Crowd Turns Out to Learn About Harlem Valley Rail Trail Expansion

Crowd Turns Out to Learn About Harlem Valley Rail Trail Expansion

GHENT, N.Y.–More than 120 people turned out for a public gathering here Sunday to learn about plans to expand the Harlem Valley Rail Trail from Philmont through Ghent to Chatham, N.Y.

The meeting at the Ghent VFW Hall attracted longtime supporters of the trail as well as newcomers and officials from a number of towns in the region. They heard from leaders of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association, the nonprofit group that helps oversee the trail’s growth and maintenance, as well as the landscape architectural firm creating a construction-ready plan for the 8-mile addition, MKM Landscape Architecture of New York.

Mark Morrison, principal of the firm, displayed maps and photos of the proposed route and Phil Meeks, chair of the HVRTA board, gave a slide show about the history of the rail trail as well as a glimpse of a five-year strategic plan for its future expansion. An extensive question and answer period followed their presentations.

“We’re thrilled by the number of people who came out to hear about the rail trail’s expansion plans and the enthusiasm they expressed toward the project,” said Mr. Meeks. “Their support will be a vital factor in moving the work forward.”

Mr. Morrison’s firm is creating a shovel-ready engineering and construction plan for the new trail section, which will link the village of Philmont to the town of Ghent and village of Chatham. MKM Landscape Architecture has extensive experience in designing trails, including 2.5 miles of earlier extensions of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail.

The new, fully paved section will dramatically increase the trail’s range and bring it to central and northern Columbia County for the first time. It will travel through farmland, fields and woods and run atop a stone-arch railroad bridge in Ghent from the 1800s. The trail will end in the village of Chatham near the planned new Shaker Museum.

Funding for the $500,000 construction design plan comes from a state grant and local funds to be raised by the rail trail association, in cooperation with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Construction of the new section, whose cost hasn’t been determined, will require additional government and local funding.

The Harlem Valley Rail Trail currently consists of 25 paved miles that link the Metro-North Railroad station in Wassaic to Copake, which includes a separate section traveling 1.5 miles southeast from Hillsdale’s Hamlet. The association’s ultimate goal is a 46-mile continuous trail from Wassaic to Chatham following the route of the onetime New York and Harlem Railroad.

Author: Harlem Valley News