Central Hudson to begin utility pole relocation work on Route 9D in the Town of Fishkill as early as February
UPDATE: WORK TO BEGIN THE WEEK OF FEBRUARY 19, 2024
On January 24, 2024, Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail, Inc. (HHFT) announced that in the coming weeks, Central Hudson will begin site work on the east side of Route 9D, just north of the Breakneck tunnel in the Town of Fishkill, to relocate utility poles from the west side of Route 9D. The utility relocation project will eliminate utility poles and wires from the view of the river in this section of the Route 9D Scenic Byway.
This preparatory work will include regrading and targeted tree removal. Work is expected to be completed by June. Although Route 9D will remain open, the site work could cause some minor traffic delays, as well as short-term closures at the Breakneck and Wilkinson Memorial trailheads and associated trail parking areas.
This work is the first phase of a multi-year construction project that will transform the Breakneck/Route 9D corridor. The relocation of utilities in the area of the Breakneck Connector trailhead will make way for new improvements including restrooms, improved parking, the bridge across Metro-North railroad tracks, enhanced crosswalks, and wayfinding signage.
HHFT Dispels Rumors of Commercialization at Dockside and a Roundabout in the Village of Cold Spring
On December 5, 2023 HHFT addressed the Mayor of Cold Spring and the village's Board of Trustees in a letter to be read into the village record.
The letter formally reiterates the following: 1) Whatever the final routing of the Fjord Trail, HHFT will defer to the Village of Cold Spring in regard to what, if any, programming and events occur at Dockside Park; 2) HHFT has no intention to plan or allow commercial activities or events (including by Fjord Trail concessionaires, sponsors, or donors) in Dockside Park; 3) HHFT has never proposed the idea of a roundabout at the intersection of Routes 9D and 301 and has no intention of recommending or advocating for a traffic circle at this intersection, nor does the organization have any jurisdiction to do so.
On December 1, 2023, Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail, Inc. shared that the number of rescue calls in the Breakneck/9D corridor has been significantly reduced this season. According to the Putnam County Bureau of Emergency Services (PCBES), there have been three rescue calls on Breakneck Ridge since March 2023, which represents a 70% decrease from 2022 and an 80% decrease from 2021.
Factors likely to have contributed to the decrease in emergency calls include improvements made by HHFT at Upper Overlook this year, early safety improvements to the Breakneck train station made in 2022, the addition of the Nimham Trail in 2021, and a larger presence of Parks staff and NY-NJ Trail Conference trail stewards at Breakneck Ridge.
The Trail Conference's new Steward Station, located at Upper Overlook, provides an outpost by which stewards can orient and counsel hikers before they even begin their ascent. The station's green roof boasts solar panels that will provide power for Parks staff and NYNJTC trail stewards, as well as for first responder communications equipment and a new AED, which will further improve emergency response capabilities at this very popular trailhead.
Answers Available to all 210 Questions Submitted by Philipstown Residents
On November 19, 2023 HHFT announced the completion of its work to answer all 210 questions submitted by residents in advance of the May 8, 2023 Joint Public Session on the Fjord Trail, hosted by The Villages of Cold Spring and Nelsonville and the Town of Philipstown.
The municipalities collected the 210 questions from the community (64 residents submitted questions) and asked community members to rank their top five priority questions. The 15 questions that received the highest ranking were given to HHFT and NYS Parks to answer at the public meeting.
HHFT wanted to ensure that all residents who took the time to submit questions would have theirs answered. The remaining 195 questions were answered over the course of the 195 days that followed the event.
Answers are searchable by keyword and residents can also search for their own question by searching their name.
On September 19th, 2023, Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail, Inc. announced that Village of Cold Spring resident Rebeca Ramirez has joined the organization as its Community & Visitor Relations Manager.
With more than twenty years of experience in the nonprofit space, and as a former Main Street, Cold Spring business owner, Ramirez brings these valuable perspectives, as well as her perspectives as a Village resident; parent of a school-aged child; avid trail user; and “complete streets” advocate, to HHFT’s growing team.
As Community & Visitor Relations Manager, Ramirez will collaborate with local groups and individuals to continue fostering community involvement and engagement in Fjord Trail planning, nurture the organization’s burgeoning network of volunteers, and develop interpretive and public programs for the Fjord Trail that will help bring to life the historical, natural, cultural, artistic, and educational stories of the region.
