Harlem Valley Rail Trail: ‘Chatham or Bust’

A new section of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail will run over this 1800s stone arch bridge in Ghent. Photo submitted

Harlem Valley Rail Trail: ‘Chatham or Bust’

MILLERTON — With 26 miles of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail already paved, a recent announcement from Phil Meeks, chair of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association (HVRTA) said that it is ready to begin a new section of the trail in Columbia County, which will connect the Village of Philmont to Chatham Village and the town of Ghent.

The opening of the trail in 1996 was followed with segments added in 1997, 2000, 2005, 2014 and 2020, when the extension was added to link downtown Millerton to the north, past Webutuck Creek watershed and on up to Copake Falls.

The trail is a popular tourist destination for hiking or biking, with access in several locations in Wassaic, Amenia and Millerton. The trail is free and parking is available, some of it also free of charge.

“This new 8-mile section will dramatically increase the trail’s footprint and bring it to central and northern Columbia County for the first time,” said Meeks. 

Sections of rail bed are in varied stages of planning and/or development and the span of 18 miles to take the trail to Chatham were previously acquired. 

The trail now links the Metro-North Railroad station in Wassaic to Copake. The new segment will be leaving Dutchess County and going into Columbia County, with the trail ending in Chatham.

The new paved trail section will take hikers and bikers past rich farmlands, heavily wooded areas, and will end near what is planned to be the new Shaker Museum in Chatham. They will also have the opportunity to pass over a stone arch railroad bridge built in the 1800s. 

Lisa DeLeeuw, executive director of HVRTA, said, from her Millerton office: “We are excited to start planning this northern section of the trail. Each section brings us closer to our goal of a 46-mile trail linking towns, villages and counties together. As our founder Elinor Mettler said, ‘Chatham or Bust.’”

The extension is being designed by MKM Landscape Architecture of New Rochelle under contract to HVRTA. The $500,000 needed for the construction plan was raised through state and local grants, working with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. 

Funding for the construction of the project is still to be raised, and will require further funding from the government and local sources. The final cost has not yet been determined. Donations are welcome, and the construction and scheduling will depend on the acquisition of funding.

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