Progress on the Harlem Valley Rail Trail
Since the mid-1980’s, trail enthusiasts have been dreaming of a 46-mile rail trail in the Harlem Valley and Taconic Hills of eastern New York. There’s been stop-and-go progress over the past couple of decades and now, CLC is throwing its support behind an effort to extend the trail to Columbia County, working with the Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association (HVRTA).
The trail, comprised of abandoned rail beds, provides the public with access to outdoor recreation and opportunities to view the area’s mountain ranges, farmland, and wildlife. The first segment opened in Dutchess County in 1996, and was extended in 1997, 2000, and 2005. Another eight miles of abandoned rail bed in Dutchess County are in preliminary development stages, while in Columbia County, most of another 23 miles that will eventually lead north into the Village of Chatham have been acquired.
In 2012, CLC joined with the HVRTA, Copake Hillsdale Rail Trail Alliance (CHRTA), and New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) to coordinate planning for a 5-mile extension from Copake Falls to Hillsdale. CLC received a grant from OPRHP for $121,965, which was matched by $40,655 in community funds raised by CHRTA with leadership from HVRTA. More good news: construction documents for a full build-out of the trail segment have been produced by the design consultants, Mark K. Morrison Associates Landscape Architecture P.C. and Clark Engineering & Surveying, P.C. And while additional funding is actively being sought for full construction, two sections of the trail will likely be opened on an informal basis later this year.
Meanwhile, HVRTA has secured funding from New York State for a design and engineering plan for an 11-mile section of the trail between the Village of Philmont and the northern terminus in the Village of Chatham, known as the “Northwest 11.” Based on the economic development and growth of tourism the HVRT sparked in Millerton, Columbia County residents, particularly those in towns along the proposed trail, anticipate that the extension of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail into Columbia County will be a boon to the local economy and add to the character of our communities. Hail to the trail!