VALATIE — Chatham and Kinderhook residents expressed excitement and apprehension about the rail trail that will be built along a National Grid right-of-way from Troy through Rensselaer and Columbia counties.
The Hudson River Valley Greenway held a public hearing Wednesday night on its Albany-Hudson Electric Trail project — a 35-mile bicycle and pedestrian rail-trail path that will run through Rensselaer County and the Columbia County towns of Kinderhook, Chatham, Stuyvesant, Stockport and Greenport, all on land owned by National Grid and Niagara Mohawk.
Many people from Kinderhook and Chatham stood up at the microphone to say encouraging things about the trail project, but some residents who own property that abuts the right-of-way were not as excited.
“I understand why lots of people support the trail,” said Shane Zoni, who owns Kinderhook property adjacent to the right-of-way. “But when the trail runs only 15 feet from my property line it becomes an issue.”
Zoni’s main concern is the increased pedestrian traffic just yards behind his property where he lives with his wife and two children.
“My wife and I moved into a house at the end of a cul-de-sac and we worked hard for that,” Zoni said. “People cannot tell me who will be on that trail when my kids are outside or my wife is in the garden when I am at work. Ninpercent percent of the people using the trail will be peaceful I am sure, but the volume will increase causing concern for our safety and privacy.”
Zoni has to install a fence on his property, he said.
“Is the state going to help me put up a fence?” Zoni said. “I did not have a say on this project going forward.”
Empire State Trail Director Andy Beers, one of two moderators for Wednesday’s hearing, reminded the audience when Zoni was finished speaking that the purpose of the hearing was to listen to the public, not respond.
“If any adjacent landowners have concerns, they should come talk to us,” Beers said. “We will visit the site and try to address as many of your concerns as we can. We may not be able to address every concern, but we will have a productive conversation about it. We have set up meetings with more than 50 homeowners already.”
The Empire State Trail is an initiative to create a statewide trail system — a 750-mile bike trail and walking pathway from New York City to Canada and from Albany to Buffalo by 2020. The Electric Trail will be a part of the statewide trail system.
Paul Clark, of Valatie, is concerned about the construction phase of the trail project.
“My property borders the right-of-way,” Clark said. “How will the state manage the construction phase considering people who live along the trail? What arrangements will be made?”
Despite his concern, Clark said he is excited about the trail.
“Hopefully this trail will change our habits,” Clark said. “Hopefully it will force us to go outside and exercise.”
Marsha Henderson, of Kinderhook, echoed what other supporters of the trail said are the potential benefits.
“This trail will be a recreational resource,” Henderson said. “This trail will also be an economic driver for our community.”
Henderson said the trail is consistent with the village of Kinderhook’s comprehensive plan. Mayor James Dunham, who spoke in favor of the trail, said such a trail along the right-of-way has been in the village’s comprehensive plan for years.
“I fully support the trail project,” Henderson said. “The trail keeps with our comprehensive plan to plan for future use of the village.”