County Legislator Harry J. McManus is reexamining plans for a multi-use trail linking the villages of Champlain and Rouses Point.
McManus has approached the villages at their respective board meetings in recent weeks discussing his intentions to dust off plans first discussed more than a decade ago.
“This was something we first proposed back in 1996 when I was a member of the town board,” said McManus.
The plans involve utilizing an old railroad bed from Church Street in Rouses Point, along Golf Course Road and State Route 276 and parallel with U.S. Route 11 into the village of Champlain.
Through collaboration with the villages of Champlain and Rouses Point and the town of Mooers, the town of Champlain moved forward with submitting an application for grant funding for the project through the state of Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation. However, the application was denied and, at that point, the project became stagnant.
“It was universally accepted by the boards and the community,” said McManus. “We just didn’t get any funding.”
McManus started to look at the idea of a multi-use trail once again after learning of potential funding through the state Department of Health that could benefit the municipalities if they were to again move forward with plans for a trail system.
“I noticed about two months ago there was something available,” said McManus, “but it would be impossible to make this year’s [application] deadline.”
However, that got McManus thinking that if funding were made available in the future, it would be worth pursuing. The key would be whether or not the state Department of Health would offer the grant funding again.
“I have no reason to assume they would not,” said McManus.
In the meantime, the municipalities involved would be able to gather more data, including whether or not community members would prefer a motorized or nonmotorized trail, what its official path would be, and what properties would either have to be acquired or what easements would be needed to use the properties.
This time around, however, McManus said the primary focus would be not on the originally proposed 8.8-mile stretch from the hamlet of Mooers to the village of Rouses Point, but rather only the section between the villages of Champlain and Rouses Point.
“We’d be talking about 4 miles for the initial phase,” said McManus.
The municipalities involved would also have to decide how much they could contribute in matching grant funding, if anything, which could come in the form of in-kind services, said McManus.
“There’s going to be clearing, leveling, those kinds of things which would qualify toward the match but not necessarily be a direct cost to the taxpayers,” said McManus.
The overall cost of a trail system has yet to be determined and would require further examination, McManus reiterated.
“We just have to start the process somewhere,” he said, speaking of his recent visits with local municipal leaders.
Champlain Town Supervisor Larry G. Barcomb said he’s for the trail, as long as the majority of the project could be funded by state or federal monies. Barcomb acknowledged, though, that such funding is becoming harder and harder to obtain.
“The biggest problem would be the cost,” said Barcomb. “We’re trying to stay within the [state’s 2 percent property tax cap] ... Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly willing to listen to the idea, and I see some of the potential benefits. We just need to know what our cost would be.”
Gregory Martin, mayor of the village of Champlain, agreed.
“I think it’s a good idea. It would open up some different pathways between the villages for walkers, people bicycling,” said Martin. “And, I think if it could be developed reasonably, it would provide a safe environment for people to go from Rouses Point to Champlain and maybe even beyond.”
“We just have to look for the potential grant money out there to work on this,” added Martin.
“I think it’s a great idea if we can get it done,” said Rouses Point Village Mayor George A. Rivers. “I don’t if we’ll be able to get all the property owners on board, but we might be able to swing it.”
“We’ll support it as much as we can,” added Rivers.
McManus emphasized everything is in the “preliminary stages” for the multi-use trail and that many details would have to be discussed before things would move forward, including input from the community.
“The key component to this whole thing would be community support,” he said.