Section will connect Dockside Park and Breakneck

On Sunday (Dec. 17), representatives from the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail revealed the next iteration of design renderings at an open house held at the Hubbard Lodge on the edge of Fahnestock State Park.

While the dreary deluge from a rainstorm kept nearly everyone away, the renderings offer a glimpse of the plans for the southernmost section of the trail, which would begin at the northern border of Dockside in Cold Spring and end at Breakneck Ridge.

The plan has drawn fierce resistance in Philipstown from some residents, including members of a nonprofit called Protect the Highlands who argue that the trail should begin at Breakneck to avoid adding to weekend congestion in the village.

Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail counters that the 7.5-mile linear park connecting Beacon and Cold Spring is being designed, in part, to manage the crowds.

“We know there have been a lot of questions about what this section looks like, and I’ve heard a lot of horror stories of what people suspect it’s going to look like,” said HHFT Executive Director Amy Kacala. “So we want to get these images out, so that people know what we’re actually planning.”

The renderings, by landscape architecture firm SCAPE, are preliminary, she said, and only about 15 percent complete. After public events scheduled over the next few months, and more input from residents, the designers hope to have them 30 percent complete by spring. Open houses are scheduled at Hubbard Lodge for Jan. 28 and Feb. 25, along with workshops at which residents will be invited to examine the pros and cons of alternate routes.

“This is the time where a lot of ideas can come in and the team can explore them,” Kacala said. “People who do engage see their ideas incorporated,” such as benches that were added to the design.

Kacala said HHFT has met with various nonprofit groups for input, noting that sessions with Riverkeeper have been particularly helpful.

She said SCAPE has figured out how to keep about half of the Shoreline Trail out of the water so it will be less intrusive on the river. Many of the sections that will involve pilings are being designed so that one row will be on land, rather than in the water. In some sections, the trail can be supported on a single land piling.

The pilings will be concrete mixed to withstand the salinity of the river, she said. While wood was considered for aesthetic and ecological reasons, it would have to be replaced every 25 years, while concrete should last at least 75 years. Having to replace wooden pilings more often essentially erases the lower carbon footprint they would initially have over concrete ones, she said.

The HHFT plan includes an elevated trail at the causeway just north of Mayor's Park in Cold Spring.

The HHFT plan includes an elevated trail at the causeway just north of Mayor's Park in Cold Spring.
The HHFT plan includes an elevated trail at the causeway just north of Dockside Park in Cold Spring. (SCAPE)

The plan is to build the Dockside-to-Little Stony Point section without placing construction equipment in the shallow, ecologically sensitive water. That may not be possible in the section between Little Stony Point and Breakneck, she said, but the water there is deeper.

The plan for Dockside is to follow the existing path from its northern border to the causeway, where there will be new public restrooms. Kacala said that HHFT has been talking with the village about ways in which the trail can support summer events at Dockside, such as fireworks and outdoor movie screenings. “Having bathrooms there probably helps,” she said.

She said planners from SCAPE watched fall arrivals of Seastreak cruises to get a better idea of how the trail might relieve crowding. Right now, when up to 400 passengers disembark, there’s nothing for them to do but parade up Main Street, choking the village, she said. Kacala said the hope was that the shoreline section will give “people some space to disperse instead of all of them hitting the village so hard.”

The downpour didn’t keep everyone away. One Garrison resident braved the rain because, he told Kacala, “I’m not persuaded yet, so I came here to get better informed.”

His chief concern was traffic at the Breakneck tunnel; he recounted a recent weekend when, while riding a school bus on his way to an athletic event in Dutchess County, double-parked cars and hikers crossing the road slowed the pace of traffic so much that it took 30 minutes to get from the village to the Metro-North station at Breakneck.

Kacala said that with a new parking lot, parking regulations, an upgraded train station and other design elements, the Breakneck Connector section should clear up traffic and make the area safer.

The resident remained cautious. “Some people I know have heard all these rumors about the trail but are still open-minded,” he said. “And some are not going to be convinced no matter what.”

