Rail Trail gets $125,000 grant from Gov. Hochul

MILLERTON — The Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association, (HVRTA) was awarded a grant for $125,000 as part of 2024 New York State Park Centennial Celebration, promoting the use of public parks.

On Jan. 5, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced grants being awarded to 27 nonprofit organizations. A total $1.8 million dollars was given to agencies concerned with the upkeep and maintenance of public land areas such as historic sites, state parks and rail trails, including HVRTA, whose trail starts in Wassaic and meanders north Amenia, Millerton, Copake and Hillsdale.

In announcing the grants, Hochul said, “Our state parks, trails, forests and historic sites offer some of the best outdoor recreational and cultural opportunities found anywhere in the world.”

HVRTA’s grant will be used toward enhancing capacity and expansion, allowing the organization to hire a professional agency to help with marketing, fundraising and communications. Its goal is to create new promotional materials, design and implement an improved website, and allow for new social media design.

HVRTA will develop a plan to raise funds to complete the trail all the way up to Chatham, as the now obsolete New York and Harlem Railroad once did.

Currently the paved trail is 26 miles from the Metro-North Railroad in Wassaic to Copake. Another section is 1.5 miles southeast from Hillsdale. When finished, the paved trail will extend 46 miles.

More than 150 people attended HVRTA’s annual meeting in Ghent in October for the discussion of the trail’s planned addition, demonstrating considerable public enthusiasm for the project.

The next 8-mile extension is being planned by engineering firm MKM Landscape Architecture of New York. It will run from Philmont to Ghent, all paved, and when completed, will reach well into Columbia County, ending near where the Shaker Museum is expected to be built in Chatham. The extension will include more farmland, woodland and forest; part of the trail will pass over an arched stone railway bridge.

The trail provides safe recreation for walkers and bicyclists of all ages, off the highways, enabling them to learn more about nature, their state, and the local landscape. Local communities have expressed that they value the trail because it attracts serious hikers who are ecologically conscious, enjoy what the villages have to offer, and bolster the local economies.

The Parks and Trails Partnership Grant program is funded through the state Environmental Protection Fund, and grants are administered by Parks & Trails New York in partnership with the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation and the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

As Hochul stated in her announcement, “Friends Groups are crucial to helping our state parks succeed, and these grants will help leverage their hard work to make our state park system even better for all.”

Grant recipients must raise outside funding of at least 10% of their total project costs. HVRTA is hoping the recently awarded grant will help it in its pursuit of raising the funds needed for the completion of the trail.

Map courtesy Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association

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