The Ninham Trail to help manage visitation at Breakneck Ridge
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) and Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail Inc. (HHFT ) have partnered to create a new trail on Breakneck Ridge in Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve that will protect sensitive habitats, reduce incidence of injured and lost hikers, ensure hiker safety, and provide an alternate route to ascend the popular and scenic ridgeline.
This is the first construction project managed by the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail, a new non-profit working with State Parks and the 19 other project partners to advance the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail linear park between Beacon and Cold Spring. "The Fjord Trail will be a gateway to the Hudson Highlands. It will both organize and manage existing high-use areas like Breakneck, create safe connections for walkers and cyclists, and create new opportunities for all ages and abilities to enjoy this wonderful landscape. This trail is a great first step in achieving the many goals we've set out to accomplish," said Amy Kacala, Executive Director of Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail, Inc.
"This important partnership has created a critical safety improvement to one of this park's most popular trails," said State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid. "This will alleviate overcrowding on the Breakneck Ridge Trail and give less experienced hikers a safer way to get back to trailheads on Route 9D. State Parks also had critical support from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, which allowed a portion of this trail to go through its property."
The trail's name, Ninham Trail, acknowledges Wappinger chief Daniel Ninham (1726–1778) a respected leader of the Wappinger people, whose ancestral lands, along with those of the Lenape and Munsee, include the idyllic landscape now known as the Hudson Highlands. The trail adds the option of a one-hour loop centered on the "flagpole" area of the Breakneck Ridge Trail to the current two- and three-hour loop hike options on the mountain.
Lucy Waletzky, chair of the Taconic Regional Park Commission and one of the donors for the project said, "I was happy to help support this beautifully constructed trail which will be enjoyed by so many people seeking an easier alternative to the summit."
New York City Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Vincent Sapienza said, "New York City was happy to allow the use of our lands to improve access and safety along the Breakneck Ridge trails. The past few years have brought a significant increase in outdoor recreation across the region, which means that governments and nonprofits must manage high-use areas with considerable planning and collaboration. Our partnership with New York State Parks will help to adapt the network of trails on Breakneck Ridge to meet the needs of hikers who seek its stunning views of the Hudson River Valley."
Evan Thompson, Park Manager for Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve, said the new trail will help both reduce lost and injured hiker calls and preserve the mountain habitat. "Hikers get lost and injured when they try to go off trail. What we've observed is that novice hikers often reach the false summit and decide they don't think they can finish the hike. They try to find a way down from the flag pole and that's when we have problems," he said.Given that data gathered by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference Trail Stewards shows most people who hike Breakneck are either novice hikers or, in fact, attempting Breakneck Ridge as their first hike, the problem is notable. Lost and injured hikers create a draw on staff time and emergency response teams from local departments, it also causes disturbance and vegetation loss as people walk through sensitive habitats of the mountain on their off-trail descents.
Linda Cooper, Regional Director at State Parks, is enthusiastic about the new trail. "Breakneck is our most heavily-used trail and overuse conditions have been concerning both us and the community for some time. This project will really help better manage traffic and protect the important habitats on the mountain. We've closed social trails around the false summit, added new wayfinding to the Ninham Trail and will continue educating hikers about the importance of being prepared for hikes and staying on the trail."
Trail building company Tahawus Trails, with assistance from the Jolly Rovers, constructed the new trail between October 2020 and July 2021. The half-mile trail has more than 500 expertly engineered stone stairs carefully harvested from the slopes of Breakneck. The Ninham Trail opens to the public July 1, 2021. Once open, foot traffic on the Breakneck Ridge ascent will become one-way (up only); the new trail will be two-directional.
The Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail will offer a linear park inviting people of all abilities to immerse themselves in the beauty of the Highlands and river landscapes. It will serve as the gateway to some of the most breathtaking and popular day hikes in the United States, including Breakneck Ridge, Mount Taurus and Little Stony Point. Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail, Inc. is a subsidiary organization of Scenic Hudson. https://www.hudsonfjordtrail.org/
The mission of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is to provide safe and enjoyable recreational and interpretive opportunities for all New York State residents and visitors and to be responsible stewards of our valuable natural, historic and cultural resources. https://parks.ny.gov/