Residents urged to attend two HHFT sessions

Cold Spring residents will soon have a chance to express their opinions on the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail (HHFT) as part of a survey being developed by the Village Board.

“We’ve had discussions about how we, as a body, are making sure we’re representative of views around the village,” Mayor Kathleen Foley said at the Wednesday (Feb. 14) meeting.

The mayor advocated conducting the survey and hosting a feedback session for village residents following two public information meetings scheduled by HHFT, which she urged residents to attend.

On March 11, HHFT will share its analysis of alternate routes and present an overview of the concept design. On April 3, it will present its visitor projections and visitor management strategy. Both meetings will take place at 6 p.m. at Dutchess Manor at 262 Route 9D. Registration will be required because the room seats only 200 people.

Foley noted that HHFT is already surveying residents of the lower village and Fair Street. “We are not talking about a competition with the HHFT survey,” she said. “I’m hoping we can establish feedback for our public record and create space for villagers to be heard.”

“We have 2,000 villagers and I think we have 2,000 opinions,” said Trustee Eliza Starbuck. She said a survey would enable residents who are not comfortable speaking in public to voice their opinions.

Trustee Aaron Freimark expressed concerns about survey overload, suggesting the village work with other organizations and municipalities or HHFT. Because Cold Spring has no direct influence on state parks or HHFT decisions, “if we partner with them, I’m hoping we’d have a little skin in the game,” he said.

Trustee Laura Bozzi said she would prefer the village do its own survey and “really think about the questions; villagers would like us to ask for their input.”

Foley noted that after a public meeting on the Fjord Trail in May 2023, the village, Philipstown and Nelsonville agreed to move forward individually because their needs may differ. “There would be a trust deficit at the board level if we’re not asking for feedback directly from our constituents,” she said.

During the public comment period, several residents agreed the village should conduct its own survey. Susan Peehl, who lives on Fair Street, said she was “deeply offended” by the HHFT survey. She said it contained ambiguous wording and provided little opportunity for resident input.

Paul Thompson, who lives in the lower village, didn’t share her concerns. “Overall it was quite a balanced survey, with plenty of opportunity to express your views,” he said.

In other business …

■ In January, village crews dealt with two floods at both Cedar Street and the riverfront. They removed six loads of driftwood and four loads of debris from the riverfront, and the catch basins were cleared six times.
■ Village Account Michelle Ascolillo outlined the tentative timeline for drafting the 2024-25 budget, including a draft no later than March 20, a public hearing on April 10 and adoption no later than May 1.
■ The Cold Spring Police Department responded to 53 calls for service in January. Officers issued 21 traffic tickets, including 12 for speeding, and 39 parking tickets. There was one arrest for driving with a suspended license. The Cold Spring Fire Co. answered 19 calls, including for a structure fire.
■ The village reservoirs are at 99 percent capacity.
■ Beginning in March, meetings of the Zoning Board of Appeals will shift from the first and third Thursday to the second and fourth Tuesday.
■ The board discussed a request for the sale of village-owned property at the rear of 107-109 Main St.
■ Foley was authorized by the board to sign an agreement with New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) regarding installation of electric-vehicle charging stations and an energy study for Village Hall.
■ The board approved adoption of the community greenhouse gas inventory as part of the Climate Smart Communities initiative.
■ Representatives of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center and the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University will attend the Feb. 21 meeting to discuss transportation, street and intersection issues and a process to deal with them.

Behind The Story

Type: News

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

Turton, who has been a reporter for The Current since its founding in 2010, moved to Philipstown from his native Ontario in 1998. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Area of expertise: Cold Spring government, features

Join the Conversation

11 Comments

  1. On Tuesday (Feb. 12), residents of Fair Street and the lower village west of Lunn Terrace in Cold Spring began receiving surveys from the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail. The structure and content of the survey are misleading, and the community should be wary of engaging with it.

    The questions create false dichotomies that are designed to lead and entrap respondents. Any hesitations, doubts or opposition that respondents might voice in the survey back them into a corner as selfish, exclusionary and against tourism in general.

    Through this framing, HHFT also ignores broader discussions about the impacts that the trail would have on the environment and the community as a whole. For example, how do residents feel about a decade of heavy construction along the waterfront? Additionally, does HHFT believe that residents of Main Street will not be impacted by the construction of the Fjord Trail? This is methodological sleight of hand by HHFT.

