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Rail trail extension gets support

HARLEM VALLEY — Copake and Hillsdale residents have come together to form the Copake Hillsdale Rail Trail Alliance, with the goal of extending the Harlem Valley Rail Trail from its current terminus in Copake Falls north through the hamlet of Hillsdale.Bart Ziegler, a Hillsdale resident, and Nancy Schultz of Copake are heading up the new organization. “The Rail Trail received a $121,000 grant from the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, with the stipulation that we raise $40,000 in matching funds,” Schultz said. “Our objective over the next 10 months will be to raise that money through trail-related events, grants and donations from the public.”“The Rail Trail extension would be the first physical link between Copake Falls and Hillsdale that is not geared to automobiles. It will create a leisurely way for residents and visitors to bike or walk safely between the two hamlets,” Ziegler said of the extension, which will be approximately 5 miles in length. “[It will also provide an easy way] to visit the new Roeliff Jansen Community Library and the Roeliff Jansen Park, both located along the proposed trail route.”Aside from creating a safe pathway for walkers, hikers and bikers, the Rail Trail extension can become a magnet for economic development, according to Linda Brenner, a member of the Hillsdale Hamlet Committee. “In the development plan for the Hillsdale hamlet that it created last year, the planning firm, Project for Public Spaces, identified the extension of the Rail Trail as a catalyst that could attract more stores, restaurants and recreational tourists to the area,” Brenner said. “Many are convinced that it is one of the keys to revitalizing Hillsdale’s downtown.”Schultz added that extending the Rail Trail will spur economic development in both towns. “Attracting businesses that cater to those who will use the trail for recreation, including overnight accommodations, food outlets, and other retail establishments [will spur economic activity],” she said.The Rail Trail extension is being coordinated by the Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association, which oversees the envisioned 46-mile trail from Wassaic to Chatham, along with the Columbia Land Conservancy, which is the official recipient of the New York State Parks Department grant.Those looking for more information or to volunteer to work on the alliance should contact Schultz at 518-329-3088 or nancy@nancyschultzconsulting.com; or Brenner at 518-325-7364 or brennerlynda@gmail.com.Submitted by Howard Van Lenten, president of the Roeliff Jansen Community Library Board of Directors.

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