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Open Space Institute Announces Plan to Expand and Improve Recreational Access at Fahnestock State Park

Photo Credit: Sarah Seehafer

The Open Space Institute (OSI) today announced an extensive plan to improve recreational access at Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park. With the plan, OSI seeks to upgrade overall public access to Fahnestock; provide enhanced wayfinding signs for navigation; better accommodate new and existing users to the park; and deepen visitor engagement.

Undertaken as a series of projects, OSI’s Fahnestock Improvement Plan will make major upgrades to the trails between Hubbard Lodge and East Mountain Road, markedly improve access to OSI-protected lands in the northern section of Fahnestock State Park, and help transform State Route 301 into a true park drive.

“With this Fahnestock improvement plan, OSI is seeking to help visitors fully enjoy this scenic landscape by providing safe and managed access to the northern lands of the park,” said OSI’s president and CEO, Kim Elliman. “Over the years OSI has proudly doubled the size of Fahnestock State Park. Now, we want to ensure that this park and OSI-protected land is welcoming for public use and enjoyment.”

“State Parks is committed to improving the visitor experience and expanding access to our facilities,” said Tom Alworth, Executive Deputy Commissioner of New York State Parks. “We are grateful for the partnership of the Open Space Institute in advancing these projects to create safer and more welcoming access for both new and returning visitors to Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park.”

“I’m happy to see OSI and New York State Parks partnering with the people of New York and West Point to make Fahnestock an even greater park,” said Richard Shea, supervisor for the Town of Phillipstown.

“The Friends of Fahnestock and Hudson Highlands State Parks are so pleased that this plan is coming to fruition. As members of the community, each of us on the board is very aware of the important concerns these improvements will help to remedy. Number one is safety. Parking improvements will allow hikers and other trail users a safer experience while also improving the safety of all those traveling the Route 301 corridor through Fahnestock,” said Hank Osborn, President of the Friends of Fahnestock & Hudson Highlands State Parks. “Besides a safer parking experience, visitors will also enjoy improved access to more areas of the newer sections of the park. The success of this project to this point is already proving that a true public-private collaboration like the one between OSI and New York State Parks can indeed make good things happen for our park.”

OSI’s planned improvements at Fahnestock State Park include:

  • major improvements to several existing trails between Hubbard Lodge and East Mountain Road (Hubbard Perkins Loop Trail), upgrading the network to accommodate multiple trail user groups including walkers, hikers, runners, bikers, and equestrian
  • creating a new central trailhead to get people into the heart of the park’s northern half, serviced by Big Woods Drive, a new park access road
  • renovating the Appalachian Trail crossing at the south end of Canopus Lake including the construction of a new trailhead and off-road parking area
  • new park gateway and wayfinding signage at Route 9 and Taconic State Parkway

Hubbard Perkins Loop Trail

OSI’s Fahnestock Improvement Plan includes key updates to the 9-mile Hubbard Perkins Loop Trail including: the restoration and realignment of existing trails, construction of new pedestrian bridges and trail crossings, the creation of new trail sections, and the installation of new wayfinding signs and an informational kiosk at the Hubbard Lodge trailhead. The suite of updates will improve the experience of the park for regular users and new visitors.

For the past two years, OSI has partnered with New York State Parks and the cadets from the United States Military Academy at West Point to replace trail bridges near the Hubbard Lodge area as part of the larger, Hubbard-Perkins Loop Trail project. The partnership allows the cadets to take the skills and knowledge they have learned during their year-long capstone design civil engineering course and apply those skills in the execution of a project that benefits the community.

So far, the partnership has resulted in the completion of three bridge projects as part of the host of updates planned for Fahnestock State Park.

New Central Trailhead and Park Access

As part of the plan, OSI is seeking to create new interior access off Route 301 to the northern portion of Fahnestock State Park. The new Big Woods Drive will lead to an internal trailhead and trail access in this section of the park. The new park drive creates a separate public entrance from the existing narrow, steep, and high-traffic road that is currently used.