    Meaningful community engagement would require engaging with the entire community, rather than a small, handpicked subset. And it would require asking open, honest questions — giving us the full scoop about the Fjord Trail, rather than plying us with yet another meaningless rendering.

  2. We recently received a letter from the Fjord Trail developers with a “targeted group survey” to learn more from residents in the most significantly impacted neighborhoods. We wondered, aren’t all Philipstown neighborhoods significantly impacted? But we were required to give our address.

    The early questions were about how we enjoyed the outdoors; the next were on tourism, with a list of challenges we could choose from and values to rank. Then came question 9, which “(required)” an answer. It stated HHFT’s goal — to create a trail as a safe way to connect all pedestrians to the Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve, the river and Beacon — and asked if we supported that goal.

    What if we supported only part of that goal, believing there had to be places left wild? What if we supported improving trails that are already there? What if we thought limiting the number of visitors, as they do in other parks, might better address traffic and safety? What if we agreed with the goal, but not the solution? What if we wanted to know how much it would cost and who would pay for it?

    Question 10 said we could “feel free to share more thoughts,” but this wasn’t part of the hard data. The only two required answers were where we lived and how much we supported HHFT’s goal.

    So, what is this survey really about? It’s another product of skilled PR and deep pockets designed to acquire slanted data in support of HHFT’s lofty attraction (with dreamy renderings!); an attraction dressed up as a solution to our very real concerns of safety, the environment, quality of life, and traffic. In this case, it’s public opinion being segmented as opposed to the project.

    1. I tend to agree with the above two comments. My husband and I completed the survey online and found the questions were presented in an odd manner and sort of cornered you into responding a certain way. A nice “trail” is not the problem. Having a major walkway begin in the small village of Cold Spring does not make any sense at all.

  3. HHFT’s survey is one of many ways we are continuing to capture resident input, in this case from those who live along Fair Street, Northern Avenue and west of Lunn Terrace. The main purpose of this survey is for HHFT to hear about the key issues these residents are experiencing today related to visitation and receive information on what improvements, if any, they most desire. It will allow us to see how folks feel about what is being proposed and the information gathered will inform plans for the Fjord Trail. The results of the survey will be shared with the Cold Spring Board of Trustees, NYS Parks and the public in full.

    If you have questions about this survey, our outreach efforts or HHFT’s long history of community engagement, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]. We are always open to learning how we can improve our efforts.

    Thank you, Roseanne, for participating. Sue, Andrew, and Jon, we hope that you change your mind and take part.

    Ramirez is the community and visitor relations manager for the HHFT.

  4. After reading all of the literature on the HHFT, I have come away with one overriding question: Do we need this? What will the effect will be on local traffic and how do residents feel about throngs of visitors and traffic jams on weekends?

    For all the puffing over state-of-the-art design, wide trails and modern conveniences, I do not see how this will benefit wildlife or our local communities. Both Beacon and Cold Spring are already swamped with visitors; by car, train and cruise boats. The HHFT designers have pledged to remove all “trees, shrubs and plants designated invasive,” which sounds good until you realize it means booting out the existing wildlife that have made their home there in favor of prettily landscaped areas and raised walkways which are meant to please people, not wildlife. The project’s focus is an area of undisturbed wildlife. Habitat for wildlife, as far as I know, is just that, wild. Why do these wild areas need to be made more accessible to people?

    As for our trails, in the last five years, I find I can no longer hike favorites that had been open and free of traffic. These include Pocket Road in Beacon, and Indian Brook Trail in Cold Spring. Residents of these areas have been so inundated by outsiders parking every which way that they have resorted to posting signs to keep them out. I don’t blame them but I do miss the quiet hikes I enjoyed for almost 25 years. It just seems common sense that instead of welcoming ever more traffic (and resulting litter, for which I always tote a bag) that enjoyment of these trails belongs first to taxpaying locals. Perhaps parking permits for residents is an idea worth trying? Eliminating parking on Route 9D altogether is a better solution than adding more parking, lighting, restrooms and Highline-style trails. It appears these designers prefer a more urban look, but I prefer the wild and woolly. I don’t know about anyone else, but I have little desire to hike alongside an active railroad.

    I often wonder at the lines of young hikers waiting patiently to climb up the stairs at Breakneck Ridge. Why anyone would want to stand in line to take a nature hike is puzzling, especially when there are plenty of large public parks to enjoy north of here.

