The Fjord Trail: A Primer


A rendering of a view of the bridge proposed near Breakneck. (HHFT)

On Monday (May 8), in the Haldane school auditorium, Cold Spring, Nelsonville and Philipstown officials will host a public session for residents to discuss the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail, which is a 7.5-mile “linear park” that will connect Dockside Park in Cold Spring and Long Dock Park in Beacon.

Representatives from the Fjord Trail and the New York State Office of Parks, Outdoor Recreation and Historic Preservation will answer some of the more than 200 questions submitted, and ranked, by residents.

In anticipation of the meeting, here are answers to basic questions about the project, which is scheduled for completion by 2030.

Has the project changed throughout its development?

When the project was conceived in 2006, it was imagined as a walking path connecting Beacon and Cold Spring alongside the shore of the Hudson River.

More recently, as Breakneck Ridge became one of the most popular trails in the country, the project underwent a significant expansion and redesign. The goal was to address a series of emerging problems: throngs of hikers and cars along Route 9D; the lack of safe access to the river for swimming; Main Street in Cold Spring becoming overrun with visitors on weekends; the lack of public restrooms; and the dearth of outdoor access for people who need smooth surfaces.

The trail was also redesigned to take into account projected sea-level rise because of climate change.

Who’s building it?

The lead agency is Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail Inc., a subsidiary of the nonprofit environmental group Scenic Hudson, which is working in partnership with state parks. The lead design firms are SCAPE Landscape Architecture, Gray Organschi Architecture and the structural engineering firm Fast + Epp. Kate Orff of SCAPE was recently named by Time to its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world and is the first landscape architect to receive a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant.

“Fjord?” Really?

A fjord is a long, narrow inlet in valleys carved by glacial activity. While the term is usually associated with Scandinavian countries, there are a few fjords in the U.S., including one east of the Rockies, in the Highlands.

Where is the money going to come from?

The project is being funded through a combination of private donations and state grants. The organization expects that mix to continue, in addition to private grants from foundations and revenue raised through parking fees and other sources.

What’s the construction timeline?

Work has begun on the first phase: The Breakneck Connector. This $85 million segment includes a 445-foot span over the train tracks and a half-mile trail between the north end of the bridge and the Metro-North stop at Breakneck.

It also includes a 345-foot trail from the south end of the bridge to the Breakneck trailhead; parking areas along Route 9D; two comfort station buildings and a trail steward station; upgrades to the train station and platforms; dedicated parking for emergency responders; and upgrades to the Upper Overlook area along the Breakneck Ridge Trail. This segment should be completed in 2025.


A timeline for completion of the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail, from the HHFT website

Across its entire length, the project will include a swimming area at Little Stony Point; additional river access points; a treetop play area on the north part of the trail near Beacon; public restrooms in Cold Spring and at other parts of the trail; and a boardwalk along the river from Dockside to Little Stony Point, eliminating the need for hikers to walk down Fair Street.

A free or low-cost shuttle is planned to reduce vehicular traffic and encourage visitors to use public transportation to come to the area. The former Dutchess Manor building on Route 9D is being restored and converted into a visitor’s center.

Has an environmental review been completed?

An environmental review of the Breakneck Connector was completed in December, at which point the state Department of Environmental Conservation gave its approval to that part of the project.

A draft of the master plan for the entire project is under environmental review, and there is also a separate review underway for the shoreline trail. The review will incorporate data about traffic, parking and visitor numbers from this summer and fall. It’s expected to be made public in January 2024, and a public hearing on the review will be held a few weeks after that.

Will the trail cross private land?

The vast majority of the project is on public land under the jurisdiction of state parks, the state Department of Transportation, Metro-North, the Town of Fishkill and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (which controls the aqueduct). Amy Kacala, the executive director of the Fjord Trail, said this week that agreements for the use of those lands are in various stages of negotiation. She added that the project has secured rights from a handful of private property owners and is negotiating with others along the preferred route.

Who has raised concerns?

A grassroots group in Philipstown called Protect the Highlands is concerned that the trail will contribute to overcrowding rather than alleviate it, and that the boardwalk planned from Dockside Park will alter its character and be too disruptive of the shoreline. It argues that Cold Spring should have a greater say in the direction of the project and that the trail could connect Breakneck Ridge and Beacon without extending to the village.

Can I still submit a question for the public session?

The deadline has passed, but there will be an opportunity at the meeting for public comments and questions. Speakers will be asked to keep their comments to under three minutes.

3 thoughts on “The Fjord Trail: A Primer

  1. I thought this was a nice, succinct description of the project, and perhaps the best in-a-nutshell summary I’ve read on the topic. It reads like a list of solutions to the village’s overcrowding concerns, not the other way around.

    All Philipstown residents should read it. I’d hate to see a real-time effort to control and redirect hikers and traffic be thwarted just because folks don’t understand what the Fjord Trail actually is. [via Facebook]

  2. In addition to being succinct, it offers a vision as to how much of a grab this project is. How on earth Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail Inc. can impose a gargantuan, man-made “world-class linear park” on a landscape that should be protected is daunting, distressing and downright disturbing. [via Facebook]

  3. People resist change but the Fjord Trail will benefit local people the most because we will get a level, traffic-free, multi-user trail on our doorstep that will be good for strollers, people with limited mobility and families on bikes. It’ll be lovely. [via Facebook]

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