15 Questions

Linda Cooper, the Taconic Region director for state parks; Matthew Davidson, the state parks deputy commissioner; and Richard Shea, the former Philipstown supervisor who is on the board at Fjord Trail Inc., responded to questions. Photo by Ross Corsair

Linda Cooper, the Taconic Region director for state parks; Matthew Davidson, the state parks deputy commissioner; and Richard Shea, the former Philipstown supervisor who is on the board at Fjord Trail Inc., responded to questions. (Photos by Ross Corsair)

Full house at Haldane for Fjord Trail meeting

The Haldane school auditorium was as crowded as Main Street on a summer weekend on Monday (May 8), as Philipstown residents gathered to hear how officials involved in developing the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail would respond to questions about the proposed, 7.5-mile “linear park.”

The meeting was hosted by the elected boards of Philipstown, Cold Spring and Nelsonville, which in recent weeks received 210 questions about the Fjord Trail intended to connect Cold Spring and Beacon. 

Residents were asked to rank the questions they would like answered, and the people who submitted the 15 with the highest scores (or a proxy) went to the microphone to read each for the audience and Fjord Trail and state parks officials, who were given 10 minutes to respond. Two hours later, this was followed by 30 minutes of open questions.

During her opening comments, Amy Kacala, executive director of Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail Inc., which is a project of the nonprofit environmental group Scenic Hudson, said her organization would respond to the other 195 submitted questions in writing. 

In her introductory statement, Cold Spring Mayor Kathleen Foley said that the village will be the municipality most impacted by the Fjord Trail because the preferred route passes through Dockside Park on the riverfront. 

As a result, she asked that Cold Spring be considered “an equal partner” in the project; it is currently “an interested agency,” which allows its board to comment on the master plan and gives site-plan approval to the Planning Board. Foley expressed concern that the state parks department has “superior sovereignty” and could declare itself exempt from local land-use regulations. 

Below are the fifteen top-ranked questions, with summaries of the responses from Kacala; Linda Cooper, the Taconic Region director for state parks; Richard Shea, the former Philipstown supervisor and a newly appointed member of the Fjord Trail board; and Matthew Davidson, deputy commissioner of the state parks department.

1.  Metro-North Railroad has requested a 25-foot buffer between its tracks and the trail, meaning every tree along the river will be removed to accommodate a 14-foot-wide boardwalk shading the shoreline and preventing regrowth. How does this protect against flooding? (Grace Kennedy, Garrison)

Kacala: The trail is 14 feet wide at Breakneck, where heavier traffic is expected, but not as wide in the more constrained area north of Little Stony Point. We can meet all Metro-North setback requirements and protective measures for the river. 

Engineering discussions are needed where the trail has to go into the water in some way. Will it be cantilevered or center-piled? We’ve done a natural resource inventory for the whole shoreline trail. Our architects have expertise in sea-level rise, with experience in areas such as New Orleans. Some trees will die off because of increased salinity with sea rise. Others will remain healthy longer and you want to keep them.

In some areas, pile-driving will help us save more trees. We can also have planted shelves, which submerge aquatic vegetation. When we do an intervention in the water, we’re also going to be doing habitat and resilience protection underneath. 

2.  Will the Fjord Trail be built even if a majority of people in the community are against it? (Alice Krakauer, Philipstown)

Shea: Since its inception, this has been a community-driven idea. I was one of the idea’s founders and it’s something I strongly support. The impetus was to solve existing problems. Everyone looked at the Route 9D corridor and said: “Will someone get injured?” These problems aren’t going to go away without people working on solutions. There are a lot more people and communities involved, including Fishkill and Beacon. We want, and take seriously, input from everyone. This isn’t the beginning of the process; we’re in the middle and it has to be an open and honest discussion. Asking what will happen if no one wants this is sort of a loaded question.

Kacala: It feels like a big coalition project now, but it grew from the locals; it’s had a long story in the community. We refined plans several times and we’re continuing to refine. In 2015, we had a safety focus; people wanted to see more people come to Main Street. You wouldn’t say that today. The environmental review is underway. We have looked at ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] accessibility. We have consultants helping us think about tools to manage visitation. And sustainability is always our focus.

The Cold Spring, Philipstown and Nelsonville boards held a joint hearing on Monday (May 8) in the Haldane school auditorium to discuss the proposed Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail.

The Cold Spring, Philipstown and Nelsonville boards held a joint hearing on Monday (May 8) in the Haldane school auditorium to discuss the proposed Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail.

