On Thursday morning, Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro, joined by local officials and rail trail enthusiasts, celebrated the completion of the fourth and final phase of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail (HVRT) with a ceremonial ribbon cutting at the trail head at the Village Green in Millerton. The Phase IV project, which has been open for use since November, is an 8-mile segment that links Dutchess and Columbia counties. The completion of this section provides 23 miles of continuous trail from the Wassaic Train Station in Amenia to the Copake Falls area of the Taconic State Park in Columbia County.

The event also coincided with Earth Day; a fitting celebration of nature and the importance of preserving its valuable resources.

County Executive Molinaro said, “This extension of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail traverses some of the most picturesque landscapes and wetlands, giving safe, environmentally friendly access for residents and visitors alike to explore all that northeastern Dutchess has to offer. This project provided the greatest challenges, and its completion is the result of years of planning and work to ensure a balance between environmental protection and responsible fiscal management was achieved. We are grateful to our many partners for their dedication to making this linear park the masterpiece it has become and ensuring so many can enjoy the natural splendor we in Dutchess County hold so dear.”

The HVRT was Dutchess County’s first rail trail and has been a popular destination since the first segment was built in 1996. The Phase IV project borders environmentally sensitive areas at various sections and posed extensive environmental challenges, including native wetlands and endangered species in the area. The project’s design and construction team, comprised of engineering staff from Dutchess County’s Department of Public Works (DPW), and consulting firm CHA, has worked closely with multiple partners, including the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and Army Corps of Engineers, to overcome these challenges and preserve the natural resources and habitats along the trail.

Gregg Pulver, Chair of the Dutchess County Legislature, said, “The HVRT has brought social and economic prosperity to northeastern Dutchess County and, with this newest section now open, we are excited to see that vitality continue to grow. The Dutchess County Legislature is proud to have supported this project throughout its many phases because we see the value it brings to our communities. We are proud to join the County Executive, local leaders, and the Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association to celebrate the completion of this important project.”

The Phase IV project included the installation of approximately 4,100 feet of elevated boardwalks, the rehabilitation of six bridges, and installation of trail crossings at intersections with Main Street (Route 44), Beilke-State Line Road, Rudd Pond Road, White House Crossing Road, and Under Mountain Road. The project finished under budget with total costs estimated at $13 million. Dutchess County was responsible for $4 million of the project cost, with $120 thousand reimbursed by the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation and Columbia County for the portion within Columbia County, and the remaining $9 million supported by federal funding.

Richard Hermans, Board Chair of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association, said, “For almost two decades, residents and visitors have been drawn from all over to enjoy nature and the communities along the HVRT. The Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association is grateful for the leadership of Dutchess County Government and the support of the Legislature to bring this exciting final phase to fruition and expand the trail’s positive impact.”

For more information about Dutchess County Parks, visit dutchessny.gov/parks.