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Corrections:

Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this post stated that Protect the Highlands argues the trail should begin at Little Stony Point. In fact, it advocates the trail starting at Breakneck.

The Skidmore College graduate has reported for The Current since 2014 and writes the "Out There" column. Location: Beacon. Languages: English. Areas of Expertise: Environment, outdoors

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19 Comments

  1. I can’t recall anyone from the village requesting HHFT to ostensibly “manage crowds,” especially those which HHFT proposes to add to the already unmanageable quotient. That’s not what they do. Managing crowds is HHFT’s bailiwick only in the event they usurp Dockside Park with a faux-trailhead and a compound of amenities, compounded with boat tourists on weekends.

    If the village can repel the eminent domain tactics of HHFT, this all would be a moot point. It’s troublesome to stomach the counterintuitive idea of shunting the boat tourists into the park to decompress congestion in the village. That’s just a shell game. I have always argued that the boat is a black eye on our quaint village and extreme annoyance that is hostile to residents’ peaceable living, a Faustian bargain that the village should not extend for another day.

    1. Instead of “a black eye on our quaint village,” many younger residents enjoy the boats and see them as a sign of life beyond our very beautiful but often boring town.

  2. The picture on the homepage of the wide, on-grade trail is so misleading. Either they plan to add massive amounts of fill to the river, or build the trail right next to the railroad tracks where trains barrel by at up to 80 mph. For a detailed view of the landscape along the proposed route and why what they’re proposing isn’t feasible given the required 25-foot setback from the tracks, see protectthehighlands.org/shoreline on the Protect the Highlands website.

  3. After taking a close look at the Protect the Highlands site, I am a little disappointed at some of the misleading and disingenuous elements in its slideshow. Despite specifying a 10-foot-wide dimension for the trail, it is clearly closer to 7.5 feet in its drawing representation, en-hancing the supposedly “too small” design. Further, the “iconic view” of the Breakneck shoreline from the middle of the Hudson at roughly a height of 75 feet above the water is something no one is seeing, except for helicopters flying down the river.

    If you believe there is a good case to be made in objecting to this project, why use suspect arguments and misrepresentation? I doubt practically only a very few members of this community have ever even laid eyes on the vegetation where Breakneck hits the river (I have), let alone are aware of how the area looked 100 years ago when the aqueduct was being constructed (total construction wasteland).

    If Protect the Highlands wants to effectively impact if and how the Fjord Trail proceeds, I suggest rather than putting misrepresentations on its website and yard signs, its members focus on more robust interpretation of the great collection of project documents the site provides, to better educate your neighbors on exactly where there are real issues.

    1. This area of the river is one of few remaining natural-looking sections between, let’s say, Iona Island and Poughkeepsie. It’s visible by boat, either private or tour boats like the Seastreak and others; by car and bike from 218/Storm King Highway; from Cornwall; and from hiking trails and overlooks in Storm King State Park.

      Many more people enjoy the view and beauty of the Breakneck shoreline and this section of the eastern shoreline than a few private helicopter passengers.

      I support a simple trail or path between Cold Spring and Beacon, but not one that increases traffic, degrades the village for residents or diminishes the landscape.

      1. Many Cold Spring residents are more interested in having recreational access to a responsibly managed shoreline than what people from Cornwall or private tour boats want to look at while driving by. The proposition of a simple trail or path sounds nice but was also met with disdain and resistance, as it still is now. Just ask the Philipstown Trails Committee.

    2. The drawings in the slideshow are from HHFT documents, posted on the Protect the Highlands website (https://www.protectthehighlands.org/documents). The majority of those documents were obtained by Freedom of Information Law request because most of the planning for this New York State Parks project has been conducted in private behind closed doors.

      1. I found the actual aerial-view video at Protect the Highlands very helpful, along with the compilation of documents in the slideshow. Thanks, Protect the Highlands, for posting this insightful information.