3.  What viable alternatives to the Fjord Trail have been proposed and evaluated, including alternative alignments and no-build/no-action options? Why are earlier iterations, much smaller in scope, impact, scale and cost to the taxpayer, no longer under consideration? What is the status of any of these? (Andrew Hall, Cold Spring)

Kacala: Alternatives analysis was done as part of the 2015 plan. In the 2020 plan, which in part was asked for strongly by the community at the kickoff to the environmental review process, people from Fair Street said that route was too impactful. We looked at routes behind The Depot [restaurant], down Fair Street and all the way up to 9D. We looked at a lot of factors, including accessibility. The whole analysis is part of the environmental review that will be part of the DGEIS [Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement] when it is made available for public comment. Most of what you’ve seen in great detail and prior iterations of planning and additional content will be available for you to review.

Shea: No final decisions have been made on preferred routes. This is still an ongoing process.

Andrew Hall, a resident of Cold Spring, presented his question at the session.

Andrew Hall, a resident of Cold Spring, presented his question at the session.

4.  I liked this plan when it was a wooded trail. It transformed into a concrete extravaganza that will scar the landscape forever due to the influence of a private donor, Chris Davis. Even state parks deferred to him. Who elected him? How is he accountable? (Phil Weiss, Philipstown)

Shea: This has never been about one person. I’ve worked with New York State Parks for 20 years and they do not defer to any one individual. It is not a concrete extravaganza. There are aspects of the trail still being designed that are bound to change based on community input. It has attracted funding because it’s fundamentally a good idea to connect Philipstown and Beacon, to disperse people, to not have them concentrated in Cold Spring. There is tremendous expertise going into this to do traffic studies, environmental impact statements. You need experts and that costs money. Chris Davis is a 30-year resident who has helped the community in innumerable ways. He is a contributor, a partner. Several individuals have committed large amounts. More than 20 entities are involved; New York State has committed $20 million to the Breakneck project. Give your input but be smart. And most of all, be nice about it. This is an emotional issue.

Davidson: New York State Parks is not dictated to by any individual. We work very well with communities that surround our parks and we listen to them. There is no way state parks could afford the studies and analysis needed to answer your concerns or to do that without a partner like HHFT. There is no way we could provide the amenities we do today without partnerships. Partners bring much-needed funds, as well as expertise, to things that we can’t do. Please don’t think state parks is being influenced by Chris Davis. 

5.  How can Fjord Trail Inc. and state parks claim they are solving Cold Spring’s tourist problems when they are creating a major tourist attraction that will bring thousands more visitors to the village? (Dave Merandy, Cold Spring)

Shea: There are issues in the village that can’t be ignored and there’s a cost to doing nothing. People realize HHFT will bring more people. The goal is to disperse them, get people out on the trail. Things tend to have a peak. The first year Walkway Over the Hudson opened, visitation was huge. Since then, it has steadily declined, leveled out. I’m there every weekend. You can ride across and see 100 to 200 people, more during events. We’ve heard a lot about concessions, that this is going to be like Bryant Park [in New York City]. Nothing’s going to be foisted upon the village. State Parks or HHFT are not going to decide to have a concert down at Dockside. That’s up to Cold Spring. And when you talk about 600,000 people, there’s already 480,000 people visiting. It’s about 120,000 additional visitors over the course of a year, not over the course of a day or a month. I hope the studies bear this out, that the village will see fewer people clogging the streets or sidewalks, that you can spread the people out.

Kacala: The people won’t all come through Cold Spring. That’s the existing behavior now. There will be six entry points. Our visitation management consultants are just starting to work on this. There’ll be process and a local committee. We want to look at the traffic counts. We’re going to give the local committee a stipend to hire their own consultant to review the traffic study, the methodology, so you have full confidence when the data comes back that it’s not us paying our consultants to say what we want them to say.


Fjord Trail and state parks officials were given 10 minutes to respond to each question.

6.  Fjord Trail Inc. predicts an increase of hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, with upward of 66 percent arriving by vehicle. All vehicles arriving from the south and east must pass through the traffic light at Routes 9D/301. Will the [state-mandated] Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement address this increased traffic? How will negative impacts be mitigated? [Through] NYCRR Part 617.9(a)(b) [a state environmental quality review]? (David May, Cold Spring)

Cooper: That will be addressed in the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement. The state Department of Transportation is already working with us on how to address safety in that corridor. There have been discussions about a roundabout, traffic-calming devices, reduced speed limits. There are tools to be considered. A lot of data will be gathered in the DGEIS which will inform solutions.

7.  What is the projected increase in visitation to Hudson Highlands State Park? The Breakneck trailhead? Cold Spring? And what methodology was used to arrive at these projections? Specifically, what time of year was traffic data gathered? What other projects, parks and attractions were used as comparables? (Michael Bowman, Nelsonville)

Kacala: In 2016, at the public hearing for the start of the environmental review, everyone said that in the prior year, visitation had “gotten too much, we feel like it hit a tipping point.” It’s still going up for Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve and we have similar data for Breakneck. A reservation system could help reduce numbers. AKRF consultants are updating projections with 2023 data, to be applied to HHFT’s six entry points, modeling where we expect people to go. Not all will come through Cold Spring.