HHFT, Inc. Announces Formation of Community Visitation Data Committee
On September 1, 2023, Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail, Inc. (HHFT) announced the formation of an independent Visitation Data Committee. The eight-member committee includes Village of Nelsonville Mayor Chris Winward and Trustee Thomas Campanile; Village of Cold Spring residents James Labate and Henry Feldman; Town of Philipstown residents Mary Kate Ephraim and Jeffrey Robins; City of Beacon resident Sarah Mencher; and Town of Fishkill Assistant to the Supervisor Greg Totino.
The Visitation Data Committee will review and assess the work of HHFT’s visitation management and environmental review consultants to ensure that the traffic count and pedestrian visitation pattern data is adequate to determine the potential impacts of the Fjord Trail on local communities. The group will also have early review and discussion of visitation projections and the methodology used to determine them. Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail, Inc. will provide a stipend for the committee to hire an independent consultant to provide technical assistance to the committee in reviewing methodology and interpreting results.
Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail Purchases New Trash Receptacles for Little Stony Point
Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail, Inc. shared news in July 2023 of their recent donation of new animal-proof trash receptacles to Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve for placement at Little Stony Point. These receptacles will help Park staff manage trash at the park.
The traditional trash cans which these replaced were regularly raided by mischievous animals, constantly creating messes. These new receptacles reduce the need for clean ups by staff, helping to ensure that Little Stony Point is a pleasant park for all who visit.
New York State Department of Conservation Shares Notice of HHFT Completion of Breakneck Connector & Bridge Application
Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail Pedestrian Bridge Design Receives “Excellence in Design Award”
On June 28, 2023, the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail Pedestrian Bridge Design was awarded the “Excellence in Design Award” by the New York City Public Design Commission. The bridge design was specifically recognized for making important public safety and accessibility improvements. The proposed pedestrian bridge would cross the Metro-North train tracks at the base of Breakneck Ridge.
The NYC Public Design Commission considers a number of design parameters during their review process, including the history and context of the site, maintainability of the design, how it will facilitate the desired functions and programs, and how it can best serve the public. Other winners represent a wide range of proposals reviewed by the Commission, such as parks, streetscape reconstructions, artwork installations, infrastructure, prototypical designs, and large mixed-use developments.
Congratulations to HHFT's Design Team on this recognition!
Breakneck Trailhead to Reopen on July 1, 2023
Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail, Inc., the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP), and the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference (NYNJTC) announced on June 23, 2023 that work at the Upper Overlook area of the Breakneck Trailhead will be completed on schedule. The Breakneck Trailhead, which has been closed since work began on March 1, 2023, will reopen to the public on Saturday, July 1.
The scope of this work includes the relocation of the Breakneck trailhead farther up Breakneck Ridge, repair of eroding trail surfaces, improved stormwater management along the trail, and installation of stone steps leading up to the Breakneck ascent, performed by Tahawus Trails LLC and Jolly Rovers Trail Crew, as well as the construction of a new Trail Steward Station by Gray Organschi Architecture and Heitmann Builders. Concept design for Upper Overlook was completed by SCAPE Landscape Architecture.
HHFT, Inc. Announces It Will Take a Trail First Approach to Implementation
On June 12th, 2023, Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail, Inc. (HHFT) announced that it will focus exclusively on implementing the proposed 7.5-mile main trail connecting the City of Beacon to the Village of Cold Spring, associated parking areas, trailhead entries, and its visitor center, suspending development of any additional project elements. This represents the latest refinement of the project as it continues to evolve as a visitation management strategy through data, community input, and expert advice.
HHFT will also convene a series of community meetings in the fall to review the proposed and alternative routes to connect the Village of Cold Spring with Breakneck Ridge before finalizing and submitting its Draft Generic Environmental Impact Study to the State.
Additionally, HHFT has invited each of the project-area communities — Cold Spring, Nelsonville, Philipstown, Beacon, and Fishkill — to name representatives to a Visitation Data Committee that will help review the ongoing traffic study, pedestrian counts, and visitation projection for the project. This committee will be granted a stipend to engage a third-party consultant to lend technical capacity to their review.
MTA Board of Directors Votes to Approve Easement Agreement with OPRHP
During its monthly meeting on May 24, 2023, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) approved an agreement to issue a permanent access easement to the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) in conjunction with the planned Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail project. The easement agreement will allow Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail, Inc., through a cooperative agreement with OPRHP, to use the land along the rail line to construct and operate the Breakneck Connector section. Additionally, it will provide air rights for the construction of the Breakneck Bridge over the railroad tracks and grant vehicular access to HHFT, OPRHP, and NYC Department of Environmental Protection (NYC DEP) for routine maintenance and emergency response.
