourage the developers (New York state parks, Scenic Hudson, Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail Inc. and wealthy supporters) to fund an independent traffic, parking, pedestrian and visitation study that includes areas of vulnerability to the village.

The study should include participation from a newly authorized Village of Cold Spring Fjord Committee of three members (one from the Planning Board and two selected by the Board of Trustees) who work with the developer and represent the interests of the village. Anything short of this is an information dump, as we’ve seen throughout this project to date.

From a legal standpoint, most lawyers would probably agree, on and off the record, that a study paid for by the developer, and one the developer controls, will provide an outcome they want to see. Let’s be part of the process and keep this fact-based and not one-sided. I would also request that an economic development study along these same lines be carried out. The Fjord Trail Master Plan notes that there will be economic development benefits. Frankly, I’d like to honestly see who benefits and how.

Let’s get the facts on the table and then we can have a robust debate on this project — its benefits and its negatives. If the developers are truly afraid of what this will reveal, then that in and of itself sends a message that, unfortunately, we are becoming accustomed to hearing from various parties: “New York State can do what it wants.” That level of arrogance took down Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Let’s not go there, Gov. Hochul.

Joe Curto, Cold Spring

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Type: Opinion

Opinion: Advocates for ideas and draws conclusions based on the author/producer’s interpretation of facts and data.

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3 replies on “Letter: Fjord Trail Study”

  1. We have been trail maintainers for the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference for the past 20 years. We live on East Mountain. Currently, we maintain the following blazed trails in Fahnestock State Park: Clove Creek, Wiccopee and Trout Brook. We also maintain two non-blazed trails: a section of the old Wiccopee and another just off Trout Brook.

    As maintainers who take pride in our husbandry of our trails, we are taken aback at the whole idea of the so-called Fjord Trail. There have been major problems with way too many hikers at Breakneck on many weekends and during the summer. The conference’s own statistics bear this out, with single-day attendance in 2013 at 700 and four years later at 2,100. There were three days of more than 1,000 visitors in 2014; three years later there were 27 days.

    There are simple things that could be done, which I will describe a little later, but the idea of a private individual suggesting a way to get even more people to use this area as it is currently configured is beyond us. Why would the Trail Conference support this? Why isn’t the Trail Conference encouraging and advertising many of the other local, wonderful trails, many of which have excellent views of the Hudson?

    If you have ever been to Cape Cod and the National Seashore that President Kennedy helped start, you will realize that the entire outer-bank communities have dealt with crowds very successfully. There is limited parking in all areas, and, in the towns, one needs a permit. When the spaces are full, no other cars are allowed. No one parks alongside the road or on grass. It has been an accepted culture since the 1960s.

    Breakneck should have designated parking, with signs that illegally parked cars will be towed. Working with the state, the speed limit on Route 9D must be lowered.

    We want you to know that we and many others in the community feel we are being taken for a ride with the Fjord Trail. It is an example of misnaming for the purpose of getting folks to support something different from what they may get. In what way is it a fjord and not just a side of the Hudson River? It is not what most consider a trail, as it is a boardwalk. In addition, how can you call it scenic? It will have a chain-link fence on both sides for part of the trail.

    We are also upset about the lack of local input from the very beginning of the private-initiated project. Since this is not part of the state parks department, what are the plans for ongoing maintenance and upkeep?

    I hope folks take into consideration the criticisms that many in the Cold Spring area have said, and will be saying as meetings on the subject take place.

  2. The Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail is a solution for managing tourism in the region that will also give people of all ages and abilities greater access to the beauty that surrounds us. Recently, a handful of opponents of the project have been spreading the falsehood that the Fjord Trail will bring 600,000 new visitors to the region. That is categorically false. At no point has any-one from the Fjord Trail stated that the project will bring 600,000 new visitors.

    In 2021, New York State Parks estimated that annual visitation to Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve was 480,000. Environmental review consultants with expertise in park usage project that, by 2028, when the Fjord Trail is scheduled to be completed, there will be an additional 120,000 visitors annually. Working with recreational visitation management experts, we are continuing our analysis of traffic patterns and usage through this summer. This analysis, other data we have gathered and the community input we receive will continue to inform this projection and our decision-making on management and operations.

    The Fjord Trail is a park, conceived and initiated by local residents to help manage the impacts of increasing tourism in the region. The vision has grown over 15 years to reflect community input and changing conditions on the ground. Its thoughtful and strategic design will disperse visitors across the 7.5-mile path, from Beacon to Cold Spring, with six unique access points, drawing hikers away from Route 9D and neighborhood streets, alleviating the burden on local neighborhoods and village infrastructure.

    The Fjord Trail will also provide and manage critical amenities and infrastructure that residents have sought for years, including parking, additional sidewalks, signage, garbage collection and restrooms. It will ensure that seniors, people with disabilities and families with small children have access to the riverfront and trails.

    We recognize that there is a lot of interest and excitement — as well as many concerns and questions — about the Fjord Trail, and how it will serve Cold Spring and Philipstown. To that end, we will always do our best to clarify misinformation.

    The community forum scheduled for May 8, hosted by the Town of Philipstown, the Village of Cold Spring and the Village of Nelsonville, will provide another excellent opportunity to learn more about the project and help further shape the new trail so that everyone benefits from it.

    Kacala is executive director of Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail Inc.

  3. I watch the unfolding of the Fjord Trail with the perspective of a former New York City government official and the former CEO of a large public-private partnership in Times Square and I remain deeply concerned.

    Agreements on structure for such arrangements matter, particularly when taxpayers’ money has already been spent and taxpayers money has already been spent. But we have seen no memorandum of understanding, no letter of intent, and certainly no formal contract between New York State Parks and HHFT.

    I presume our elected officials have already seen the preliminary plans and the estimated costs. But if I am wrong and they have not, shame on them, and, if they have, why haven’t we?

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