  4. Wow! How awesome would the Fjord Trail be to those of us who love the outdoors but are not able to hike up the mountains. Imagine a holiday season with grandparents or children in strollers visiting, and being able to take a stroll along our beautiful river with them, without needing to leave town.

    It’s about time Cold Spring saw some of the investment other towns around us have seen, improving our quality of life, too. I’m looking forward to seeing neighbors and their families enjoying Cold Spring and the Hudson River once this is finally done.

  5. What, if any, of the proposed Shoreline Trail is designed to be lit at night seems still undetermined. Even if it is “Dark Sky Compliant,” permanent lightning along the shoreline trail (not to mention at the proposed train station and at proposed parking lots) will forever mar the majesty of the last dark spot on the lower Hudson, especially as viewed from Dockside, Mayors Park and other existing viewpoints both high and low, public and private.

    We are being forced into pro/anti Fjord Trail camps when there are some of us who genuinely understand the impetus for, and in fact support, a bike/ped connection between Cold Spring and Beacon while also holding the opinion that this portion as presented is ill conceived.

    We hope to see a scaled-back version of the Trailhead design which allows Dockside to remain idyllic “for all” and sees an improved, resilient Mayors Park / lower Fair Street. I believe this can be accomplished while also allowing safe bike/ped access to Little Stony Point and the greater Fjord Trail over Fair Street and/or a new 9D sidewalk extension.

  6. Wow! This proposed design solves an identical problem to one that exists between Fort Washington Park (aka the George Washington Bridge or the Little Red Lighthouse ) and the Path to Nowhere and the proposed design is longer: 1,000 feet vs. 2,500 feet. Glad SCAPE is in charge. My preference would be to take a lane away from the West Side Highway in that area. It would not be missed. There are currently three lanes going each way and that’s way too many.

    Connecting The Path to Nowhere with the Little Red Lighthouse provides a greenway going through Dyckman Fields so that if you add a bike lane to the Spuyten Duyvil railroad bridge (it’s been done), you have good connectivity north.

  7. The latest article by Mr. Cronin has misrepresented Protect the Highlands. We do not advocate starting a shoreline trail from Little Stony Point, and in fact instead of having Amy Kacala speak for us, a phone call to any board member (you know us – we are all locals) would have set the author straight.

    A look at our website would have shown no indication of that misstatement. We advocate a safe trail for bikes and hikers, more like what was proposed in 2014, preferably upland with minimal environmental destruction. We will expect a correction.

    Kennedy is a board member of the nonprofit Protect the Highlands, along with Michael Bowman, Dave Merandy, Susan Peehl, Sheila Rauch and John Zuvic.

  8. I recently had the opportunity to walk along a portion of the Dutchess County rail trail. It was a lovely walk, even under a gray sky when trees are barren of leaves. Before moving to Cold Spring 20 years ago, our family frequently rode our bikes along the Bronx River greenway from Bronxville to the Kensico Dam. Our 6-year-old loved doing the 10-mile roundtrip and we could ride safely as a family.

    When we moved here, we attempted to ride our bikes to Little Stony Point and the Cold Spring dock with our young son. We never attempted it again; it was not safe to do so. Even as an adult, I felt I was taking my life in my hands on the narrow roads and streets. Additionally, everywhere you may want to go is up a steep hill –a total drag of a ride.

    In my hometown, a public greenway was met with hostile resistance during early planning stages, but when built, was embraced by the community and expanded — by resident request — every few years or so.

    The HHFT is a wonderful opportunity for the residents of Cold Spring, Nelsonville and Philipstown and will strengthen the connection between residents and the scenery that surrounds us. I like to walk at Dockside, but it’s really kind of a measly adventure at best. It would be wonderful to start in the village and walk or ride my bike all the way to Beacon on a relatively level path.

    I’m disappointed and dismayed by the level of negativity, gross exaggerations and misrepresentations lobbed at this project by people I’ve come to love and respect. It seems that people are determined to undermine and ignore all the potential benefits the HHFT can provide for residents, not least of which are additional public restrooms, better recreational access for those with limited mobility, and enhanced safety for walkers, hikers and cyclists.