Cooper: Walkway Over the Hudson averages about 600,000 users a year, with two fairly small parking lots. There’s always a space. It’s never crowded. Poughkeepsie has benefited. It’s not the monster it’s portrayed to be. And the Empire State Trail is going to attract millions of users, but spread out over its entire length. We would not propose a project that we thought would be damaging to communities.

8.  It’s understood there is a fine line in this so-called public/private partnership between New York State and Scenic Hudson/Fjord Trail Inc. If this is truly a public project, exempt from local planning board oversight, then agendas and minutes from meetings under this partnership would be required under Open Meetings law. If this is truly a private project, then local board oversight is required by law and minutes can be hidden or withheld from the public. In this case, which is it? Ethically you shouldn’t claim both. Wouldn’t you agree? When people seek out minutes, they’re told this is a private situation. (Stephanie Hawkins, Cold Spring)

Davidson: There are very clear roles and responsibilities between HHFT and State Parks. Essentially New York State will hold the real estate for the trail; HHFT will operate, maintain and repair it. This is a state parks project, working closely with partners. We go through planning, go out to bid for construction. We are committed to being transparent. We can’t be transparent when we’re in the middle of negotiating. We will make all documents available to anybody who wants to see them. Withholding what has happened doesn’t do us any good. The supposition that we’re doing something devious behind your back is really detrimental. 

9. The Fjord Trail will have a big impact, but we have no data on what this impact (social, environmental, economic) will look like. Where are the studies that typically accompany projects of this large scale? Can we expect to see such analyses so we can have a fact-based debate? (David Duffy, Garrison)

Cooper: That’s exactly what all the consultants have been hired to do. Collectively, the project is in the process of gathering a lot of environmental data for the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement, projected to come out in January 2024. Data will also address community attributes and character, open space, traffic, transportation, parking, safety issues, emergency services. There will be a public hearing, probably in February or March, after months of getting your comments and going back and forth to figure out what works and doesn’t work. It’s a process that is very publicly engaged, and we want your input. But we also need your patience because it’s not here today. We’re doing information-gathering and getting your ideas. It is my hope, my passion, that we collectively come up with a way to make an amazing, publicly accessible trail that works for visitors and communities.

Local officials

Philipstown Supervisor John Van Tassel, Cold Spring Mayor Kathleen Foley, Nelsonville Mayor Chris Winward and Philipstown Town Board Member Jason Angell

10. If the environmental review reveals that there will be significant impacts to species such as the New England cottontail, cerulean warblers and submerged vegetation will the project be canceled? (Lauren Martin, Philipstown)

Cooper: We are state parks; we care deeply about habitat. We have a process. You inventory first. For any endangered or threatened natural resource, we seek to avoid their habitats, plan around it and where we can’t avoid, we mitigate.

11. I watched the waterfront development at the Beacon station for seven years, from the start. We know that much of the river shoreline has been disturbed for over 100 years. The restoration brought back wildlife and habitat, including pollinators and native plants. What kind of plans are there to restore the natural habitat that existed pre-Industrial Revolution and how will the restoration help mitigate the rising water levels caused by climate change? (Adam Osterfeld, Philipstown)

Kacala: This is a highly disturbed shoreline, with significant amounts of fill, the railroad and old quarries. There are many invasive species. At Breakneck, for example, restoration will include 5.4 acres of native plantings, 430 native trees, over 2,000 native shrubs and perennials. There will be wildlife crossings. We’ll improve stormwater drainage and create a garden that would be wet seasonally or when there’s a storm event. 

12. Given the concerns about 600,000 visitors using the Fjord Trail and potentially swamping the tiny Cold Spring village on weekends, is it possible to have the Dutchess Manor site be promoted from the outset as the focal point/centerpiece for Fjord Trail visitors, particularly those coming by car? This central point would have trail info, food, tons of parking and be the designated starting point for trail access. All trail guide brochures, advertising and other marketing information would direct visitors to this central point, noting that other trail access points may be available. Surely some will still come by train to the Cold Spring, Beacon and Breakneck stations, and others drive and park at other areas along the trail, but having the focus on this mid-trail site should cause less stress on Cold Spring resources and residents. (Cathy Carnevale, Cold Spring)

Kacala: The plan has six entries to the park: the Beacon train station/Long Dock Park; Notch Trailhead/Dutchess Junction Park; Dutchess Manor Visitor Center; Breakneck train station; Washburn Trailhead and Cold Spring train station. We’re never going to be saying “Go park in Cold Spring.” When Breakneck and the visitor center at Dutchess Manor open, we want people to go there, to get used to that behavior. The shuttle will be up and running from there. In the future, the visitor center could have a cafe. So, if you’re at Breakneck and need something to eat, it’s another option. We’re changing options and the behavior with these little moves.

