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Rail Trail extension moves forward

COPAKE — The Copake Hills­dale Rail Trail Alliance has announced it has raised the matching funds required by a $121,965 New York state grant, putting the proposed extension of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail a big step closer to reality.

The grant from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation totals $162,620 with the $40,655 matching amount raised by the community group. The money, which will be administered by the Columbia Land Conservancy, will be used to hire a firm with expertise in trail design to create a conceptual design and final construction drawings, as well as necessary supporting studies, for the five-mile extension.

The Harlem Valley Rail Trail currently terminates in Copake Falls. The new section will run north from there through the hamlet of Hillsdale. The goal is to have the construction drawings ready in 12 months.  

The expanded trail will link the two communities to the new Roe Jan Community Library and Roe Jan Park with a safe, off-road path for bikers, walkers, runners and cross-country skiers of all ages.

“We are thrilled that residents of Copake and Hillsdale have contributed generously to the matching amount we were required to raise,” said Nancy Schultz, a Copake resident who is co-chair of the Rail Trail alliance.

Also recognized for their contributions were the Rheinstrom Hill Community Foundation and Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation which gave major support to the effort.

Raising the $40,000 matching amount brings to a successful conclusion phase one of the fund-raising for the trail extension through Hillsdale. Phase two will involve seeking funds for the construction.

The extension is being coordinated with the Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association, a nonprofit group that oversees the existing trail, and Columbia Land Conservancy, which has been instrumental in working to extend the trail to its ultimate destination in Chatham, using the former right-of-way of the New York and Harlem Railroad.

Officials of Hillsdale and Copake view the trail extension as vital to bringing more tourists to their communities and attracting new stores, restaurants and other services.

For more information about the expansion project visit the alliance’s website, www.railtrailextension.com.

Submitted by Bart Ziegler, co-chair of the Copake Hillsdale Rail Trail Alliance.

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