The Harlem Valley Appalachian Trail Community™ (HVATC) was born of a unique partnership between the towns of Dover and Pawling, New York. The first two towns (and hopefully not the last) to apply jointly for an A.T. Community designation, it has been a huge success for all involved - one that has already yielded benefits to hikers, the community and to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.
Community leaders from both towns worked shoulder to shoulder on the application, reinforcing a shared commitment to protect and promote the Trail, and to offer hospitality to visitors. During the application process, the committee engaged a cross-section of interested parties in the Harlem Valley. Energized by the experience, various groups have begun projects and programs centered around the Trail and outdoor recreation. The Libraries have begun two projects that will offer additional resources to hikers and encourage residents to explore the Trail. The Pawling and Dover Scouts participated together in HVATC’s Warrior Hiker Reception, and are working on other projects that will incorporate the Trail. One of our Board members is a veteran Trail to Every Classroom (TTEC) participant and shares her conservation knowledge with the Pawling and Dover School Districts. Her community outreach will include all the local schools. HVATC is partnering with Advisory Committee members and others (Hike for Mental Health) to offer hikes that showcase different features of or experiences on the Trail. In addition, the group has reached out to sister A.T. Communities for advice and guidance. HVATC leverages the resources of a community with a history of collaboration to serve the Trail and all it offers.
The early history of the Harlem Valley, also known as the Oblong, shows that the hills and valleys were areas of open forests, thick swamps and sparkling waters (and trails, no doubt,) inhabited by members of the Schaghticoke and Pequot Tribes. Settlement under the first land patent in eastern Dutchess County was established in 1704. After the Revolution, municipal divisions were established and the Pawling Township encompassed modern day Dover. In 1807, the New York Legislature separated 26,000 acres from Pawling to create the Town of Dover. Municipal boundaries aside, members of the communities continued to work together on economic, cultural and ecological fronts. Chief among the area’s shared natural resources today is the A.T., the protection of which has always been a priority of both towns.
After the region’s loss of a major employer, Dover and Pawling residents founded the Harlem Valley Partnership in 1993 to create an economy that would focus on the area’s natural beauty, cultural history, agriculture and recreational opportunities. Proximity of the A.T. to the Metro-North Railroad Harlem Line connects the this outstanding recreational resource to approximately 8 million people in New York City, allowing the area to become a proverbial “backyard” for our neighbors to the south. HVATC considers Metro-North a significant partner in offering urban residents affordable access to the great outdoors of the Harlem Valley.
The Trail enters Pawling from the south at the Beekman-Pawling town line, close to the intersection of Old Route 55 and RT 292. After a couple of brief departures, back into Beekman and over into Dover, it re-enters Pawling near West Dover Road and offers a breathtaking view from Cat Rocks. Across farms and the over the Great Swamp, the Trail runs up the eastern side of Hammersly Ridge into the Pawling Nature Reserve, a property of The Nature Conservancy. It crosses into Wingdale, a Hamlet of Dover, on a coterminous trail through the Pawling Nature Reserve and arrives in Duell Hollow where the Wiley Shelter is located. From there, it crosses RT 55 and climbs another hill en route to Bulls Bridge in South Kent, CT. Possibly the best known section locally is the Boardwalk over the Great Swamp, which was completed in 2012 after an extensive effort by the ATC, the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, the Dutchess-Putnam Management Council and over 45 volunteers from the community who put in some 3,000 hours to help complete the work.
The highly visible A.T. Boardwalk in Pawling is a testament to the efforts of the many area volunteers who had a positive impact and now experience the pride of ownership. The multi-year project to rebuild the boardwalk over the Swamp River has attracted many new visitors to the Harlem Valley.
The residents of the Towns of Pawling and Dover appreciate the Trail’s beauty and cultural heritage. HVATC is committed to help maintain it, and encourage others to enjoy it for years to come. Input from the hiking constituency to better meet the needs of the section and thru-hikers is welcome.
HVATC Letters of Support
Town of Dover
Town of Pawling
HVATC’s home base is Native Landscapes, at the crossroads of the A.T. Boardwalk, RT 22 and Metro-North Railroad's Harlem Valley Line. Native Landscapes Proprietor, Pete Muroski, co-founder and member of the HVATC Board, offers rest and rejuvenation to thru-hikers at his business just a few steps to the north of the RR crossing.
Pawling is home to the only railroad stop on the Trail, and Metro-North makes regularly scheduled weekend stops at the A.T. Boardwalk.
National Trails Day 2018 Pawling NY
HVATC Brochure 2018
Not Bogged Down
A Tale of Two Towns
2016 Trail Day
Letter to the Editor - National Parks and A.T. Deserve Support
Majestic Maintenance ATJ Summer 2017 Article