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Amtrak withdraws fencing plan as communities push to preserve river access

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(Photo: Kathy Overington)
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A coordinated community response, supported by Riverkeeper, has given the public a seat at the table. This victory speaks to the public’s love for the Hudson and the willingness of municipalities to fight for it. Find out about ways to get involved in protecting the river.

Communities along the Hudson scored a success last month in pushing back against a railroad fencing plan that threatened access to the river. When a new planning process begins, the public will have a seat at the table. Riverkeeper is proud to support these local efforts, and will stay vigilant as the process moves forward.

(Photo: Kathy Overington)

On January 18 after months of public pressure, Amtrak announced it had withdrawn its plan to construct 8,200 feet of fencing with locked gates at numerous sites between Rhinecliff and Stuyvesant.

Running along the “Empire Corridor” (Amtrak’s rail line on the east shore of the Hudson between Poughkeepsie and Albany), the plan would have had drastic impacts on existing and historic community access to the Hudson River shoreline. As initially proposed, the plan accounted for only 1,770 feet of the fencing, leaving the specific location of the remaining 6,430 feet undetermined. Many of the locations proposed in the initial phase are historic water-related recreational access points used by many generations of local community members.

Community response

In response, the Town of Germantown and the Germantown Waterfront Advisory Committee began organizing to provide the public with information. They hosted an informational meeting in March and a rally in April to raise awareness about the gate and fence proposal. Scenic Hudson and the affected municipalities co-hosted a forum, Balancing Railroad Safety and Pedestrian Access, which explored the history of Hudson River access as well as modern solutions to balancing safety and access. The affected municipalities were also joined by the Village of Castleton-on-on-Hudson, which lost access to its Hudson River shoreline decades ago.

Public education and advocacy was led by the affected communities. Combined with the efforts of Scenic Hudson and support from Riverkeeper, a groundswell of opposition arose to the fencing plan. State officials were forced to take note.

Looking ahead

Finally, mounting public opposition inspired Amtrak to withdraw the proposal and revise the application in conjunction with a five-year plan to improve safety along the Empire Service Hudson Line. Amtrak promised, this time, to work closely with the affected communities, state and local government, and to hold public informational meetings prior to the submission of any new application.

The will of the people won the day, and shows what community will, organizing, and intermunicipal collaboration can accomplish. The efforts from the Town of Rhinebeck, City of Hudson, Town of Red Hook, Town of Stuyvesant, Village of Rhinebeck, Town of Germantown, Town of Clermont, Town of Livingston, Town of Stockport, the Village of Tivoli, Scenic Hudson and Riverkeeper speaks to the public’s unwavering love for the Hudson River, and the willingness of municipalities to fight for it.

Learn more from the communities organizing on behalf of their waterfront: gatesgate.org

Riverkeeper Sweep 2009, Germantown (Photo: Kathy Overington)

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