HHFT Hires Visitor Management Consultant to Develop Additional Strategies for Managing Tourism in the Hudson Highlands
On May 2nd, 2023, Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail (HHFT) announced it has hired ORCA Consulting (ORCA) as its visitation management advisor to support ongoing efforts to reduce traffic congestion and associated problems currently experienced by residents of Cold Spring and park staff in Hudson Highlands State Park. As experienced visitation management experts with three decades in the field, ORCA will work with HHFT to employ state-of-the-art tools and strategies, in collaboration with municipal, state, and other partners, to effectively manage visitation in local communities and Hudson Highlands State Park along Route 9D.
ORCA’s experience includes planning for and implementing visitation management strategies across the country. Most notably, the ORCA team worked closely with park managers and municipal leaders on projects like Muir Woods National Monument and Sitka National Historical Park, among others, to mitigate impacts on the gateway communities adjacent to these recreational destinations.
HHFT Announces Two New Board Members
On April 10, 2023, Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail, Inc. announced that Usha Wright and Richard Shea have joined its Board of Directors.
Usha Wright is currently President and Chair of the board at SHAREAfrica, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children and communities in Africa devastated by diseases and abject poverty. Ms. Wright is retired from ITT Corporation, a multi-national diversified industrial company, where she was a Senior Vice President, and then served as Executive Vice President at O’Brien & Gere, an environmental engineering firm. Ms. Wright also serves on the Board of Eastern Environmental Law Center and Scenic Hudson, Inc., as Co Vice Chair. She previously served on the Board of the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, DC, where she was a Visiting Scholar.
Richard Shea is a native of Cold Spring, NY, whose family has resided in the area for over a century with a strong tradition of public service. Mr. Shea carried on this tradition, serving for twenty years in Philipstown government – for eight years as Councilman and for twelve years as Town Supervisor. Mr. Shea was instrumental in envisioning the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail concept with fellow community members from its earliest days and provided valuable input throughout his tenure on the HHFT Steering Committee, representing Philipstown as the project evolved.
Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail Begins Work on Breakneck Upper Overlook on March 1, 2023
On February 17, 2023, Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail, Inc., New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP), Metro-North Railroad (MNR), and New York-New Jersey Trail Conference (NYNJTC) announced that initial work to relocate the Breakneck trailhead farther up the ridge and repair eroding trail surfaces is beginning on March 1, 2023.
The work is scheduled to be completed by July 2023. During this construction phase, OPRHP will close the Breakneck Ridge trailhead to the public. Read the full press release here:
Breakneck Station Reopened for Hiking Season in 2022
In May of 2022, the Hudson Line Breakneck station was reopened for weekend service. NY-NJ Trail Conference Trail Stewards staff the Breakneck trailhead in Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve, orienting hikers arriving by train, foot, or car and ensuring they are prepared for the hike.
The innovative Trail Steward program has been in place since 2014, greatly reducing the incidence of lost or injured hikers associated with the ever-popular Breakneck Trail.
Service at the Breakneck train station resumed for Memorial Day weekend, when the NY-NJ Trail Conference annually reboots its successful trailhead steward program.
The Breakneck station had been closed since late 2019 and has since undergone a number of safety enhancements. You can read more about in the announcement below.
Safety Improvements at Breakneck Ridge Station
In October of 2021, the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail, Metro-North Railroad, the New York State Department of Transportation, and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation commenced work on safety improvements to the Metro-North railroad station at Breakneck Ridge.
Once complete, the Metro-North station is reopening as a weekend stop on the Hudson Line.
The fencing that HHFT is installing is an interim step towards the comprehensive redesign of the Route 9D corridor north, the Breakneck Connector. That segment marks the first mile of the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail as it goes into construction.
Safety has always been one of HHFT’s core aims, and securing the tracks at this busy hiking destination is a major step forward in the project. You can read more about it in this downloadable PDF announcement:
The Nimham Trail is Open!
You can access this wonderful addition to the Breakneck Ridge collection of trails from the Route 9D Wilkinson Memorial Trailhead (north of the Breakneck Tunnel) or from the flagpole viewpoint along Breakneck Ridge.
Header image: Meredith Heuer
'MTA Easement Agreement', 'Visitor Management', 'Safety Improvements' Photography: Ty Cole
'Trail First Approach' Photography: Meredith Heuer
'Upper Overlook' Architectural rendering: Gray Organschi Architecture
'Reopening' Photography: NY-NJ Trail Conference
'Nimham Trail' Photography: Chris Vultaggio