Thursday, May 3, 2018

Sixteen Months Along on the Empire State Trail

"In January 2017, Governor Cuomo announced the Empire State Trail, a new initiative placing New York State at the forefront of national efforts to enhance outdoor recreation, community vitality, and tourism development." So begins the page devoted to the project on the New York State website. The plan is to connect something like 400 miles of existing trails, now in disconnected segments, to create a continuous 750-mile route spanning the state from New York City to the Canadian border and from Albany to Buffalo. According to the timeline, 2017 was the year for "finalizing more than 60 construction project descriptions, scopes, budgets, and timelines"; 2018 is the year for installing "wayfinding and information signage along existing trails" and beginning new trail construction. The entire route is to be completed by 2020.

The route between Albany and Hudson, shown on the map below, follows the path of the electric trolley that once ran from Albany and Hudson to Electric Park on Kinderhook Lake.

A map available on the Albany-Hudson Electric Trail website seems to show the trail entering Hudson from Greenport on Harry Howard Avenue, going down the dugway to Mill Street and on to Dock Street to North Front Street, turning left onto State Street to Third Street, and following Third Street south and out of the city.

Another map found on the AHET website has the notation: "Empire State Trail route through Hudson to be completed by the City of Hudson and NYS DOT Region 8."

When Gossips asked about the route through Hudson recently, Mayor Rick Rector responded that it was "currently under discussion." A map found on the Empire State Trail website identifies the way in, through, and out of Hudson as "Proposed On-Road Facilities."

The Albany to Hudson route recently hit a bit of a roadblock farther up the line--one that seems to have been the consequence of misrepresentation and presumption. On April 24, in an article about a Kinderhook Village Board meeting, the Columbia Paper reported:
Mayor Dunham said that the Columbia County Historic [sic] Society (CCHS) will not allow the Albany-Hudson Electric Trail to use land at the Vanderpoel House for the walking and bicycling trail, a program funded by the state. The mayor said he had met with the CCHS board several times and they would not agree to an easement [to] put the trail near the historic house.
Mayor Dunham said the state is looking at a new route that would go on land currently owned by the Samascotts. He said the state does not purchase the land for the trail, which will mostly be on a National Grid right-of-way, but would give the village money to purchase the strip of land.
"I'm disappointed in the Historical Society," said Trustee [Rich] Phillips. He also thanked the Samascotts for their support of the trail and village.
There is more to this story than was reported in the Columbia Paper. In an email to Gossips, Alexandra Anderson and Bob Peduzzi, co-presidents of the Columbia County Historical Society Board of Trustees, explained that there has been "a public misrepresentation that the Hudson-Albany Rail line passed through CCHS-owned property at the rear of the Vanderpoel backyard. . . . The Empire State Trail project does in fact own a right-of-way/easement from the actual Albany-Hudson Rail line and yet they pressured the CCHS Trustees to sign over a permanent easement of approximately one-quarter mile in length, without any compensation whatsoever. In other words, CCHS should take on unlimited risks and liabilities and underwrite a municipal project." The email continued:
While the CCHS Board of Trustees are supportive of the concept and idea of the Empire State Trail, the added costs to the CCHS for maintenance. oversight, and especially the escalating insurance expense--all of which would be permanent expenses--to maintain and insure the surrounding property to the quarter of a mile land . . . made the Trustees' decision unanimous.
Anderson and Peduzzi also point out that the CCHS Board worked for eight months with Empire State Trail director Andy Beers and the mayor of Kinderhook to try to find a solution before coming to the unanimous conclusion that the not-for-profit could not take on the additional liability and financial burden. It is not clear why the route of the proposed Albany-Hudson Electric Trail needs to deviate from the original route of the trolley.

1 comment:

  1. I’m sorry but I am confused. Does the trail from Hudson to Albany currently exist? Is it paved, is it off road, is it marked? This is exciting news, I’m looking forward to biking it when it is open.