Rail Trail extension puts area on path to perfection

At long last, shovel has hit dirt and work on the northward extension of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail has begun. There was much celebration as news spread that the county has started clearing the old railroad path for the construction of the 8.2-mile extension from the center of Millerton to Under Mountain Road in Ancram.

As we all know, the Rail Trail is one of this region’s best amenities. It’s a source of endless pleasure for walkers, runners, cyclists and skaters. In Millerton, it’s an economic engine that sits smack in the center of the business district — attracting shoppers, diners and moviegoers to what is, by all accounts, a bustling little rural village.

The extension comes thanks to the hard work of many, including the Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association (HVRTA), which has worked tirelessly with Dutchess and Columbia counties to make the project a reality. HVRTA Chairman Dick Hermans said he pinched himself when he learned the work was underway. He said the association has been patient while Dutchess County focused its attention on other area resources, like the Walkway Over the Hudson and the Dutchess County Rail Trail. Now, though, its time has come.

Adding to its existing 15-plus miles of trail ways from Wassaic to Millerton, the new section will bring the trail total up to 23 miles. Then, if all goes according to plan, another extension, to Chatham, will add an additional 23 miles of trail. The goal: Pave the rail bed from Wassaic to Chatham, bridging Dutchess and Columbia counties.

The task won’t be easy. After all, it’s taken 12 years to bring this latest extension to fruition, due to the lengthy and detailed permitting process involved with wetland areas. But it was worth it, said Hermans, confident than “nobody cut any corners.”

That’s good news. It’s important the county respect how sensitive the environment around the existing and future Rail Trail is — and understand that residents and Rail Trail users want to protect it. And why not? It offers the region its own little piece of Utopia. From the trail one can enjoy lush flora and majestic fauna — the best of what nature has to offer — all while getting outdoors for important exercise.

The Rail Trail is a major tourist attraction, immensely valuable to the village of Millerton. It’s great to bring that value to Ancram, which has some business activity near where the new section of the trail will be. Trail crossings will intersect in Millerton at Main Street, Beilke-State Line Road, Rudd Pond Road, White House Crossing Road and, in Ancram, Under Mountain Road. The extension is due to be completed in October of 2020. 

We look forward to its completion — and appreciate the $14.7 million project, which is funded in part with $9.365 million worth of federal monies. The investment will be well worth it. From all who use the trail now, and all who will use it in the future — we celebrate this latest development and agree — the newly extended Harlem Valley Rail Trail will bring this area one step closer to perfection.