    Before investing millions to accommodate more visitors, please give top priority to our residents. There is nothing wrong with posting signs that read “If parking lot is full, please move on.” The HHFT simply draws too many visitors to too small an area. We don’t need this.

    1. Jon Erickson, Andrew Hall, Sue Peehl, Roseanne Halpin and Mary Fris all raise good points and make excellent arguments for their cases. I take issue with a couple of things Rebeca Ramirez says: “We are always open to learning how we can improve our efforts. Sue, Andrew, and Jon, we hope that you change your mind and take part.”

      Sue, Andrew and Jon found that the survey was manipulative and designed to elicit a favorable response whether or not the respondent actually felt favorably towards the Fjord Trail project. They were very clear about it. A survey that attempts to force the respondents to give favorable answers is uninformative to the surveyor, but gives them a record of favorable responses that may not have been intended, which they may try to use to advance their cause in some way — for example, telling government officials that all the locals love the Trail, when that is not true.

      Given that, there is no reason why Sue, Andrew and Jon should change their minds. They are intelligent, principled people and have made their position clear in a way that is easily accessible to HHFT. That is the answer that HHFT got. They should accept it and record it in order to really “learn how they can improve their efforts.”

  5. Great to hear Mayor Foley and (most of) the trustees sponsor the village’s own survey, one that isn’t engineered or as manipulative as the recent HHFT survey. The impetus for a village survey is owning to the historic lack of transparency and the disingenuousness of the HHFT. Village trustees in favor of the trail belong in HHFT boardroom, not in the village administration, whose politics they are misaligned with. I encourage the mayor and board to seek out a replacement trustee whose perspectives are more consistent with the rest of the board.

  6. To anyone interested in the survey design or feeling that there are shortcomings, please feel free to reach out to me directly. As always, I am open to constructive criticism on the efforts that I lead and will continue to be.

    I personally reached out to those who voiced concerns about the survey to learn more about their experience and see where we can do better as we continue to have important conversations. I am also still meeting with residents on Fair Street, west of Lunn Terrace, and in the Spring Brook Condominiums and am willing to consider bringing more questions into the process. Residents have been opening their doors to me and sharing.

    The survey is not an attempt to manipulate people, it is an honest effort to help us get it right.

    Ramirez is the community and visitor relations manager for the HHFT.

  7. My wife Shamala (Sham) and I live in the lower village. We received the survey in the mail and via email on the same day. The survey asked for one response per household so together we read through it carefully then drafted and submitted our response.

    We are both broadly supportive of the trail. And I, together with Michael Guillorn who lives in the upper village, founded Philipstown Advocates for Trails.

    It seems to Sham and I that, because the trail will be on state land, it is highly likely to happen, no matter what. Hence, the best thing we can do is offer constructive criticism, whenever the opportunity arises, to help shape it. This balanced and focused resident survey was one such opportunity.

    Living next to the Boat Club, we stand to be heavily impacted if the trail were to start at Dockside. And so naturally we empathize with some of the concerns of those who are against the trail. But overall, we think it can be made to work for the village, for parents pushing a baby stroller through to older folk walking their dog and all ages and abilities in between.

    The village is a highly desirable place. It’s why Sham and I made it our home. We love the place and the people. The trail will make it even more desirable to visitors. We must learn to share this place with visitors for it’s their land as much as it’s ours.

    We welcome that our highly capable and trusted Village Board will run a village-wide survey. We look forward to responding.

  8. Although I moved to North Carolina in 2016, I was a 16-year resident of Philipstown, serving as the executive director of Hudson Highlands Land Trust for most of that time. As such, I was directly involved in early and interim efforts to plan the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail (HHFT). I’ve continued my involvement, most recently as board member of HHFT Inc., traveling to the Highlands often to continue my work on behalf of HHFT. Not surprisingly, I’m an unabashed supporter of the Fjord Trail.

    This may be the most beautiful but least accessible shoreline along the Hudson River. Echoing the eloquent comments of previous letter writers, I am convinced that when completed, it will provide a means for anyone to walk, run or ride from Beacon to Cold Spring, with many waypoints between. Once completed, this linear park, like many others in riverside communities from New York City to Albany, will be a cherished local resource that residents and visitors alike won’t be able to imagine living without.

