KINDERHOOK — The Hudson River Valley Greenway said the state will pay for construction and long-term maintenance costs for its proposed 35-mile rail trail connecting downtown Albany to downtown Hudson, a plan that received a warm reception from many locals.
When the state’s proposal for the Albany-Hudson Electric Trail was presented to local officials in July they initially expressed concerns that the towns along the trail would be left to take care of long-term maintenance.
The trail will run through Rensselaer County and the towns of Chatham, Kinderhook, Stuyvesant, Stockport and Greenport in Columbia County.
“The state is committed to paying the full $35 million to $40 million construction costs,” said Empire State Trail Director Andy Beers at the public information meeting held at Ichabod Crane Central High School on Thursday. “Long-term maintenance, say 15 years from now, some of the pavement might need to be redone or fencing will need to be replaced. We are committed to those costs as well.”
Beers said Greenway will ask local municipalities to support the trail by providing day-to-day maintenance such as mowing grass and keeping the trail clean.
“We are going to gather information and figure out how much of the trail municipalities will take care of and how much it will cost them,” Beers said. “We will also provide a one-time donation of equipment to maintain the trail.”
“I’m extremely excited. We have been talking to the Columbia Land Conservancy about creating a trail like this in the area, now the state is going to make one,” said Nick Zachos, director of the Hudson Sloop Club. “Plus the state is going to pay for it all so we do not have to pull from our budget.”
Zachos said he was planning to have the Greenway hold a public information meeting in Hudson, but no date or time has been established.
The project is in a two-month public comment period for its draft plan, but the public comment period will continue for a full 12-month period during the design phase.
The Greenway plans put the project up for bid in fall of 2018, start construction in the spring of 2019 and ultimately complete the project by the fall of 2020.
The trail will mostly run along the right-of-way of a long utility corridor owned by National Grid, which is donating the land to the project.
The state proposes running the trail past the former trolley station in North Chatham, across Route 9 in North Kinderhook and through the Village Park in Kinderhook, past the Stuyvesant Falls and the Greenport Conservation Area, with two proposed trail heads in Columbia County at Stottville and Mills Park.
“The vast majority of people who will use the trail will live within the communities near the trail,” Beers said. “That is what we have seen with other rail trails throughout the state.”
Beers previously worked on the Erie Canalway Trail, which, along with the Electric Trail, is part of the state’s larger project, a 750-mile network of trails running from New York City to Canada and from Albany to Buffalo.
“The Erie Canal trail is great. I think this is great,” said Jim Tansey, of Kinderhook. “I have been trying to get a trail like this in the area for almost 30 years.”
Tansey said he helped work on the Kinderhook Stockport Stuyvesant Inter-municipal Trail Feasibility Study in 2010, which was conducted with a grant from the Hudson River Valley Greenway Conservancy.
“Our plans build off of this work,” Beers said. “The difference between then and now is that now we have funding to build the trail.”
Martin Overington, of Germantown, said he applauds the state for making the trail but had one concern.
Beers said the Greenway will not build bridges to cross tough areas such as roadways and waterways, but divert the trail off the regular path to avoid unsafe crossings.
“Just build the bridges,” Overington said. “I hope the landowners and local officials approve this. I have more positive things to say than negative.”
Beers said one of the major concerns he has seen when making trails such as the Electric Trail is from homeowners along the right-of-way worried about how it will affect their properties.
“The corridor is about 100 to 150 feet wide, but the actual trail will only be about 10 feet wide. So there is a significant buffer between most properties and the trail,” Beers said. “There may be need for more buffers at certain parts of the trail. We’re happy to meet with the property owners and walk the properties and listen to their concerns.”
Beers is encouraging anyone with concerns to submit their comments on the trail project’s new website at http://www.ahettrail.org.
“If property owners feel comfortable, they should put their addresses in so we can take a look at it and figure out what we can do for the owners,” Beers said.
Pixie Fuller, of Kinderhook, said she loves rail trails to bike and walk, especially with the Kinderhook Runners Club.
“I think this trail is a great idea,” Fuller said. “I was upset that we did not have something like this in this area.”
The meeting drew in people from across the river too.
“I love rail trails for biking. You do not have to worry about cars, it’s great,” said Ken Goldfarb, of Catskill. “I am excited about this. It is a great idea.”