Schoharie Creek Trail planners want to know: What do you want?

Schoharie Creek Trail planners want to know: What do you want?
By Patsy Nicosia

It won’t quite be one straight line from Esperance to Blenheim, but plans to develop a trail that would let outdoor enthusiasts bike, hike, and even paddle their way from one end of the Schoharie Valley to the other should be finalized by the end of 2017. The next step? Seeking funding to build it. But even before that, Schoharie Area Longterm, which has been coordinating the trail feasibility study with help from GPI Engineers and FoitAlbert Associates and funding from the state Department of State and Schoharie County, needs help further defining the route. “We still need more feedback as we refine the route,” said SALT’s Jerrine Corallo, who’s now handling the project. “There are options for the trail in every town. We want to know which ones make the most sense and whether there are things we didn’t take into consideration—things maybe people who live along the possible routes have a better handle on.” Maps of the entire trail and possible alignments—options—for each of the Towns of Esperance, Schoharie, Middleburgh, Fulton, and Blenheim—were unveiled at meeting in Schoharie Tuesday; copies of the maps will also be available for review at the Middleburgh and Schoharie libraries and at the Esperance and Blenheim Town Halls. Go to survey for more information or to comment. The idea for the trail came out of flood recovery from Hurricane Irene and is seen as a way to help grow the local economy while maximizing its natural resources. As they stand now, the maps aren’t detailed enough to show where they’ll cross specific landowners’ properties, but they do show the route and about a dozen options for different portions of it. Some landowners have given permission for the trial to cross their property; others have said no and others still haven’t made up their minds, Ms. Corallo said, which is one reason for all of the options. Different options also allow different uses; some incorporate existing snowmobile trails, for example; others run along sidewalks or even on the shoulders of the highway. Though the easiest way to explain the trail is to call it a 38-mile route from Esperance to Blenheim, few trails like this are continuous: Even the Canal Trail along the Mohawk River has breaks—and that will be the case locally as well, Ms. Corallo said. A good example of that is in Esperance where instead of following the Schoharie Creek, the trail begins as a series of “loops” taking people from the Town Hall, museum, and village park, up to the Landis Arboretum and trails there over Priddle Camp Road, the old Burtonsville Road, and other trails and abandoned roads. It’s not what SALT had planned initially, Ms. Corallo said, but it may be even better, thanks to ideas from Supervisor Earl VanWormer and Landis’ Fred Breglia, both of whom reached out with their own suggestions. Most of the Esperance options come before the trail hits Central Bridge, where construction could actually get underway even before the feasibility study is completed. Ms. Corallo explained that in 2008, Central Bridge received funding for what was called the Gateway Project from the state Department of Transportation, to in part link the Community Park with fishing access on the Schoharie Creek, under I-88 to Holiday Way. Some of the prep work had even been done--but then came Hurricane Irene. Money remains from the project and SALT is looking into whether it could be put to use to extend those plans all the way to the Apple Barrel. If the answer is yes, it could jumpstart Central Bridge’s portion of the Creek Trail. In Schoharie, the Creek Trail will connect with Schoharie’s own trail, part of similar but separate flood recovery efforts; options for routes to Middleburgh include following the creek under the Bridge Street bridge before crossing the Route 145 bridge into Middleburgh as well as utilizing old National Grid right-of-ways and FEMA buy-out land. There are several spots—River Street, Middleburgh is one and Route 30 before Blenheim is another—where longterm options might include substantial road work or, in Blenheim, even blasting away stone outcroppings. Though those will be too big for SALT to tackle, Ms. Corallo said they’ll likely be included in the trail plan so DOT has something to refer to when it does its own road work farther down the road. From Middleburgh, the trail includes links to Vroman’s Nose and the Long Path, and goes past Boucks Island and old Route 30, including a collapsed section that would need to be rebuilt, to Max Shaul State Park, where it would join existing loops. Then, it would continue along the creek side of the Valley Soccer Club fields to Breakabeen and the DEC fishing access in Blenheim, another town that is also working on its own version of flood recovery. At the New York Power Authority’s request, the trail would finally end—for now—at Mine Kill State Park. “I know people in Gilboa were disappointed that we couldn’t keep going, but we’re limited to the towns funded in the original grant,” Ms. Corallo said. “Eventually...who knows where this idea will go.” Where it goes for now will depend on funding, most of which will involve a local match. With public input, the plan and its options will be further refined for another meeting in September, when Ms Corallo said they should have some idea of cost. Supervisors will then review and accept the final report. Because it already has some funding and could apply for more before the year’s out, Central Bridge’s portion of the trail could conceivably get under construction as soon as 2018. As for the rest, “It depends who’s game,” Ms. Corallo said, “what the funding opportunities are and which segment it makes sense to go after first. I know people like to see immediate results, but this is just the study. This is a longterm project. But all of us that are involved are here longterm too.”

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