Although my days of long bike trips are over, I applaud Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino, who submitted a $2.75 million bond proposal to the Board of Legislators in January.
By Paul Hicks
Although my days of long bike trips are over, I applaud Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino, who submitted a $2.75 million bond proposal to the Board of Legislators in January. If approved, the funds would be used to finish the final phase of a 36-mile trailway running the length of Westchester, from Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx to the Putnam County line.
North/ South County and Putnam Trailways
Completion of the final .6-mile section around an industrial area in Elmsford would connect the 14-mile South County Trailway with the 22-mile North County Trailway. At Somers, the latter links with the Putnam Trailway, which continues northeast for an additional 12 miles to Brewster. For online maps see http://planning.westchestergov.com/off-road-multi-use-paths and http://www.putnamcountyny.com/parks-recreation/bike-path/.
The trailways run along the right-of-way of the Old Putnam Division of the New York Central Railroad, popularly known as the “Old Put,” which ceased passenger operations in 1958 and freight service in 1970. The project to convert the rail bed to a trailway began more than three decades ago, but as Astorino once noted, “Good things can indeed sometimes take a long time…Thousands of walkers, hikers and bike riders already use these trailways each year. It is one of our most popular county parks.”
The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) is a nationwide nonprofit organization that advocates for rail trails and provides many valuable services to interested communities and groups. A description of their mission on their website states: “Trails add value to our lives in so many ways — increasing our mobility, improving our health, spurring economic development and job creation, protecting our environment and creating powerful connections within, to and across communities.”
Bronx River Greenway
RTC has a searchable database of more than 30,000 trails in the U.S., not all of which are actual former railroad beds (www.railstotrails.org). A related website (www.traillink.com/) allows you to search for trails by city, state, zip code or keyword. One worth considering is the Bronx River Greenway, which will eventually stretch 23 miles along the river through Westchester and the Bronx. Currently, 18 miles of the trail are complete in disconnected segments, largely paralleling the Bronx River Parkway. The foot and bike pathway is part of the Bronx River Reservation, an 807-acre linear park that was established when the Bronx River Parkway was opened in 1925.
The paved sections include 4.6 miles between Palmer Road in Bronxville and Crane Road at Scarsdale Avenue in Scarsdale, with a loop around the small lake in Bronxville and 5 miles between Greenacres Avenue in Hartsdale and Kensico Dam Plaza in Valhalla. During spring and autumn, portions of the Bronx River Parkway are closed to motor vehicles, making a nice alternative to the path for bikes and other trail users.
Harlem Valley Rail Trail
Further away, the Harlem Valley Rail Trail provides a scenic ride through rolling farm fields and dense woods on the bed of the New York and Harlem Railroad that ran from New York City to Chatham. The rail-trail is being built in segments, and there is still work to be done to open all 46 miles of the planned trail. For now, you can enjoy three disconnected segments, which total just over 17 miles.
The southern end of the trail begins at the Metro North Railroad Station in Wassaic. As the paved trail winds north for nearly 11 miles to Millerton, it passes through farmland, followed by cedar scrubland and beaver ponds. Several railroad stations on this line have been restored, including the one at Millerton, which is the current end of the first section of rail-trail.
The village of Millerton has several good places for a meal, but our favorite is the rustic tea room at Harney & Sons. It not only offers a choice of some excellent blends of tea but also serves lunches of soup, sandwiches, salads, and desserts. It is hard (at least for us) to leave their place without an assortment of teas and other goodies.
Continuing north of Millerton on Route 22 will take you to Copake Falls where you can leave your car and enjoy the paved trailway for as long a round-trip as your endurance will allow.
Spring is less than two months away, so start making your plans, whether you are a biker, hiker, walker, or caregiver to someone in a stroller or wheel chair. In the meantime, write your County Legislators and urge them to approve the bond proposal.