The Milton home of Maryanne and Patrick Quick sits high on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River. It is, like the old movie title, the last house on the left.
Their narrow, one-lane road, Old Indian Trail, ends at a set of concrete barricades just past their driveway. The barricades were installed after a section of the road collapsed last April 23 and went tumbling over the cliff.
This 20-year-old, architect-designed home used to be nirvana for the Quicks. However, the blocked-off portion of roadway and the driving finesse required to go anywhere have made it a nightmare instead.
Complicating matters, the owners of the adjoining parcel have thus far declined to provide the town with the easement it needs to move the roadway further west and reopen Old Indian Trail for its entire length.
“That would be the simplest fix,” noted Patrick Quick, a retired builder who also led the renovation of the nearby Milton-on-Hudson Train Station for 12 years. “You’d have to widen the road on its west side, away from the cliff, by just 10 feet.”
Those neighbors do not even live on Old Indian Trail, the Quicks noted. Instead, they occupy a house on neighboring Watson Avenue and their backyard extends all the way to Old Indian Trail. Newcomers to town, neither homeowner knew just where Old Indian Trail was when they were informed of the roadway collapse.
“When I spoke to them, they did say they wanted to be neighborly, but so far they have declined to provide the town with an easement,” said Maryanne Quick.
There is some dispute over the cause of the collapse. The Town of Marlborough has cited torrential rains that soaked the land on both sides of the roadway. However, Patrick Quick said he saw a large truck hauling a trailer laden with heavy road equipment travel north on Old Indian Trail, which broke the roadway’s edge just north of the Quick driveway. It also caused damage near the Milton train station, Quick pointed out.
“A few weeks later, the town’s highway department patched the broken road– and that patch is what collapsed and slid down the cliff,” said Patrick. “That led to the road closure.”
Marlborough Town Supervisor Scott Corcoran said the town is exploring two possible ways to fix the road. It also recently hired the Albany engineering firm Greenman-Pedersen, Inc., to provide an analysis of both. The first option would involve the scenario Patrick Quick described: moving the roadway 10 feet to the west.
The second option is more complex and would require shoring up the land on the cliff side of the roadway. Doing so would enable the collapsed section to be rebuilt. To provide adequate stability, steel supports would need to be embedded in the layer of bluestone at the bottom of the cliff.
Additionally, CSX rail owns the property within 50 feet of the tracks; the Watson Avenue couple owns the part of the property from there to the roadway. Thus, this option would require easements from both.
The road collapse and abrupt closure of Old Indian Trail just north of the Quicks’ driveway have resulted in a cascade of problems for the Quicks. They can no longer receive deliveries from companies such as UPS, FedEx, and Amazon, and they had to hire a new oil delivery service because their old one refused to deliver any longer because of the barricades.
They encountered the same problem recently when their septic tank needed service. “A job that should have taken 30 to 40 minutes took two and a half hours,” said Maryanne. “And when things like this happen, they cost us much more money.”
Lacking service from both FedEx and UPS, Maryanne also had to arrange for a different way to get medical supplies delivered. “I have them delivered to a friend’s house and I go there to pick them up because FedEx won’t deliver them here,” she said.
The most recent cancellation came from the snowplow operator who used to plow their driveway. The Quicks’ only alternative was to purchase a large snowblower and clear their driveway themselves.
“I will say this: our Highway Department has always done a great job sanding and plowing Old Indian Trail,” she added. “That’s especially true since the road closure.”
Before her retirement, Maryanne worked for more than 30 years as a paralegal for several area trial lawyers. She cannot understand why the town won’t employ eminent domain to access the land to fix the road. However, this is a legally problematic option, and Corcoran has ruled it out.
Should neither moving the road nor shoring up the hillside be feasible, the final option would be to dead-end both the southern and northern portions of the road. This would require the creation of a circle or “hammerhead” where the road would end. “I don’t like that plan but if that is what we have to do, that’s what we will do,” said Corcoran.
“We would have no objection to dead-ending the road, but it has to be done right,” noted Maryanne.
Corcoran also said the odd legal status of the road has made the entire matter very difficult. “It is a public road by use, an oddity in comparison to a normal town road,” he said. “Doing anything requires permission from the property owner. We have an existing easement for the collapsed part of Old Indian Trail – but we would need another easement to move the roadway to the west.
“I’m sure if the collapse had happened on the part of the hillside owned by the Quicks, they would have already granted permission for us to do what we need to do,” he added.
Corcoran remains optimistic that if shoring up the hillside is feasible from an engineering standpoint, the homeowners on Watson Avenue will agree to it because it would represent a property improvement. He doesn’t know yet what any fix will cost, but he said the town has funds available for such emergency projects.
Corcoran has also contacted State Senator Michelle Hinchey and State Representative Jonathan Jacobson for advice and assistance. They may know of state funds that could be allocated to the project, he said.
“In this case we can only ask – we can’t force people to grant us an easement,” said Corcoran. “And if I were in the Quicks’ shoes, I’d be just as frustrated as they are about it.”