    For all those who complain about tourist crowding the sidewalks and taking up all the parking, over the past spring, summer and fall season I’ve noted that congestion on weekends and holidays only occurs between about 10:30 a.m. to 4 or 5 p.m. Outside of those times, it’s easy to get around and enjoy the village and parks. I made a few quick counts of available parking spots at around 2 p.m. on Mothers’ Day weekend, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus/Indigenous Peoples Day and a few other nice weekends. I counted no less than an average of 12 to 18 available spots, not counting the Metro-North lot, the Fair Street lot and side streets.

    The constant complaining about tourists, congestion and the HHFT will not solve the problems brought by tourism and only delay the benefits and enhanced river connection that residents will enjoy.

  9. If you ignore the incredibly vocal minority screaming about the Fjord Trail, I bet at least 90 percent of people are in favor of it. Now we just need to get the Tioronda Bridge in Beacon repaired. [via Instagram]

  10. One commentator here dismisses opponents of the project as an “incredibly vocal minority screaming about the Fjord Trail.” Another states that opposition to the trail is based on “negativity, gross exaggerations and misrepresentations.”

    These claims are simply untrue. Witness, for example, the statements made by the mayor and trustees of the Village of Nelsonville on Dec. 18 when they reported their concerns about the Fjord Trail at the board’s monthly meeting.

    Trustee Tom Campanile told a roomful of residents that Nelsonville faces “three big issues” posed by the Fjord Trail: (1) The trails in Nelsonville will be “overwhelmed,” (2) the parking lot in Nelsonville — the “back door to the Fjord Trail” — will be “overwhelmed” and (3) the “quality of life” in Nelsonville will be impacted by, among other things, the loss of free parking at the Metro-North lot on weekends. “That’s the Fjord Trail parking lot when this thing starts, and they don’t want to acknowledge that,” he said.

    Mayor Chris Winward stated that “the trail is going to attract new visitors,” thus will “help to create visitation problems,” adding to a crowding problem that already concerns many.

    Campanile said he quit the Fjord Trail’s Visitation Data Committee — purportedly created in response to community opposition to the trail expressed at a “town hall” meeting at Haldane in May 2023 — after one meeting because of his frustration at how Fjord Trail organizers are managing the committee.

    The mayor expressed similar frustration with the Fjord Trail committee’s lack of transparency but said she remains on it, in the best interest of her constituents so she can keep a check on the organizers. “There’s an arrogance to how they’re approaching this; they just want to barrel through,” Campanile said, adding that Philipstown isn’t helping. At the May 2023 town hall, dozens spoke out against the trail, emphasizing deep concerns with overcrowding and the risks to vulnerable wildlife. Virtually not a soul spoke in favor.

    “The town let that become an infomercial,” Campanile said, because it allowed the trail organizers to “filibuster for an hour and a half [and] rolled out a former supervisor as if he was still running the show. And then when it was time to hear from you guys, you were put on clocks and shouted down before you got a chance to make your point. I was embarrassed being part of that.”

    These comments by our elected representatives in Nelsonville show that it is not just a minority of concerned citizens that opposes the Fjord Trail. Our elected officials, with more inside knowledge of the project than the rest of us, are in agreement that the Fjord Trail organizers are indifferent to residents’ best interests and willing to push through any public dissent, but the power is disproportionately in their hands.

  11. The process is not an easy one, it is extraordinarily complex and requires a lot of listening and patience. As you may know, it has been over a decade.

    As the community and visitor relations manager, I am reading everything you share here and we at HHFT take note of what you share online. We are aware of the wide spectrum of views. If you would like more info on your particular concern or have other ideas, please reach out to me at [email protected]. or attend one of our Sunday chats.

    Keep in mind that things take a very long time to shape with many in mind. What works for the business owner might not work for the local resident so it all requires balance, continued conversation and more. Please save the dates on your calendar for our public sessions in March 11 and April 3 where the alternative-route analysis will be reviewed and feedback on the entry points from Cold Spring will be heard.

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