Construction will soon begin on a trail project at one of the country’s top hiking attractions in the Hudson Highlands. It’s a major undertaking involving 16 partners from the state level to community organizations.
The Breakneck Connector will be the first piece of the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail. The latter would connect Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve with the city of Beacon to the north and the village of Cold Spring to the south. Amy Kacala is project manager, and senior community planner with Scenic Hudson. She says work on the connector piece will begin soon.
“We are waiting to open bids for construction for the Breakneck Connector, which is a half-mile section north of Breakneck Ridge to the Breakneck Ridge Metro-North train stop,” Kacala says. “And so this piece of it is the most congested section of Route 9D, the most perception of somebody’s going to get hurt, right? So we have trains de-boarding about 100 people at a time. People have nowhere to walk, so they walk in the roadway. It’s a 55 mile-an-hour roadway. Everyone wants to go to this hike so they’re parking all along a state highway in very dangerous ways. So we really wanted to just step back and try to make the entire area safer.”
The public-private coalition of 16 volunteer groups, nonprofits, state agencies and municipalities has been working on the project since 2008. Kacala says the speed limit on that portion of Route 9D will be lowered from 55 miles per hour to 40 at the start of construction, where it will remain. The project includes creating a pedestrian and bicycle path between the Metro-North Breakneck Ridge train stop and the trailhead. The City of Beacon is one of the partners. Mayor Randy Casale says the first phase of construction is important for the overall project.
“Right now the Breakneck Ridge there gets a lot of traffic and it’s an unsafe situation down there on Route 9D,” Casale says. “And by them getting this done and getting safer parking for the people to use the Breakneck [trail]head makes all the sense in the world. And once that’s done and we continue to move forward, it’ll just be a regional attraction for everybody.”
And, he says, enhanced tourism in the Hudson Valley. The connector project will add parking, including for emergency service vehicles that currently have none. Kacala says the addition of a welcome center will help with orientations, and weeding out potential hikers who are not prepared for the tough hike. Currently, the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference offers orientations on the weekend at the trail head.
The trailhead will remain open until the end of year. It will close in January and Metro-North service to Breakneck Ridge also will cease. And this, says Linda Cooper, will be an auspicious time to tend to the trailhead. Cooper is regional director of New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
“We though it provided a great opportunity to harden up a little bit of the trail, which has had severe erosion problems with the number of people that have been going on it,” Cooper says.
She says the restoration work will focus on the first 100 feet of the trail, which have been severely eroded by intense use and have exposed roots. Trail restoration also will include graffiti removal from the mountain’s rock face. Thousands of visitors descend upon the Breakneck Ridge trailhead per week.
With the closure of the trailhead, the coalition will promote alternate hikes, coordinating bus and trolley service between Beacon and Cold Spring train stations and other area trailheads. Tree clearing for the project begins November 1 with construction to start about a month later. Kacala anticipates construction will last roughly one year.