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Chairman’s Corner: Amtrak fence proposal not an acceptable approach

January 9, 2019 12:42 pm Updated: January 9, 2019 01:06 pm

 

Back in March 2018, Amtrak — citing safety concerns — proposed to erect 8,600 feet of 8’-high fence and gates in various locations between Milepost 141 and Milepost 75, and near Milepost 163.96, in its right-of-way along the Hudson River. In more plain language, the fencing would directly affect the Columbia County towns of Germantown, Stockport and Stuyvesant by restricting longstanding public access to the river.

Since that time, the efforts of community leaders and the public have forestalled Amtrak’s application. However, that does not mean it has gone away.

To that end, there is a NYSDOT/Amtrak public meeting scheduled for Jan. 29, at the Kellner Community Activities Center, 50 Palatine Park Road, Germantown. The tentative time is 5-7 p.m., with an inclement weather date of Feb. 5.

Following a long period of time in which it seemed that access to the Hudson River was in so many ways shut off from the public, in more recent times there has been a realization that to do so robs everyone of the opportunity to enjoy the river.

For centuries, including the years well before railroad tracks were constructed along the river, it has been used for recreational activities that include fishing, swimming, and boating. At the same time, picnics and barbecues are popular on the various parks along the river’s length.

To come along and attempt to restrict access with very little consideration for traditional public uses is not an acceptable approach. And with that are safety concerns arising from fire and water rescue efforts in and along the riverfront.

I think it is important for Amtrak to work with the community to do what’s best for all concerned prior to the implementation of a final plan. There has to be a happy medium in the balance of access and safety.

It should be made clear that all representatives serving on the Columbia County Board of Supervisors is fully committed to promoting safe conditions, regardless the situation, for our residents and visitors.

In the Town of Germantown, with multiple access points to the river, in one case Amtrak’s plan calls for fencing off — with a gate at either end — a four-mile stretch of the right of way between Lasher Park at the north and Cheviot Park at the south.

As Germantown Town Supervisor Rob Beaury has pointed out, “We don’t consider these fences to be necessary, especially to the degree Amtrak is talking about. Where we do agree there’s a need for a barrier, it doesn’t have to be an eight-foot tall iron fence. It can be something less offensive to the eye.”

Next time, among other things I’ll discuss fire and rescue concerns, the New York State Coastal Management Program, and other issues.

This is part one of a two-part series.

Reach Matt Murell at matt.murell@columbiacountyny.com.