Shakespeare & Company A Body of Water June-July 2024

State gives Copake $40K for hamlet… waterfront?


Funds intended to spur business development

COPAKE—Town officials hope the Harlem Valley Rail Trail will provide a path to economic growth in the Copake hamlet.

Copake Hamlet Revitalization Task Force Chair Roberta Roll announced at the January 11 Town Board meeting that the town is the recipient of a $40,000 Local Waterfront Revitalization planning grant through the New York Department of State.

Ms. Roll wrote the successful grant application and the Town Board voted to accept the grant at the meeting.

The town was eligible to apply for the grant because, at the town’s request, the State Legislature designated the Roeliff Jansen Kill, the Bash Bish Brook and the Taghkanic Creek, all of which flow through Copake, as inland waterways.

The grant will fund the creation of a plan for “waterfront and hamlet revitalization to enhance business development, agri-tourism and recreational tourism,” according to a letter Ms. Roll wrote to the Town Board in January.

Job creation, quality of life improvements, natural resource and historic preservation, infrastructure improvement, conservation and sustainability to enhance the town’s revitalization and community stability are all project goals.

A “significant piece” of the project is evaluating the creation new pedestrian and bicycle trail linking the Harlem Valley Rail Trail to the hamlet of Copake, other links mentioned are to the Taconic State Park, the Copake Town Park and the Roe Jan Library.

The vision involves a network of bicycle trails that would make Copake “a bicycle destination,” Ms. Roll said.

Sometimes called the Copake Spur, the roughly half-mile trail would connect with the rail trail at Valley View Road, perhaps travel along the Bash Bish Brook, cross Route 22 and enter the hamlet near the northern County Route 7A access route. It would end somewhere near the old Hub restaurant.

The most challenging obstacle, as has been the case with the Harlem Valley Rail Trail near Black Grocery Road, is crossing Route 22.

Options include an “at grade crossing,” using an existing old cow tunnel under the road, installing a new tunnel or making a path along the Bash Bish Brook under the existing steel bridge. All the land in question belongs to the Kiernan family, which owns Walt’s Dairy LLC, a fourth generation dairy farm at 328 Valley View Road.

Conversations about the spur trial plan have been had with the Kiernans over the years, said Ms. Roll, but nothing has been decided.

Perhaps when a consultant is hired to formulate the plan “they might come up with other options for that spur that we haven’t thought about,” Ms. Roll noted.

Once a consultant is hired, she expects a plan could take up to a year to complete.

The $40,000 is a matching funds grant and the town will put up its share of the money using in-kind services, $32,000 worth of hours of which has already been accrued, according to Ms. Roll.

During the public comment portion of the January Town Board meeting, Copake Falls resident Edgar Masters said once the rail trail is built north of Millerton and if Copake can connect to it, the same economic boon that the rail trail has brought to Millerton will come to Copake. He said the town should try to do it.

The Copake Spur project is completely separate from the Harlem Valley Rail Trail. “It has nothing to do with us,” Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association, Inc., Executive Director Lisa DeLeeuw told The Columbia Paper this week.

The 46-mile rail trail, part of the former Harlem Division of the New York Central Railroad, starts in Wassaic, with 10.7 miles paved to Millerton. There is an 8-mile break where the trail is not yet paved between Millerton and Undermountain Road, Ancram; from Undermountain, the trail is paved for 5 miles through the Taconic State Park to Orphan Farm; there is a one mile break from Orphan Farm across Route 22 to Black Grocery Road, where the paved trail resumes for a mile and a half to Anthony Street, Copake.

Ms. DeLeeuw estimates about 20 miles of trail is currently in use. She said the entire length of the trail to Chatham has been “master planned.” When exactly the trail will be complete is “a matter of funding” though she is confident a finished trail will happen within her lifetime.

To contact Diane Valden email

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