Down at the base of Mount Beacon, the city's only bike shop, Peoples Bicycle, will remain open because Tim Schopen, a cycle shop enthusiast and mountain biker himself, bought it. But this trailblazer isn't stopping with keeping the lights on in a Main Street shop. He has buddied up with some mountain biker friends, forming an informal group in 2009 called Hudson Highlands Mountain Bikers (HHMTB). They've dedicated themselves to blazing new trails in the mountains above and around Beacon. Tom Cerchiara, of TEC Land Surveying PC, is a co-founder of HHMTB and has been up in the mountains plotting out trails. The group plans to carve out new mountain biking paths north of the Melzingah Reservoir and on the Fishkill Ridge, specifically from the Gordons Brook Notch up to the Red Casino Trail, between the fire tower and casino ruins.
Despite the growing number of rough-terrain mountain bikers that routinely ride in this area, there exist only a few trails on which they can roll, making Beacon less of a draw for a challenging day on a bike. "Right now, the only way up to the top of Mount Beacon on a bike is the access road, which gets boring and is not very fun," says Cerchiara. "This trail will help support future trails on the Fishkill Ridge."
Working with the approval and support of New York State Parks, HHMTB looked at the Master Planning Process for Hudson Highlands State Park and Fahnestock State Park, then collaborated with other groups who use the trails, including NY/NJ Trail Conference, horse clubs, hunting clubs, and others.
And then, recently, a trail on the mountain was vandalized. "This past fall, one of the bike trails we already have up there [at] YKTO ('You Know The One' aka the Melzingah Trail) was vandalized in a way that made it dangerous to riders," Cerchiara recalls. "This is a legal trail that was built many years ago and was included in the Master Plan for the Park in 2010. We contacted State Parks about this and they were very interested in stopping the vandalism and wanted to meet with us about new trails."
New and Old Trails
The first trail that HHMTB is working on will also serve to connect the existing trails on top of the mountain to the bike trails near Melzingah. The second trail will be on the north side of the access road. "This trail will be a singletrack trail that will provide the opportunity of a quick 45-minute to an hourlong ride," Cerchiara envisions. The HHMTB also intends for this trail to be an exit trail for rides that run onto the Fishkill Ridge, making it a long trail ride to connect any trails on the Fishkill Ridge to the trails on the south side of Mount Beacon.
But that's not all. HHMTB intends to partially re-route existing trails as well. One of them is Broken Bomber, a trail that was based on some left over from the days of skiing on the mountain. It runs from the casino to the Pocket Road trailhead. Another planned re-routing is Dewindt’s Trail, which partially parallels the Casino trail (between the casino and fire tower) on an existing trail that is over 100 years old.
Next Steps For Trail Making
The mountain bikers from HHMTB are out in the wild, hiking around, trying to find routes that will work. "Once we find suitable routes, we will be back in contact with the state Parks Department and they will perform an environmental review of the proposed routes. When/if they approve the routes we will begin construction of the trails," says Cerchiara. If all goes well, the approval process will take place during the first half of 2017, and construction in the fall of 2017.
What is involved in trail construction? "Lots of shovel work," admits Cerchiara with a deep breath. "We have to 'bench-cut' most of this trail in. Bench-cutting is when you build a trail cross-slope and literally cut a bench into the slope. Beacon has a lot of rock and is very steep, which means a lot of the trail will be bench-cut and there are a lot of rocks to move and work around."
If all goes well, the trails may be done by mid-2018. So get in shape now!