GERMANTOWN–Scenic Hudson hosted a public meeting here Saturday, January 4 to introduce residents to the group’s Hudson River Shoreline Access Plan.
The plan seeks to gather information on how and where people use the river for fishing, recreation and education, as well learn about locations residents would like to use so the plan can identify gaps in public access.
“Scenic Hudson has always been concerned with connecting people to the Hudson River,” said Jeff Anzevino, director of Land Use Advocacy at Scenic Hudson, who added, “It’s not a secret that the railroad is one of the biggest challenges to gaining access to the river.”
In January 2018 Amtrak submitted a Federal Consistency Assessment Form detailing the proposed
installation of impasse fences and gates along the Amtrak right of way in five communities at eight
locations from Rhinecliff in northern Dutchess County to the town of Stuyvesant, including at least three locations in Germantown. That proposal was ultimately withdrawn after coordinated public opposition, but Amtrak is expected to present another plan in the coming weeks.
According to Germantown Supervisor Robert Beaury, “In the very near future Amtrak will resubmit its application to the New York Department of State to install fences and gates in our town at the Ernest R. Lasher Jr. Memorial Park, lower Main Street, and Cheviot Landing.”
The state Department of State has the authority to approve or deny Amtrak’s application. But Scenic Hudson hopes the Hudson River Shoreline Access Plan will demonstrate that gates and fences are inconsistent with current state policy.
“We need to show New York State that people are using the river for water-related recreational purposes so that they understand that if Amtrak builds the gates and fences that they are proposing, this would reduce peoples’ access,” said Mr. Anzevino. “That would violate the
state’s Coastal Management Plan.”
Scenic Hudson has commissioned Peter Melewski LLC and a consultant team consisting of Alta Planning and former Deputy Secretary of State George Stafford to draft the Hudson River Shoreline Access Plan.
Through the end of January, residents may use the interactive map at HudsonRiverAccess.org to detail their use of the Hudson River in Columbia County and beyond.
Mr Anzevino said this is an opportunity for the public to “weigh in as to where they use the river, and
how and where would they would like to use the river, except that for various reasons they are unable. We are committed to demonstrating to the state with a model process based on public involvement that people are hungering for more river access. Further, this would show that the railroad is a major obstacle to that access,” he said.
Scenic Hudson expects to complete the Hudson River Shoreline Access Plan and present it to the state Department of State in the spring of 2020. The group expects to include proposed hazard mitigation that it believes will be superior to locked gates and fences.
Regarding the concern for safety as cited by Amtrak, Mr. Anzevino suggested that “everybody work
together to find the third mode, the third way. It’s not gates and fences versus access, or safe versus unsafe. There are ways to provide both. We can find ways to make it safe without losing our access.” As for the communities along the river already affected by limited access, Mr. Anzevino said, “We are looking to open up public access along a very long stretch of river.”
The public can provide input online at HudsonRiverAccess.org .