The design includes a small parking area and a new trailhead at the intersection of the Cabot and Perkins trails that connects with Fahnestock State Park’s greater trail network. A new kiosk and wayfinding materials will educate about the abundance of park offerings and help visitors navigate this expansive park.

Safety along the Big Woods Drive will be improved through better signage and improved grading that will gently slope to provide enhanced traction and eliminate blind spots. Rock outcroppings, naturally sourced from the park, will be used to maintain a state park aesthetic.

“We expect these improvements will help people love and appreciate this unparalleled landscape. This section of Fahnestock State Park has long been inaccessible to all but the most avid outdoor enthusiasts, but these upgrades will expand and improve recreational access, and most importantly visitor safety, to this exceptional park at an unprecedented scale,” stated OSI’s Kim Elliman.

OSI is also incorporating design elements for Big Woods Drive that will support the movement of wildlife. Near pockets of wetland, OSI will install crossing culverts, allowing animals of varying sizes to safely travel through the landscape. Each of these crossings maintain ‘natural bottom’ conditions which is particularly important for the movement of amphibians.

To create the entrance for the new interior access, OSI will be commencing tree removal along NYS Route 301 in February. Once the park improvements are made, OSI will re-landscape the area, including planting native tree species along the new entry. The newly planted area will act as a natural catchment for stormwater runoff, to further filter water before it enters the water table and lessen potential flooding to the road and trail areas.

Appalachian Trail Improvements

More than 10 miles of the Appalachian Trail (AT) travels through Fahnestock State Park. To improve safety and accommodate the increased foot traffic at the park from this nationally treasured trail, OSI will create a 15-car off-road parking area along NYS Route 301, replacing and formalizing a spot where visitors typically park along the shoulder of the busy state highway.

This new trailhead and parking area will eliminate the need for shoulder parking along the state highway and greatly improve visitor safety.

Additionally, OSI will relocate the path that connects hikers to the AT. The path relocation will reduce the on-road portion of the path, create a more scenic continuation of the AT, and create a safer and more visible road crossing to the trail.

New Gateway Signage

In 2019 OSI constructed new park entrance signs on Route 301 near the Taconic State Parkway and Route 9 intersection to increase the profile and navigability of the park. The road signage has established the magnitude and significance of Fahnestock State Park, while creating a sense of place and a park identity.

OSI’s Kim Elliman added, “The upgrades outlined in OSI’s Fahnestock Improvement Plan are a momentous win for the walkers, hikers, and nature-lovers who enjoy exploring this landscape or are interested in starting. These improvements are long overdue, and we are proud to protect natural resources at Fahnestock while making this park more prominent, navigable, and fun for all users.”

Support for the Project

OSI’s Fahnestock Improvement Projects are being funded through a combination of public and private sources. The Hubbard Perkins Loop Trail project was planned and designed thanks to a donation from Lucy R. Waletzky, Chair of the NY State Council of Parks and the Taconic Regional Commission and is being implemented with additional of support from New York State grants and private donors. The projects to improve public access to Fahnestock State Park, including the creation of a new park access road, the Appalachian Trail improvements, and the new park signage are being generously funded by the Topfield Foundation.

About the Open Space Institute

The Open Space Institute protects scenic, natural and historic landscapes to provide public enjoyment, conserve habitat and working lands, and sustain communities. Founded in 1974 to protect significant landscapes in New York State, OSI has been a partner in the protection of nearly 2.2 million acres in North America.

Since the 1990s, working in partnership with the State of New York, OSI has doubled the size of Fahnestock State Park, bringing the park to more than 14,000 acres of protected woodlands, valleys, and plateaus. Now, OSI is continuing its commitment to this beloved landscape by carrying out critically needed access improvements so that future generations can continue to enjoy the park.

In 2016 OSI completed the first phase of the Fahnestock Improvement Plan through a successful public-private partnership which revitalized the Canopus Lake Beach Complex. The OSI-led campaign raised 1.25 million in grants and private funding to improve and update the park’s main courtyard, terrace spaces, café, ski and snowshoe rental areas, and year-round restroom facilities.

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