Best New Trail: Hudson River Valley Greenway and Water Trail
Just as the famous New Yorker cover depicted a tiny, barren and unpeopled view of the country to the west, between the Hudson River and the Pacific Ocean, the vast territory to the north known as "Upstate" is a similar blank in the minds of many Manhattanites. So it may come as a shock to the 8.3 million New York City residents to learn that there's a 256-mile Water Trail for kayakers, with stops along the way for picnickers, campers and tourists, stretching from New York Harbor up the Hudson River to Whitehall, N.Y., in the shadow of the Adirondack Mountains. And there's over 325 miles of riverside foot trails and almost 150 miles of designating biking trails.
The Hudson River Valley Greenway, a state agency created in 1991, has been working to coordinate the effort to build and connect land and water trails on both sides of the scenic Hudson River, and the 2009 quadricentennial of Henry Hudson's Voyage saw a flurry of additions to the trail network. Three new Water Trail sites and eight new trail segments have been added just in the last year, with more to come.
It's a grand plan in the mold of the Appalachian Trail but it's garnered a fraction of the attention it deserves. Not only is the Greenway working to build recreational trails cooperatively and without the use of eminent domain powers, but to revitalize communities along the river using smart growth strategies like public transportation hubs for village and city downtowns, surrounded by working farms and pristine landscapes rather than sprawling suburbs.
"What it boils down to, smart growth is about... getting people out of their cars, and creating walkable communities," Mark Castiglione, acting director of the Greenway told TheDailyGreen.com. "In a smart-growth future, you're looking at multiple options; in today's landscape, the majority of families don't have options. They can get in their car in their cul-de-sac and drive."
The trail segments include stunning sections in the foothills of the Hudson Highlands and Catskill Mountains, with vistas made famous by the 19th century Hudson River School painters; around historic mansions and estates, like F.D.R.'s home and library; and into the commercial centers of communities from Peekskill to Poughkeepsie to the Port of Albany.
For working to revitalize communities while creating a world-class recreational trail network that might just put "Upstate" on the map, the Hudson River Valley Greenway is the winner of the 2011 Heart of Green Best New Trail award.
* Also a People's Choice Award winner! *
See all the 2011 Heart of Green Award nominees for best new trail.