    There has been much speculation in the past year about what the Fjord Trail will or won’t look like, particularly regarding the proposed Shoreline section between Cold Spring and Breakneck Ridge. HHFT’s talented design team has recently completed the concept design for this section.

    In addition to getting people safely off Route 9D and directly alongside the river, the shoreline trail will restore and make more resilient a heavily disturbed and degraded river edge. Through erosion repair, invasive species removal, and native species restoration, the future trail will provide a true “living shoreline,” with healthier habitat for flora and fauna both above and below the waterline.

    You now have an opportunity through the HHFT website to view a series of videos that realistically show what you can expect to experience once the Shoreline section is completed. I strongly encourage everyone to become better informed by viewing these videos.

    Since 2020, HHFT representatives have participated in more than 90 stakeholder meetings, public presentations and visioning sessions, and monthly hold a 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon chats at Hubbard Lodge. With the SEQRA public review process slated for spring, I urge anyone with questions to seek factual answers directly from HHFT. Add your ideas for a better linear park and come out and openly express your support during the public comment period. Ten years from now you’ll enjoy what you have helped make a reality.

    1. Several years ago, my wife and I were ready to support a Hudson River trail from Breakneck to Beacon when a Fjord Trail was in the early concept discussion phase. Of primary importance to us for this support was the ever-increasing inability to come into Cold Spring Village or use Rt. 9D to Beacon on most weekends. When more information on the further development of the plan for the trail was communicated, our initial reaction was to think positively about it. We then started seeing the various signs questioning the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail (“HFT”) on several neighbors’ and village residents’ lawns. When more signs started to spring up, including those on the lawns of many residents whose opinions on local issues we deeply trusted, we decided to research the issue through the local news stories and other information we were able to obtain from various websites including the HHFT website. I have worked in the financial control role for several large Not-For-Profit (“NFP”) entities for many years and began to see “red flags” in the HHFT plan that should cause concerns for all. As a result of this effort, we joined the Protect the Highlands Association.

      The March 8 letter from the former Executive Director(“ED”) of the Hudson Highlands Land Trust (“HHLT”) confirmed the existence of a very well scripted marketing campaign which compounded my concern about several features of the HHFT, some of which have already been expressed publicly or published by other members of the community. The first concern pertains to the “Phased Approach” of the capital project which only describe the particulars of what needs to be approved immediately and only minimally revealing the ensuing phases, without ever providing a concise or detailed completion and realistic total cost of the capital project. The second concern relates to a lack of full transparency on both the in-flow of full funding revenue sources and the out-flow for expense payments to contractors, consultants, vendors, and employees on the Capital and Operating activities budgets, possibly resulting in conflict of interest or personal enrichment situations. The third concern relates to the absence of a best estimate on proforma operating budget(s), with firm commitments on long-term revenue sources to provide the support. This scenario often leads to unfunded mandate situations which often leaves taxpayers or under-funded NFPs footing the bill.

      The former HHLT Executive Director summarizes his involvement and status with the HHFT but lacks full transparency in that there were no disclosures in his letter of the consulting fees received from entities affiliated with the largest benefactor for the HHFT Project or other initiatives undertaken or in the proposal phase within the Town of Philipstown. These influences should have been disclosed when the former ED of the HHLT suggested a way for the impacted citizens to “Become Better Informed about Fjord Trail” is shared with the public.

      Additionally, it seems there may be a conflicting or selective application of the HHLT and other NFPs missions, per the various Forms 990 disclosures, impacted by the funder/developer. For example, our family considered acquiring property in a proposed equine community that was planned several years ago in Philipstown. That plan was denied by the Town Board with support by the HHLT referring to the plan as “too suburban” and it is having a negative environmental impact on the area. The HHFT plan calls for construction of approximately 1 & ½ miles of steel and cement urban-like highline to abut the railroad line and infringe on, or partially entrenched in the Hudson River, causing a large negative impact to the species inhabiting the area, the non-invasive foliage of the shoreline and the estuary nature of the area.

      I suggest anyone who needs more information on the Lead Agency/Subsidiary or various other “Partnering”, “Steering” or additional NFPs supporting the HHFT or the HVSF (or HVEC as some are now referring to), go the Guidestar/Candid or IRS Charity Search website and review the IRS Forms 990s for key information. Focus should be on the Mission Statements, the Governance questions and other disclosures, the accumulated assets, the annual operating expenses, key employees’ compensation/bonuses, and other expenditures disclosures details.

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