Rail Trail Alliance raises needed matching funds

COPAKE–The Copake Hillsdale Rail Trail Alliance has raised the matching funds required by a $121,965 state grant, putting the proposed extension of the Harlem Valley Rail Trail a step closer to reality.

The grant from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation totals $162,620, with the $40,655 matching amount raised by the community group. The money, which will be administered by the Columbia Land Conservancy, will be used to hire a firm with expertise in trail design to create a conceptual design and final construction drawings, as well as necessary supporting studies, for the five-mile extension.

The new section will run north from Copake Falls through the hamlet of Hillsdale. The goal is to have the drawings ready in 12 months.

The expanded trail will link the two communities to the new Roe Jan Community Library and Roe Jan Park with a safe, off-road path for bikers, walkers, runners and cross-country skiers of all ages.

Nancy Schultz, a Copake resident who is co-chair of the rail trail alliance, said residents of Copake and Hillsdale had contributed generously to the matching amount the alliance had to raise.

Bart Ziegler of Hillsdale, the alliance’s other co-chair, said in the release announcing the matching funds, “We also want to thank the Rheinstrom Hill Community Foundation and Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, which gave major support to the effort.”

Raising the $40,000 matching amount brings to a successful conclusion phase one of the fundraising for the trail extension through Hillsdale. Phase two will involve seeking funds for the construction.

The extension is being coordinated with the Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association, a nonprofit group that oversees the existing trail, and Columbia Land Conservancy, which has been instrumental in working to extend the trail to its ultimate destination in Chatham.

More information about the expansion project is at the alliance website, www.railtrailextension.com.

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