Poughkeepsie…Dutchess County Executive William R. Steinhaus hosted a public workshop for the Harlem Valley Rail Trail (HVRT) Phase IV extension last night at the Webutuck High School.
“We want your thoughts, your input and your ideas. We are enormously excited about this opportunity and we would like you to tell us your vision for how this park should be designed,” County Executive Steinhaus said to the nearly 50 people who attended the workshop.
The workshop was held to provide the public with information about the planned Harlem Valley Rail Trail Phase IV extension as well as to gather ideas from local residents and rail trail enthusiasts.
HVRT Phase IV is part of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail and will complete a key link in the Rail Trail between Millerton in northeastern Dutchess County and Ancram in southeastern Columbia County. It will span approximately 8 miles. HVRT Phase IV originates at Main Street (Route 44) in the Village of Millerton, follows the former Harlem Valley Rail Line right-of-way in the Town of Northeast, and ends at Under Mountain Road in the Town of Ancram, Columbia County. When complete, the entire continuous Harlem Valley Rail Trail will span 23 miles from the Wassaic Train Station in Amenia to the Copake Falls area of the Taconic State Park in Columbia County. The work will include placement of a shared-use path within the former railroad right-of-way currently leased by Dutchess County from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation (NYSOPRHP).
Preliminary total project costs are estimated at approximately $3.5 million, although last night’s meeting attendees were told project costs will most likely exceed that initial estimate. The county has secured 80% federal funding for the trail extension to offset the cost to the county parks budget. Dutchess County will pay for the local share of work within the county. Columbia County and the NYSOPRHP have agreed to fund the local share of the Columbia County portion of the project.
Engineering staff from the County’s Public Works Department along with Clough Harbour & Associates facilitated the workshop. The evening started with a 20 minute presentation on the trail and the planned extension, the current condition of the old rail line and some of the challenges and opportunities Phase IV presents. Some of those challenges include wetlands, beaver compounds and bog turtle habitats.
Following the presentation, workshop participants were broken into four workgroups to share input and ideas. Participants were asked to share their thoughts and ideas about types of uses, trail width and surfaces, potential parking and access points, connections to the community and potential amenities. A wide array of ideas were discussed, ranging from the benefits of stone dust versus asphalt surfaces to suggestions for “rustic-looking” portable toilet facilities.
“We wanted to leave here tonight with some great ideas and suggestions from the residents who will take advantage of Phase IV of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail. We wanted to engage in an open and productive conversation and I think that is exactly what we did,” concluded County Executive Steinhaus.