VALATIE – Representatives from the Albany-Hudson Electric Trail came to Martin H. Glynn Municipal Building last Monday night to talk to area residents about the new trail that will be built along a National Grid right-of-way. About five-and-a-half miles of the 35-mile trail will go through the Town of Kinderhook–with the Villages of Valatie and Kinderhook each hosting about a mile and a half of the trail.
Many of the 80 people at the November 27 meeting live along the right-of-way. Several received letters from their municipalities about the meeting. The Village of Kinderhook also sent out an email about the gathering.
Andy Beers, the director of the Empire State Tail, began the meeting with a review of the plan for the trail showing that it would run between Rensselaer County at the north end through Columbia County at least as far south as Stottville. He said the trail may be extended to Greenport. The state has granted about $36 million to fund the project and National Grid has allowed the state to use the company’s land for the trail.
The trail is a project of the Hudson River Valley Greenway, a voluntary program created by state law in 1991 to “facilitate the development of a regional strategy for preserving scenic, natural, historic, cultural and recreational resources while encouraging compatible economic development,” according to its website hudsongreenway.ny.gov .
Mr. Beers said the project is still at the public meeting and planning stage. The next step will be to finalize the design in 2018, with construction starting in 2019 and finishing in 2020. He then opened up the meeting for audience questions and concerns.
Several residents talked about the problem of snowmobiles and ATVs on the trails. Mr. Beers said the trail will clearly be marked with signs saying no ATV use.
Resident Mike Heim responded, “You guys are dreaming.”
But Mr. Beers said that along other trails in the state, ATV use goes down once the trails are built.
Mr. Heim and other residents also voiced concerns about a lack of adequate law enforcement to patrol the trails and stop the ATV users.
Other residents talked about people walking onto private property along the trail and getting hurt. Mr. Beers again said the trail will be well marked. He said of people leaving the trail to go on private property, “That rarely ever happens.”
“Generally people don’t leave the trail,” he said, pointing out that there will be a grass strip two or three feet wide on either side of the trail.
He also said that every part of the trail will be “wide enough for rescue vehicles.”
In addition he told the audience, “These trails, they don’t attract crime; they don’t attract litter.” Those who use these trails are mostly the people who live in the community.
He also talked about the municipalities’ responsibility to maintain the trail, saying the main requirement is mowing a small section. “There are friends groups that spring up around these trails,” he said, indicating that these groups often assist with the maintenance. But he did say he would provide municipal officials with the proposed costs of that maintenance work so they could use it for budgeting. He also said the state is committed to long-term maintenance of the trail when the walkway needs replacing.
Kinderhook Town Councilwoman Patsy Leader asked about insurance costs. The state’s Hudson River Valley Greenway insures the trail, but the town and villages would need to have insurance as well. Mr. Beers said it would be a minimal cost that would just be added to the municipalities’ existing policies.
Valatie resident Guy Gamello worried that the trail would be too close to some residents’ houses. He called it an invasion of privacy. “There’s got to be a better place to put a trail,” he said. Other residents echoed Mr. Gamello’s concerns.
Mr. Beers said the state does not plan to put up fencing along the trail but would talk to homeowners adjacent to the route who have “site-specific concerns.”
The American Association of Realtors has done a study that found trails “increase property values,” he said.
Another resident asked about the construction process. Engineer Chris Cornwall, who accompanied Mr. Beers to the meeting, said that construction would require equipment that is smaller than what’s normally used for road work.
The plan calls for six bridges along the entire trail, but only one would be in the section through the Town of Kinderhook. The trial surface will not be paved in this area but will be stone dust instead. After the meeting, Mr. Beer said plans call for two construction seasons to finish the work.
David Harris, who introduced himself at the meeting as supervisor elect of the neighboring Town of Schodack, said he does not support the trail in his town.
Mr. Heim asked what the state would do if most Kinderhook residents did not want the trail.
“We are committed to doing this,” Mr. Beers replied.
Residents from both villages and the town spoke in support of the trail and the benefits that come with having a trail in the area. Kinderhook Village Trustee Rich Phillips said that a trail has “the potential… for some profit for some local businesses.”
Two other residents talked about being involved with trail projects in the Berkshires and in New York City. They both said the trails only lead to good outcomes and that the worries in those communities, which were similar to the ones voiced at this meeting, did not become issues. “Look at the facts,” one resident said.
There was also discussion of the need for new pedestrian crossings on Route 9 between the two villages; the issue of walkers and bikers on the same path; using historically appropriate signs in the Village of Kinderhook; and National Grid’s policy of not allowing horse riding on the trial. There will be some parking added in Kinderhook for the trail, according to Mr. Beers, but no restrooms on the trail.
Mr. Beers said that he would take all the concerns he heard at the meeting, especially the issue with ATV use, back to his office to discuss with the planning group. He also said that he was willing to meet with local residents about specific issues.
To schedule a meeting with a member of the design team, call 518 898-9595 and written comments can be submitted at www.AHETtrail.org. Mr. Beers said to check the AHET website for updates.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email moc.r1516164101epapa1516164101ibmul1516164101oc@el1516164101adsae1516164101te1516164101