The project is a collaboration between Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation

The project is a collaboration between Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation.

13. Seven significant ecological communities, identified by the New York Natural Heritage Program, as well as endangered and threatened species exist in the trail corridor. A far more modest Fjord Trail proposal was given a positive declaration in 2015. What has changed to make these habitats and species less vulnerable now? (Susan Peehl, Cold Spring)

Cooper: Under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, that positive declaration is what allows us to do an environmental impact statement, to do studies, to engage in public comment. The positive declaration is what we are operating under right now, for the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement. Nothing has changed regarding those seven ecological communities.

14. How will HHFT support the Village of Cold Spring to handle the increased strain in its infrastructure that the Fjord trail will bring? This is not a bathroom question — the village as it is can barely keep up with sidewalk repairs, garbage pickup, maintenance of the water treatment plant, etc. (Teresa Lagerman, Cold Spring)

Kacala: We’re already at the table with the village. We’ll talk about which issue areas HHFT can help with or identify resources for. Issues include the Department of Transportation Route 9D intersection, sidewalk improvements from the train station, Fair Street sidewalks and other pedestrian improvements. Also, possible garbage emptying on the waterfront if we go the Dockside route. We’ll retain village events like fireworks and movies there. We’ll also help identify possible funding opportunities and possibly help the village with grant writing. If we go the Dockside route, we’d provide the infrastructure to help manage visitation, maintaining the park area at our cost.


Teresa Lagerman of Cold Spring asks her question.

15. A trail between Cold Spring and Beacon is a great idea. But the “add-ons” will totally change the character of the area the Fjord Trail claims to celebrate. Why must we accept the add-ons along with the trail? (Ned Rauch, Garrison)

Kacala: We had visitor orientation, wayfinding and signage in the last iteration. Add-ons include bathrooms; garbage bins; and HHFT staff to maintain the trail, help with rescues and manage parking, including at Dutchess Manor, the main entry to the visitor center, staff offices and accessible rest stops. An amphitheater was scaled back to be just an outdoor classroom.

We’re strategically drawing people away from Cold Spring as part of visitation management. Dutchess Manor could have things like snacks. Something could be created at the old Dutchess Junction Park, which still has a driveway down to it and playground equipment. And could we put something there? And since you’re in the forest, why not maybe make it an education experience to teach about forest ecosystems?

We just started a new series of walks where we look at one little part of the project area and talk about what’s planned there and get input. They will happen monthly on every second Saturday. We want input. So, get involved. Stay involved.

Public comments

I oppose the Fjord Trail’s current design for the environmental and logistical reasons others cited. There is no overall construction budget. There is no operating budget. If they can’t raise enough money to maintain the trail guess who will pay? (Gretchen Dykstra)

The state should submit to a referendum with Philipstown residents voting yes or no. If the “no” vote rules, the HHFT should end or go back to the original small trail proposal. (Jeff Burstein)

A trailhead at Dockside would exacerbate epic levels of traffic congestion and visitation. The developers feel HHFT will mitigate these problems. There is no documentation of that. There are no feasibility studies. (Derek Graham)

We don’t have the authority to end HHFT but we can influence its final form. We should advocate for the trail starting at Little Stony Point or further north (Paul Kottman)

I urge state parks to issue a stop work order on Breakneck and go back to square one. I’ve been involved with Little Stony Point for 40 years and waited for an invitation to put my 2 cents in. It never came. (John Zuvic)

I don’t see how a 14-foot-wide trail can accommodate cyclists, pedestrians and people with disabilities. (John Schienman)

Dutchess Manor only has 200 proposed parking spaces. People are not going to take the shuttle. They’re going to drive down Main Street. (Patty D’Amato)

This project will overwhelm this community especially if it starts at Dockside. The 2020 plan is a grandiose vision for the trail as a linear park and major tourist attraction and turns Little Stony Point into an amusement Park. There is nothing in the public record about what took place between 2017 and 2020 when the new master plan was published. (Peter Henderson)

To have us in a state of anxiety about traffic and you have nothing to say about it. There’s a complete swarming of Cold Spring. When you do deliver the DGEIS there are only 30 days to review it. (Sheila Rauch)

Four years ago you said you were going to reimagine the trail. It went from mostly gravel to being a concrete walkway. At that point I gave up on the project. At this point I hope someone can put their foot out and trip it. (Rich Franco)

The new greatly expanded proposal that is going to increase visitation perhaps exponentially, problems the original proposal was to address. How can it be restored to its original scope which could protect quality of life here? (Mae Lee) [Kacala responded: There is a lot of misinformation about what the plan used to be and how simple it was. There’s a perception of simplicity about the main trail that was never on paper.]

