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OSI To Upgrade Trails, Expand Access To Fahnestock State Park

Rendering by Andrew Trodler courtesy of the Open Space Institute
Rendering of Big Woods scene, Fahnestock Park, Putnam County, NY

The Open Space Institute plans to expand access to portions of a state park in Putnam County.

Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park’s 14,000 acres stretch across Dutchess and Putnam Counties; the OSI improvements are planned for portions in Putnam between Route 9 and the Taconic State Parkway. There are three major improvements on tap for the park itself, along with new signage. OSI Project and Design Manager Peter Karis says the goal is to provide safe and managed access to the park.

“Most exciting for us is what we call the Hubbard Perkins Loop Trail, which is a 9-mile loop emanating out of Hubbard Lodge off of Route 9, along trails that exist right now, but we’re going to enhance them to be able to handle multiple uses, including running and hiking and biking and equestrian,” Karis says.

For the past two years, OSI has partnered with New York State Parks and cadets from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point to replace trail bridges near the Hubbard Lodge area as part of the larger Hubbard-Perkins Loop Trail project.

“And they actually design, prefabricate and build pedestrian bridges over some of these environmentally sensitive areas. And this year we’ll be on our fourth bridge at Fahnestock with this year’s class,” Karis says. “And it’s really a highlight for our programs where we’re able to engage not only young people in an esteemed outfit like West Point, also be able to get people into an area of the park which is a bit degraded.”

Another part of the project will create a central trailhead to get visitors into the heart of the park’s northern half, serviced by yet-to-be constructed Big Woods Drive. The idea is to get vehicles and people off state highway 301 into a safer entry point.

“We’re also going to be coming back at the end of the project and replanting a lot of areas with new trees to try and mitigate any of these visual impacts that you’ll see from Route 301,” Karis says. “We’re being sensitive to the way wildlife is moving through the land. And, with the road, there’ll be a series  of what we call wildlife crossing culverts which are going to be built under the road allowing for the movement and migration of amphibians and small mammals and insects and all the critters that us the park along with us, we’ve pre-thought into some of the details of the road.”

Another portion of the project involves renovating the Appalachian Trail crossing at the south end of Canopus Lake, including the construction of a new trailhead and off-road parking area. And there will be more signage along Route 301. For example, there will be a new sign at Canopus Lake. As for cost:

“We’re above $5 million in improvements,” says Karis. “So it’s a substantial investment in Fahnestock, mostly raised by private philanthropy and supplement by a recent EPF grant awarded by the state in this year’s round. That was specific to Hubbard Perkins, the EPF grant.”

EPF is the Environmental Protection Fund. Karis says the improvements could draw more visitors to the region to Fahnestock.

“The trail network on Fahnestock gets pretty light traffic compared to Hudson Highlands State Park and some of the other state parks along the Hudson River," says Karis. "So we’re hopeful that these improvements will, can help some of those situations by peeling off and appealing to some of the people that are looking for more of a nature-based experience, a place where they don’t want to see people when they’re hiking and a place to really go deep rather than… Fahnestock doesn’t have these great expansive views, but what it has, it has really deep forest ecosystems that are just as beautiful, in my opinion, as some of these other more grand places that a lot of people visit.”

Karis says the Route 301 improvements should be completed by year’s end, with planting and final stabilization efforts the following spring. The Hubbard Perkins Loop Trail likely will take longer as it’s a more remote project. Karis expects all projects will be complete by 2022.

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