Land Conservancy sees link from city to Greenport
HUDSON – A new “Concept Master Plan” produced by the Columbia Land Conservancy outlines how the City of Hudson could work with the county to create a system of trails connecting the city to the 714-acre Greenport Conservation Area. Overall, the plan would give the public access to 1,000 acres of protected land, including the tidal wetlands of the North Bay.
The key aspect of the plan, released this week in a booklet of over 50 pages with an accompanying CD containing further supporting materials, is use of the land that served as the city’s landfill until it was closed in the mid-1990s. The landfill was covered by topsoil and vents and drains were added to cope with gases and potentially harmful liquids that escape from buried trash. Because of the trash below the surface state restrictions limit use of the property. But the plan for what the document calls the Hudson North Bay Recreation and Natural Area, address those issues several different ways.
The county owns the landfill site, and the city owns much of the surrounding property. And while the state Department of Environmental Conservation requires monitoring to detect any leaks from the site into nearby wetlands and the Hudson River for another 15 years he Land Conservancy plan sees the public ownership of the property as an opportunity because the land for the project would not have to be purchased from private owners.
The plan does not attach an estimated cost for creating the trails and the educational and interpretive signs and other uses the document envisions.
The press release accompanying the introduction of the plan quotes Hudson Mayor Richard Scalera expressing his full support for the project. But Mr. Scalera, whose term as mayor ends in December, is not seeking reelection. Asked in a brief phone interview Tuesday, August 9, where the city might find the money to build the trails, Mr. Scalera said “I absolutely don’t have any idea.”
The proposal to use the landfill for some public purpose, including a site for trails, has been discussed for years. And the fate of the site and of the North Bay are considered in the city’s draft Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan. That plan has been under discussion for more than 20 years without obtaining final approval from the state, but Mayor Scalera said this week that he expected a final version of the waterfront plan to come before the Common Council next month for a final vote.
Peter Paden, executive director of the Columbia Land Conservancy, said that the new North Bay plan is consistent with the “general concept for public access” outlined in the waterfront plan, and regardless of the long delays that have weighed on the waterfront revitalization proposal, he says local officials are supporting the North Bay plan. “The city and county are suitably enthusiastic about this,” he said this week.
The only sign that the rolling hills were a waste heap from 1962 until the mid-1980s are the white, PVC pipes with elbows on top that periodically protrude about five feet above the lush grass. They are used to vent the methane that seeps up from the rotting garbage. A technical study of the landfill produced in late 2009 by Crawford & Associates Engineering in Hudson and appended to the North Bay document cites government recommendations that covered landfills like Hudson’s cannot handle heavy vehicle or foot traffic. The material in the landfill could also shift, especially if there are large crowds gathered there, but the Crawford report says that even with crowds, “modifications can be completed to accommodate such uses.”
Along with the Crawford report, the Land Conservancy document offers a 134-page natural resource inventory, which lists and discusses the rich diversity of flora and fauna already thriving in the area.
Mr. Paden says the plan for the trails and educational uses “aren’t set in stone,” and could be modified as conditions require. He sees the plan as having a more general purpose. “We hope this study will inspire the city and the county to take up this project,” he said.
The Catskill Mountains directly across the river from the site were shrouded in clouds this week as the report was released, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of Mayor Scalera. With excitement obvious excitement in his voice he talked about the view from atop the old landfill at the north end of Second Street, saying, “It’s gorgeous up there.”
The North Bay plan was funded by the Hudson River Foundation. The foundation’s website, www.hudsonriver.org, says the organization came out of a 1981 agreement “among environmental groups, government regulatory agencies and utility companies” that sought to resolve lengthy legal controversies over environmental impacts of power plants on the river.
The full Concept Master Plan: Hudson North Bay Recreation and Natural Area is online at the Columbia Land Conservancy website, http://clctrust.org.