23 thoughts on “15 Questions

  1. Very few of the 15 questions posed by the community were answered with actual answers, but attendees were rather inundated with slide decks and graphics.

    A traffic study should have been a priority and action item No. 1 in this project. Instead, it is an afterthought. And any such data gathered over this summer will not be accurate since the Breakneck trailhead remains closed. And what about those proposed roundabouts? Just imagine the traffic jams stretching from Little Stony Point north to Breakneck Tunnel and south past Boscobel — it’s not about the red light, it’s about the sheer numbers!

    Obviously the representatives from New York State Parks don’t know (or won’t admit) whether this project is public or private, although they do admit that over $20 million of taxpayer funds have been allocated. I would have hoped that Richard Shea would have explained the depth of the Davis Foundation in the project in greater detail. Specifically, how much of the project has been funded by this one donor?

    Lastly, it was amazing to see such an incredible turnout! Excitement is tempered however, when I think that it took a citizen organization (Protect the Highlands) to exert the pressure on local representatives to bring it about. Again, transparency should be a given on a public project this size, our elected officials should be leading the way, not reacting to external calls for meetings. I hope this is the first in a series of public forums on the subject.

  2. On Monday, Amy Kacala, executive director of Fjord Trail Inc., said: “You’re the daily users. You’re not the weekend people. This is really mostly going to be used by locals.” In response, there was widespread laughter from the many “locals” in attendance.

    Scenic Hudson, HHFT’s parent, has characterized the trail as becoming “the epicenter for regional tourism.” The HHFT describes it as “regionally transforming.” Its own available projections, prepared by their own consultants and presented at the Feb. 2 meeting at the Cold Spring firehouse, project in excess of 1 million using it annually by 2028. Are they all “mostly” coming from Philipstown? This hugely expensive project is “mostly” for us? Does anyone seriously believe or trust what the Fjord Trail people say anymore?

    • We asked HHFT about the 83,359 figure shown in the board displayed at the Feb. 2 meeting, and it said: “The number referenced is from high peak season; in this case, October 2021 was used for the visitor count. Attributing that volume over 12 months is not reasonable, as we all know fall is the most popular hiking season and counts decline dramatically December through March.” The figure is also a projection for visitors to the entire Hudson Highlands state park, not just the Fjord Trail.

  3. I attended the Fjord Trail meeting and two things were made perfectly clear.

    First, no one had bothered to do a traffic study before this project was begun. Is that even legal?

    Second, not one of the many speakers could explain how the problem of visitors to our small town could possibly be helped by building a multi-million, possibly $1 billion, attraction here.

  4. At the meeting, HHFT “clarified” its plans for the boardwalk between Little Stony Point and Breakneck. Yes, all those “dying” trees will be removed along the northern stretch. Goodbye, shade and raptors. Yes, it plans to build heavily in the river, though it said it wouldn’t, and it plans to use even more fill. Yes, the boardwalk, replete with 8-foot-tall chain-link fence, will be for long stretches 20 feet from barreling Amtrak trains.

    Finally, yes, the boardwalk will be 10 feet wide for much of this area, negating its use as a safe bike trail with accessibility for children and the less mobile, particularly since it is being built as an attraction, not a solution.

    I urge HHFT to revisit the original plans for a trail and leave this ill-considered plan on paper.

  5. I came away for the Fjord Trail meeting thinking about roundabouts. Every question was answered with a “roundabout.” I had hoped that each question would lead to a clear answer that would give me a better understanding of the issue. But each answer was a roundabout that attempted to take me in a different direction.

    The only question that was answered with an almost clear answer was the question of what would be done with the dramatic increased traffic at the intersection of Routes 301 and 9D. We were told that the likely solution would be a roundabout. What would that mean?

    According to the state highway department, roundabouts on 30 mph roads need a diameter of 150 feet. Say goodbye to J. Murphy’s (the historic former Hotel Manteo), the Sunoco gas station, the corner of the St. Mary’s lawn (just move that memorial to our war dead) and the historic house on the corner of Main Street.

    People can use words to confuse, spin, obfuscate and misdirect. But you cannot argue with geometry or physics.

    We need fewer verbal roundabouts from the Fjord Trail team that misdirect, and we certainly do not need a real roundabout. Maybe there is a highway engineer that can explain to this engineer how to squeeze a roundabout into the existing intersection and how pedestrians will safely cross without a traffic light.

  6. Standing-room only and the polite but steady pushback state parks and HHFT received from the crowd said a lot. No one spoke out in favor of their plan.

