Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Press Release

April 11, 2015

Randy Simons | Dan Keefe
(518) 486-1868 |

State Parks Announces Completion of 1.2-Mile Extension of Harlem Valley Rail Trail

New addition is first extension of multi-county, nationally recognized recreation trail in 10 years

As part of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's NY Parks 2020 plan, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) today announced the completion of a $614,900 project to extend the Harlem Valley Rail Trail by 1.2 miles in the Town of Copake, the first new section of the trail constructed since 2005.

"The scenic Harlem Valley Rail Trail connects communities and visitors to the breathtaking Taconic Mountain Range, Taconic State Park and beyond," said State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey. "With this new addition, we're increasing access to both open space and various recreational opportunities. I thank Governor Cuomo for his investment and leadership in advancing New York State to a healthier, more environmentally conscious future, and our outstanding partners in the Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association for their efforts in seeing this to reality."

The paved addition extends the trail from the entrance of Taconic State Park in Copake Falls north to Orphan Farm Road, bringing the total length of trail in Columbia County to over five miles. Rather than taking a typical linear route that most rail trails take, the new trail follows a meandering path through the meadow south of Orphan Farm Road. This was done for aesthetic reasons and in consideration of the nearby wetland area.

Users of the new trail are treated to pleasant views of the surrounding rural landscape. The trail also features a mile marker located at the same spot as it was when the former Harlem Division of the New York Central Railroad line, abandoned in 1976, ran through the property.

The Harlem Valley Rail Trail stretches 46 miles in entirety in eastern Dutchess and Columbia counties. Today, over 14 miles of the National Recreation Trail is paved in two different sections, with the Dutchess portion under the care of Dutchess County Parks and the Columbia County portion under the jurisdiction of State Parks.

The project involved collaboration between multiple entities, including State Parks, the Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association (HVRTA) and the Columbia Land Conservancy (CLC). Funding for the design and planning stages of the project were made possible through a State Parks Environmental Protection Fund matching grant awarded to the Columbia Land Conservancy, who applied on behalf of the Rail Trail Association. The Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association provided a 25 percent match to the $121,965 grant and successfully contributed $40,655.

"This beautiful new section of trail is only the beginning of the great partnership between HVRTA and State Parks," said Lisa DeLeeuw, Executive Director of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association. "I want to thank everyone from Parks that made construction of this new section a reality. The Harlem Valley Rail Trail is truly a gem and will be a great asset to the communities in Columbia County it will pass through."

"The Columbia Land Conservancy has been working to bring this great project to fruition for twenty years. We are thrilled to be able to celebrate this great milestone today, and we salute the tremendous work of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association and New York State OPRHP in completing this new section. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with these and other organizations and individuals in the community and to provide whatever assistance we can to make the dream of a 46-mile trail all the way to Chatham a reality," said Peter Paden, Executive Director of the Columbia Land Conservancy.

"The completion of this extension to the Harlem Valley Rail Trail is wonderful news for the Town of Copake, Columbia County and everyone who loves New York's great outdoors. This project is a model of cooperation between local communities, conservation organizations and our State Parks and state government. The Harlem Valley Rail Trail adds real value and promotes the natural scenic beauty that is at the heart of our Columbia County community," said State Senator Kathy Marchione.

"The completion of this new phase of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail is a wonderful example of what working together at the local and state level can accomplish. Many thanks to State Parks, Columbia Land Conservancy and the Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association for their stewardship. Locals and visitors alike will now have extended opportunity to enjoy our beautiful region," said Assemblymember Didi Barrett.

Construction of the project was funded with $614,900 from Governor Cuomo's NY Parks 2020 Plan, which also provided $1.1 million to make improvements at Taconic State Park a possibility in 2014. Since taking office, Governor Cuomo has advanced $421 million in repair and improvement projects at 109 state parks and historic sites across the state, including multiple facilities in the Taconic Region.

Taconic State Park's Copake Falls Area is located in Copake Falls, NY, along the state's border with Massachusetts. The park provides swimming, camping, hiking, and bicycling opportunities, history education programs at the Copake Iron Works site, and convenient access to the Harlem Valley Rail Trail and Massachusetts' Bash Bish Falls State Park. Taconic State Park also operates the separate Rudd Pond Area, located in northeastern Dutchess County. First created through the donation of 28 acres of land from Francis and Ella R.K. Masters and opened to the public in 1927, Taconic State Park was the first state park established in the Taconic Region (Columbia, Dutchess, Putnam and Westchester Counties).

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation oversees 180 state parks and 35 historic sites, which are visited by 62 million people annually. Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, New York State is making a historic commitment to improving and expanding access to outdoor recreation. The Governor's NY Parks 2020 program is a multi-year commitment to leverage $900 million in private and public funding for State Parks from 2011 to 2020. The Governor's 2015-16 Executive Budget allocates $110 million toward this initiative.