Dutchess and Columbia County residents in the mood for a beautiful day outdoors need look no further than the Harlem Valley Rail Trail. Conceived in the mid-1980s and opened in 1996, the trail preserves the linear route of what was once the New York & Harlem Railroad, a line connecting Manhattan to Albany. The route offers almost 11 miles of paved path between the Wassaic Metro North Train Station and Millerton and four from Ancram to Copake Falls. The Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association (HVRTA), however, is working toward a dream: to create 46 miles of uninterrupted trail from Wassaic to Chatham.
The job hasn’t been easy; the association relies on the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, & Historic Preservation, the NYSDOT, and its local towns to cover the cost of expansion and maintenance. This cooperation, as well as donations and volunteering from local residents, has made the rail trail a beautiful Hudson Valley attraction. Progress has been slow, but locals will be excited to hear about some recent developments. In June, the Secretary of the Interior and Director of the National Parks Service announced that the Harlem Valley Rail Trail, along with 18 other hiking and bike trails, would be recognized as a national recreation trail. And earlier in the year, the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, & Historic Preservation provided the association with a grant of $375, 584—half of its $751, 168 goal for a new paving project.
On Saturday, August 9, the HVRTA will host an open house from 5pm to 7pm at the Roeliff Jansen Community Library in Hillsdale. Attendees will hear about efforts to raise the remaining half of the budget to pave a 1.5-mile stretch of trail between Black Grocery Road to downtown Hillsdale, as well as what they can do to contribute. More information at (518) 789-9591.