    I chose to address the murky and invisible financials of the project, but if there had been more time I would have asked parks: “If Chris Davis doesn’t like the end result and refuses to pony up would you recommend using taxpayers’ money to build and maintain this attraction?” Betcha not.

  7. I was deeply frustrated that almost no words of support were given during public comments during the meeting on May 8 about the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail. It appears that Protect the Highlands did a good job at packing the front of the lineup.

    Protect the Highlands does not represent the entire community. I am a lifelong village resident and I strongly support the Fjord Trail project. To significantly scale back this project — or worse, stop it altogether — would be an affront to future generations.

    I strongly empathize with the instinct to resist development along the riverfront, especially considering the environmental history of our region. But this project is not building infrastructure to accommodate private condos and high-rises; it is building infrastructure to democratize access to Hudson Highlands State Park. To echo an earlier point by Richard Shea, the Highlands do not belong to any one municipality or generation, they belong to the people of the state of New York.

    Of course, as locals, we are on the front lines of stewardship. The Fjord Trail will increase awareness and appreciation for one of our state’s most splendid natural wonders and inspire people, who wouldn’t have had the chance otherwise, to become stewards themselves.

    I know that may sound somewhat “groovy” to some readers, but there are unquantifiable benefits to democratizing access to nature. Pete Seeger knew this and fought for this. Additionally, increasing access to nature for youth, the elderly and people who are mobility-impaired reflects well on us as a civilization. I envision a day when the Fjord Trail is the pride of our community — for the good it will do for us and the people who visit our cherished home.

    • Pete Seeger fought to save the Hudson from folly projects that destroyed habitat and encroached upon sensitive environmental areas. I guarantee Pete would be on the side of Protect the Highlands once he read the Environmental Impact Statement of the project, and he wouldn’t be bought off by big foundations as so many have been.

  8. Without a traffic study, everyone, HHFT included, was stating opinions reflecting desired outcomes without having the benefit of data or specific proposals based on that data. A traffic study also needs to be done concerning usage of the trail, not just how it affects vehicular traffic in the area.

    That was the reason I questioned the width of the trail and shared cycle and hiking traffic. I have the same concerns about too many visitors swamping Cold Spring. The reality is they are here already with or without HHFT. The proposed trail, stripped of the bells and whistle’s and add-ons, is an infrastructure investment to divert foot traffic from swarming through residential streets in route to the trails and divert both foot and cyclists from the overloaded and dangerous Route 9D corridor. If it is designed properly and can accomplish those objectives that would be a significant improvement over what is occurring now.

  9. “Community-driven, community-driven, community-driven” — the ceaseless repetition of a marketing phrase doesn’t make it true. Does anyone actually believe that the plan for an elevated pedestrian and bicycle highway from Dockside to Breakneck Ridge originated with people who live here?

    People who love the natural beauty of the Highlands — whether they live here or anywhere else — would never choose to layer expanses of concrete over the shoreline. As currently conceived, the “trail” is neither “community-driven” nor a trail. Those are simply marketing terms, designed to distract from shocking environmental degradation financed in the name of progress.

    Scenic Hudson’s stated mission is “to sustain and enhance the Hudson Valley’s inspirational beauty and health for generations to come.” This destructive plan is antithetical to that mission.

  10. If you look at HHFT’s own financial numbers on their web site, you will see that they currently have $45 million. The expected budget to construct their current version of the trail is $100 million.

    I’m not worried about the discrepancy — they’ll find some way to raise the money. But I believe that the fact that they have so much money, so many advanced degrees, and so many awards makes the people driving this project feel that they are unassailably wise and just and that they know things we mere residents cannot know. Their public communications bear this out by being strictly one-way — slick presentations, regimented meetings which give little opportunity for frank and open public comment, lack of public access to their minutes and so on.

    The May 8 meeting is the first time I have seen Parks and HHFT leadership sit and face the music. For the most part, they didn’t seem to like it, and they gave every appearance of planning to go back to their own private golden drawing boards rather than soliciting a lot more local and expert input. Yes, they did offer to fund local steering committees, with consultants whom they would hire. But I don’t see them offering to spend an entire weekend, let alone an entire month, living in Cold Spring and witnessing the crowds, traffic and mess first hand, or talking one-on-one to ordinary people, not just elected or appointed officials. I understand that to date they have shut local governments out instead of partnering with them. How wise and just is that?

  11. Saying that the majority of locals don’t want the Fjord Trail is false and screams entitlement. Philipstown consists of nearly 10,000 people, and a vocal minority are spreading fear and misinformation before much of the actual impact studies have even been completed. Supporting the Fjord Trail and being concerned about how it will change our community does not have to be mutually exclusive.

  12. Democracy has its most significant expression at the local level; we, the citizens, can drive robust and influential voices within our communities and have the closest access to our elected representatives.

