News Release

 

 

For More Information:

William R. Steinhaus
Dutchess County Executive
(845) 486-2000
countyexec@co.dutchess.ny.us

For Immediate Release

September 9, 1999

 

Steinhaus Announces Ground Breaking of Phase Two of Rail Trail

Poughkeepsie, NY - County Executive William R. Steinhaus today is pleased to announce the ground breaking for the construction of phase two of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail. Presently the trail extends from Mechanic Street in Amenia to Coleman Station in North East. During phase two, the county will construct the extension of the trail from Coleman Station to the Village of Millerton.

"This phase will double the length of the trail open to the public," said County Executive Steinhaus. "After the first phase of construction, residents were able to use 4.6 miles of this trail that winds through some of the County's most beautiful scenery. We are now going to lengthen this trail by an additional 3.6 miles and connect to the heart of the Village of Millerton. With a direct connecting route between Amenia and Millerton, we anticipate the trail will generate some economic benefits as well."

"We have been able to provide our residents with a trail graced with spectacular views of picturesque farmlands, wetlands and ridge lines all while saving the local property taxpayers considerable money," Steinhaus noted. Eighty percent of the $900,000 cost of construction will be federally funded through various transportation funds. The funds are administered by the NYS Department of Transportation, with whom the County Engineering Division worked closely to design and get approval for the trail's construction."The present phase of construction features a variety of challenges for DPW. There are a number of stream crossings that require the rehabilitation of five bridges and the reconstruction of a sixth," said Steinhaus. "But it is precisely these challenges that will result in a magnificent trail that takes residents into the very heart of the county's natural beauty."

"It is these streams and the rock cuts that reveal a glimpse of the ages that passed as this region was formed and that will make this trail an invaluable asset for outdoor environmental education," Steinhaus added. "This is in addition to the enjoyment it will bring to bicyclists, hikers, walkers, joggers, rollerbladers and even for those in wheelchairs."

One hurdle which the county needed to overcome was due to a piece of railbed not currently owned by the state, while the state owned property needed by Metro-North for their Wassaic train station. However, a land swap deal was negotiated between Metro North, Dutchess County and the state in which all parties benefited. "The original route designated for the rail trail would have included a bypass of just under a mile along two County routes requiring residents to cross a number of fairly busy roads," Steinhaus commented. The land swap deal, however, allows us to keep the trail separated from any public streets. It was a win/win situation."

The Harlem Valley railway property was purchased by the County in conjunction with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Dutchess County agreed to a long-term lease agreement for the development and management of the 10 foot wide pedestrian and bicycle path on the former rail line.

The next phase of the Rail Trail scheduled for construction will extend the trail south from Mechanic Street in Amenia to the new train station just north of Wassaic. The county has also applied for additional federal funds to complete the final 18 miles of the trail north from Millerton to the County border and link it with the State Park's Copake Falls State Park. "As I mentioned in my 1999 State of the County address, if all goes as planned, we will have the entire trail completed in less than twenty-four months," Steinhaus said.

The construction of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail project is a cooperative effort between the Parks, Highway and Engineering Divisions of the Department of Public Works (DPW). Maintaining the trail is also a cooperative venture. The county Highway Department mows the shoulders of the trail and the parking areas, while the Parks division takes care of downed trees and other large debris. A volunteer organization, the Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association (HVRTA), handles cleanup and monitors the trail for problems. The county will soon be adopting maintenance agreements with the Village of Millerton and the Towns of Amenia and North East for additional maintenance," Steinhaus said.

"The construction of the trail into Millerton will continue the positive recreational and economic benefits  we've already seen on the two completed sections of the trail," said Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association Chairman Dick Herman. "Millerton will give the trail even greater exposure and the trail will stimulate an  overall revitalization of the village."

"We, in the town of North East, are delighted with the start of this next phase of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail. The rail trail is a significant public improvement for our area," stated Town of North East Supervisor, David Sherman. "We look forward to working with the County on future phases of the rail trail development."

"There are many others in our community who understand what a recreational asset the county is developing in this rail trail," said the County Executive. "Millbrook Garden Club has donated four benches that can be found at either end of the existing trail and Diane Shadic donated one which will be installed along the trail to provide respite for weary walkers. The HVRTA, in completing a study of the trail's botanical resources, will be providing interpretive signage detailing the surrounding environment and railroad history of the area. This trail brings both learning and recreation together for future generations of Dutchess County residents."

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