Thursday, August 20, 2020

An Issue That Hasn't Gone Away

In the spring of 2018, Amtrak's plan to install fences and gates along the river, at various points between Rhinecliff and Stuyvesant, met with protest from the communities whose access to the river would be affected. 

In January 2019, Amtrak withdrew its proposal to install the fences and gates, but that wasn't the end of it. In January 2020, Scenic Hudson began gathering data to create a Hudson River Access Plan, a plan that was completed at the end of March.

Last week, the Columbia Couny Board of Supervisors passed a resolution calling for a state-sanctioned regional river access plan. The press release making that announcement follows.
On Wednesday, August 12, the Columbia County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution (R236-2020) urging the NYS Department of State (DOS) to join our waterfront communities in a program to review regional public access needs and implementation of Local Waterfront Revitalization Programs (LWRPs). The Columbia County Board of Supervisors also recognize the need to take the Hudson River Access Plan to the next level with the creation of a state-sanctioned regional river access plan. 
Amtrak submitted to the New York State Department of State (NYSDOS) an application for Consistency Review on January 12, 2018, for a series of gates and fences at eight locations in five municipalities between Rhinebeck and Stuyvesant along the Empire Corridor South Hudson Line. Five of these eight locations are in the Columbia County municipalities of Germantown (at Cheviot Park, Lower Main Street, and Ernest R. Lasher Jr. Memorial Park), Stockport (at Stockport Creek), and Stuyvesant (at Stuyvesant Landing, Mile Post 123.88 and Ferry Rd) and are enjoyed by residents throughout the County. More recently, in a video conference with Columbia County officials and other stakeholders Amtrak described updates to the plan that, while its timing would be delayed, would add gates and fences at several new locations in Columbia County and at other places between Poughkeepsie and Castleton-on-Hudson.
Supervisors in these Columbia County towns have been leading the effort since March 2018 to work with Amtrak, DOS, and the NYS Department of Transportation and other riverfront communities on a collaborative approach to managing risk along the rail line rather than reducing access. Local officials and their partners are committed to finding ways to increase already scarce shoreline access for boating, fishing, hunting and other water-related recreation.  Columbia County’s resolution urges other riverfront communities to ask the DOS for assistance in creating a regional shoreline access plan. 
“As local officials we work with our stakeholders and value their input and hard work on this effort to balance access and safety along the tracks.  We will continue to work with our partners in government and Scenic Hudson on this particularly important issue,” said Matt B. Murell, Supervisor, Town of Stockport, and chair of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors.  
“Our residents and guests have enjoyed the waterfront for hundreds of years as a source of livelihood, recreation and relaxation. Amtrak is important to our region but is just a visitor passing through two dozen times a day. It is high time Amtrak works with local officials on the best plans for the communities we live in. The Departments of State and Transportation have obligations to the people of this state to protect their interests, not the interests of the railroad,” said Robert Beaury, Germantown Supervisor.
“This summer, while in the throes of the Covid crisis, people appreciate more than ever the importance of parks, open space and river access. Scenic Hudson applauds the Board of Supervisors for taking this proactive step in promoting a reasonable, systematic and regional approach to Hudson River shoreline access,” said Jeffrey Anzevino, Scenic Hudson director of land use advocacy.
In the original plan, the installation of fences and gates was to be carried out in two phases. Phase 1 did not involve Hudson, but, as Mayor Rick Rector discovered to his horror in December 2018, there was a Phase 2 that did. It is hoped that our Hudson supervisors and other elected officials are aware of what updates have been made to the plan and of how the plan in its current iteration may impact Hudson's riverfront.

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