    Whether you are against or for the Fjord Trail, the meeting at Haldane, reflecting the intensity of the participants, was productive and informative. Such was possible because of its planning and format. I thank our town supervisor and the leader-ship of the various boards who oversaw the session.

  13. Regarding Parks and HHFT paying for consultants for local steering committees: as long as they’re paying the consultants, they can derive the results they want from the steering committees. Wouldn’t it be better if they directly gave each town or village a stipend to hire their own consultants?

  14. The original idea of a Cold Spring to Beacon trail with safe parking and access in order to alleviate congestion along Route 9D holds some merit. However, the ridiculous, theme-park-like attraction that Scenic Hudson is madly pursuing has alienated the good graces of our community.

    Clearly, the Fjord Trail committee has given no real thought to the unintended consequences of a project of this scale. For instance, the currents and tides off of Little Stony Point are incredibly powerful and variable. Unless we bring in the Army Corp of Engineers for construction, any riverfront infrastructure will be smashed to pieces by the winter ice flows and high-tide log jams. Further, the idea of a swimming structure at Little Stony Point is not only absurd, it is incredibly dangerous. Also, a project of the scale proposed by Scenic Hudson would permanently disrupt critical habitat for endangered species including the bald eagle; in addition to the overcrowding and loss of quality of life that it would impose upon the village.

    My family and I live on the Philipsbrook in Garrison, and my son and I have been delighted to discover small populations of native brook trout (the state fish of New York) hanging on in the deeper pools. However, each year the deep pools are choked out more and more by the constant silty runoff from the dirt-roads upstream. Some of the key players behind the Fjord Trail have also fought tooth and nail to keep the dirt roads such as Old Albany Post Road, despite the tons of silted runoff that cascades into our waterways with each big storm. You see, they really are not considering the downstream consequences of their projects. Don’t get me wrong, I like the dirt roads and I like the idea of a trail along the Hudson; but it’s high time the Fjord Trail committee honestly and soberly assesses the footprint of their proposal and the strong local resistance to this plan, or the unintended consequence will be that we shut the whole project down.

  15. While I spent my youth in Cold Spring, I’ve had the great opportunity to travel throughout the United States and the World.

    It is the sublime beauty of the Hudson Highlands, specifically as viewed from Dockside Park, that reminded me during all my travels that Cold Spring was forever my home, in my heart. Dockside Park – our humble little patch of grass and trees – stands humbly, yet majestically, with the great places I’ve ever had the opportunity to have visited.

    The view from Dockside – the “end of the time” experience of watching twilight grow from its waters edge – is life affirming, and remains with you wherever you then go.

    While the recent “improvements” at Dockside leave much to be desired, it is still a park worthy of protecting in its current form, ensuring that future generations, from near and far, can experience what generations before them – from the Lenape people, to the Hudson River School painters, to Pete Seeger – saw, and saw as worthy of protecting.

    The Dockside connector, as currently conceived, will ruin Dockside Park forever. Vegetation on the water’s edge will be cleared. The boardwalk, the bridge, and other portions of the Fjord Trail will be wired for lighting – forever blighting the twilight.

    Alternative routes connecting Cold Spring to Little Stony Point via Fair St and 9D – created by improving and augmenting existing infrastructure should be strongly considered so as to “Save Dockside” for this and for future generations.

    Since I attended the 2015 Chalet meeting, I have been generally enthusiastic about a bike/ped trail between Cold Spring and Beacon. I recommend all interested parties look at the historic documents which are well collated on the Resources page at the Protect the Highlands website (regardless of your level of support of that particular organization). Therein you will see a bike/ped trail balloon into its current overwrought and overbuilt state. HHFT is hijacking past support for a modest trail to imply support for their current design.

  16. Like almost everyone I know in and around Philipstown, I have been frustrated by the decades of neglect as Breakneck became the most popular hiking trail in the country and the impacts on the surrounding community went unaddressed. I supported previous efforts to do something, such as the trail stewards program instituted by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, which, although successful in reducing the burden on our volunteer first responders, was just a bandage that left the bigger problem unaddressed. I became involved in the Fjord Trail (I am now on the board) because it was clear to me that it presented the only prospect of something actually being done.

    Of course it’s not just a solution to the Breakneck problem — it will create an entirely new opportunity for people of all ages and abilities, residents and visitors alike, to encounter the river and spectacular North Highlands. Connecting people to the river is vital to carrying forward our culture of environmental stewardship to the next generation.

