Columbia Memorial Health (1) Careers

County’s western side has walks filled with history

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BY DEBORAH E. LANS

CHATHAM—If the hustle and bustle of urban life in, say, Chatham, Philmont, Valatie, Kinderhook or Hudson, gets to be too much, why not walk to a near-by nature trail for a break?

In Chatham, for example, a StoryWalk® has been created through the woods alongside Smith Pond, opposite the high school. The trail loop begins and ends at the boat launch on Shore Road, next to a picnic table. As Jenifer Rosete of the Columbia Land Conservancy (CLC), one of the partners that created the walk, explains, “Storywalks are deconstructed children’s books that are placed along walking trails, meant to be read as you complete the trail.”

Currently, the story at Smith Pond is Carole Lindstrom’s “We Are Water Protectors,” an indigenous-inspired call to protect the Earth’s waters. Soon to come is “Over and Under the Pond” written by Kate Messner and illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. The book explores the underwater ecosystem of a pond.

Smith Pond in Chatham

Like so many of the county’s walks, hints of Chatham’s industrial history crop up along the way; where the trail loops around, the walker will spot the foundations of a by-gone ice house. It stored ice chopped and hauled from the pond that was used (depending on the local source you credit) either at the Borden Milk factory in Chatham or to line refrigerated railroad cars headed to New York City with meat and produce and stopping at the railroad hub that Chatham then was.

The walk melds the sounds of the high school’s outdoor athletes, the whistles of passing trains, chickadees, and gently lapping water.

The Smith Pond project was a collaboration of CLC, the Chatham Area Recreation Project (CARP), the Chatham Central School District and the Chatham Public Library.

Just outside of, and walkable from, Chatham on Route 66 are the Town’s 50-acre Crellin Park and 100-acre PS21, which have interconnected trails that abut the Stony Kill Creek and its piney woods and wander the open fields of the former apple orchard that houses PS21. The PS21 trails also include Solo Pavilion, a large cherry wood sculpture by Canaan artist James Casebere. A trail map can be found at https://21chatham.org

PHILMONT

Just outside, and walking distance from, the village of Philmont on Roxbury Road is CLC’s High Falls Conservation Area. Hemlock woods surround the Agawamuck Creek (Mohican for “stream of many fish”) and the county’s highest waterfall. The trails include a Nature Quest, a hunt to find the animals that live in the area. Reminders of Philmont’s factory past include the former Summit Knitting Mill, at the top of the hill above the falls. There are also plans to connect the Harlem Valley Rail Trail through the village. Information is at www.hvrt.org/the-trail

VALATIE

The Kinderhook Creek anchors two walks in Valatie. Off Route 203 at Elm Street is the Pachaquack Preserve. Trails wind through meadows (indeed, sources say that “Pachaquack” is Mohican for “open meadows” or “cleared meeting place”). A one-mile loop follows the creek from above, starting in a hemlock woods that is in earshot of the Beaver Mill Falls, so named for what was once the county’s largest cotton mill that was sited just above the falls.

A sign marks the area along the trail where it is believed that Henry Knox’s 59-piece “Noble Train of Artillery” crossed the area on route to Boston to help the besieged Patriot and Militia Army, leading to the British evacuation of Boston.

At the foot of River Street, past the partly collapsed, historic 1896 Gimp textile mill and the c1760 Hoes House (Martin Van Buren’s mother’s home), is the barely-marked River Street Park. The park includes four miles of trails, some of which lie just next to the creek and give access to it for waders and rafters. River Street Park is also adjacent to the 36 mile state Albany-Hudson Electric Trail (AHET). Information on that trail is at hudsongreenway.ny.gov/albany-hudson-electric-trail

Valatie trails can also be seen at veravalatie.com

KINDERHOOK

At the corner of Railroad and Albany avenues in Kinderhook sits the recently-refreshed Mills Park. The park sports a spanking new Little Library, connection to the AHET, butterfly gardens, benches, and a trail that parallels Albany Avenue and leads out to the Kinderhook Reformed Church Cemetery. Martin Van Buren is buried there, as are many others whose names are now borne by local roads.

HUDSON

A chain of small parks along the Hudson River (linked via Front Street) offer salty breezes, a view of the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse and the Catskills beyond, and an entertaining parade of passing bird and boat life.

Rick’s Point Riverfront Park can be accessed at Broad and Front Streets, just south of the Amtrak station. The parking area is lined with the barnacles scraped off boats and piers. A picnic table allows for en plein air dining shaded by an old willow tree.

At the adjoining Henry Hudson Waterfront Park a “Learning Path” featuring colorful nutritional guidance weaves along the route to the river shore, a gazebo and more river views.

Farther along Front Street and at the foot of Warren Street is the recently reworked Promenade Hill Park. It dates back to 1795, when the site was known as Parade Hill, because troops were wont to parade there. The park is accessible to all and offers stunning views, up- and down-river. The walk at the hilltop facing the river is lined with benches.

On Cemetery Road the Hudson City Cemetery is a favorite dog-walking area. Lovingly landscaped and well-maintained, the cemetery offers a demographic history, displaying all the immigrant nationalities that made up the area. It also has a separate area for veterans of the Revolutionary and Civil Wars and a separate Jewish cemetery. It abuts the newer Cedar Park Cemetery.

An audio tour of the Hudson City Cemetery, as well as other county walks, can be accessed at geotourist.com

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