PLATTSBURGH - It's been a process several decades in the making, but the development of a formal recreational trail system within the city of Plattsburgh is starting to gain momentum.
Over the past few years, a grassroots committee has been picking up where efforts left off in the 1980s to connect the city's existing pedestrian trails and develop new ones as part the Saranac Recreational Trail System.
The group of community-minded citizens, dubbed the Saranac Recreational Trail Committee, has been meeting more frequently in recent months to hammer out details of the proposed system. The committee is now headed up by Victoria Zinser Duley, an economic development specialist with the Technical Assistance Center at the State University of New York College at Plattsburgh, and is aided by city engineer Kevin Farrington.
Farrington, who serves the committee as a private citizen, has lent his expertise to help shape the trail system, which is currently in the design and development phase. Meetings held in the past year have been productive, giving the public the opportunity to provide their own input as to how they'd like to see the trail system established, Farrington said.
"There's a lot of interest, enthusiasm and desire for this trail system," he said. "The community has been asking for this type of thing for quite some time and government officials at the local and state levels are starting to listen."
During one of the committee's recent meetings, there was discussion on the potential for the trail system to connect with multi-use trails outside the city, such as the Lakes to Locks Passage, which connects New York State's Hudson Valley region to the Richelieu Valley in Quebec, by way of the Champlain Valley along State Route 9. On the smaller scale, connecting city trails with ones in the town of Plattsburgh and other neighboring communities has also been discussed, said Farrington, leading to seemingly endless possibilities.
"The city has these nice trail systems, but we've identified several places where there are disconnects," Farrington said. "One of the objectives is to create that interconnection so we have a system of trails and not a bunch of isolated, individual trails."
The city's waterfront park project, which is currently under development at the end of Dock Street, will fill in one of those disconnects, said Farrington, making a connection to the Green Street pedestrian bridge.
Other individual city trails, such as the Heritage Trail, which extends from the Plattsburgh city beach on Cumberland Head Road to the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base, and the Karen Fleury Bike Path and Terry Gordon Bike Path, which run on the north and south ends of the city, respectively, are among those eyed as becoming part of the overall interconnecting system, said Farrington.
One of the committee's major successes in making all this happen, he added, was the release of a feasibility study for the trail system in 2006. The study paved the way for the project to reach its current design and development phase, which now closely examines where the trail will literally go from here.
Thus far, the project has received a $1.2 million grant from the state Department of Transportation's Transportation Enhancement Program. Other grants and funding sources are being actively pursued, said Farrington. Formal development would depend on funding, he added, though he said the committee would like to see work begin later this year or sometime next year.
The next meeting of the Saranac River Trail Committee will be held this Wednesday, Jan. 21, at City Hall, 41 City Hall Place. In addition to continued discussion on the overall design of the trail system, the meeting will examine potential amenities for trails, including exercise stations, access to fishing, parking and signage. The potential need for emergency call boxes along the trail system, hours of operation and logistics of maintaining the system once established will also be discussed.
"The committee members have a say in how this thing will actually be designed and constructed, and that's important," said Farrington.
"We are really excited with the progress being made with the Saranac River Recreation Trail," said Duley. "This facility will be a great resource for all Plattsburgh residents, residents of outlying areas and visitors alike."
Duley added she invites any interested persons to join the committee. For more information, she may be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com.