    Are people right to worry that, while solving the Breakneck problem, the Fjord Trail might result in other impacts, foreseen and unforeseen, on the surrounding area? Of course. Those of us on the board and staff, and the broad group represented on the steering committee, have been asking tough questions about this risk from the beginning. We have demanded that our designers and consultants come up with solutions that reduce that risk (e.g., multiple entrances, parking and attractions away from the village, etc.). And, just as importantly, we are requiring options that can be deployed if the visitor numbers turn out to be higher than expected (these include timed ticketing, dynamic pricing of parking, social media campaigns, and other tools proven effective at other parks around the country). As part of the State Environmental Quality Review Act process, all the projected impacts and solutions will be closely reviewed.

    The trail will be opened in phases and we will have lots of opportunities to monitor and respond to actual visitation trends and patterns as they develop over the years. And what assurance do we have that any future surprises or problems will be dealt with? Because, for the first time ever, we will have a well-funded community-based organization devoted exclusively to that cause.

  17. The state Department of Transportation may see Route 9D as a “traffic corridor.” But to villagers, Route 9D is not a highway but two vibrant streets in the heart of the community that we use to reach the library, Tots Park, Haldane school and our neighbors’ homes. They are Chestnut Street and Morris Avenue. Using these designated street names rather than “9D” will help us remember this and underscore the potential impact of the Fjord Trail on traffic through Cold Spring.

  18. Was the Fjord Trail, now envisioned as a linear park, really “community driven”? Wasn’t it actually the relatively modest 2017 trail that was community driven? It is the difference between the trail and the broad linear park starting at Dockside that has sparked worry, criticism and many questions.

    In his letter to The Current (May 19), HHFT Board Member Fred Rich writes that since the beginning he and his colleagues have been asking the tough questions about impact and discussing such options as limiting visitation with methods like timed ticketing. This is news. I have heard three times — twice from HHFT staff and once from Philipstown Supervisor John Van Tassel at the May 8 meeting — that limitation is not an option. Why the discrepancy?

    If the HHFT board really has considered the tough questions — the ones involving the preservation of our historic village, the management of traffic and parking, the disturbance to river shoreline and animal habitats, the maintenance of this enormous project in the future — why don’t we know how our concerns will be met?

    I think that, with complete transparency, opposing sides in this debate can come together. Starting with the 2017 plan would be useful. It’s a good idea to have a trail from Cold Spring to Beacon, but let’s keep it a trail. There isn’t room in the tight space between river and mountains for railroad, Route 9D, a 14-foot-wide linear park and the life we love in Cold Spring and its environs.

  19. Naively, I have always believed we live in a democratic society. A society in which citizens discuss, debate and eventually vote on issues of importance to them. But the plan to create a Fjord Trail on stilts has finally jolted me awake.

    In fact, stupendously wealthy individuals and organizations have the power to singlehandedly impose their decisions on us. “Community outreach” is arranged for show, but the decisions are already made. With their irresistible offer of millions, they’ve lined up state parks support. The project is ready to go. So much more efficient than messy local democracy!

    Endangered and threatened species? Traffic study before proceeding? Air pollution and safety concerns at Haldane? Building a roundabout or two in the village for “traffic calming” (which implies destruction of inhabited buildings at intersections)? People being able to get their cars on the road, or park at their house or apartment? Local residents having any say at all in the impact on their town? None of this matters. Staff members take our questions and give their answers. That’s what they’re paid to do. The project barrels on.

    Scenic Hudson’s Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail subsidiary announced this month that it has hired ORCA Consulting, the company that Disney resorts uses as a “visitation management advisor.” But, um, people live here. It’s not Disneyland — yet. It’s also not the Walkway Over the Hudson; that was constructed on an unused, existing bridge, with plenty of space for parking, in an undervisited area. None of those applies to Cold Spring.

    This unchecked “philanthropy” is antithetical to democratic government. Shouldn’t the people most affected by development on public land have a say in the planning? Despite the Fjord Trail’s staff’s ceaseless repetition of the phrase “community driven,” no one who lives here came up with the plan for an elevated path on pilings. The planned route from Cold Spring to Breakneck Ridge is not a natural trail. It’s a concrete superstructure.

    Why must we sacrifice a beautiful, fragile historic area to an engineered eyesore? Once the riverside is paved over, we will never get it back.

  20. When I first moved to Cold Spring, 15 years ago, I watched the Memorial Day parade march up Main Street. Last year, I watched again with my daughter (now grown) and we followed to the cemetery and to the rifle salute. This is why I am in Cold Spring, for the small intimate lifestyle that it offers. Unfortunately, organizations whose mandate is to protect our environment, (Parks, Scenic Hudson, Hudson Highlands Land Trust) are currently willing to support and approve this Fjord Trail project that will without any doubt destroy the quality of life of the people who live in Cold Spring. Look closely at where the funding and support for this massive project is coming from. The community driving this “Community Driven Project” is clearly not the Cold Spring community.

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