Ribbon cutting for a section of the Albany County Rail Trail only weeks away

Albany County, the Town of Bethlehem and the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy (MHLC) have developed an inter-municipal agreement to open a two-mile section of the Albany County Rail Trail to the public for limited non-motorized use.

The agreement is subject to approval by the Bethlehem Town Board and County Legislature, but leaders are optimistic the measure will pass unanimously.

The full length of the former D&H rail rail corridor stretches nine miles, from the Port of Albany to the Village of Voorheesville, but unexpected increases in cost mean only 2 miles will be able to open this summer. Still, this opening is something to get excited about after over a decade in the waiting. The new trail begins at Fireman’s Park near New Scotland Road in Slingerlands and ends at the Veteran’s Park on Delaware Avenue in Delmar. The remainder of the trail will remain closed to the public since extensive bridge repair and other safety improvements are necessary on those sections.

The County, Town of Behtlehem, and MHLC will be making minor improvements to initially open the first phase of the of trail for pedestrian use only. Work will include vegetation clearing, drainage improvements and posting signs. MHLC will be
implementing a fund raising campaign to support further upgrades to the section to allow access for mountain bikes.

A shared maintenance agreement contributed significantly to this early success. Under the agreement, the Town and MHLC will be responsible for ongoing maintenance and management of the trail section. Any proposed improvements or upgrades will need to be approved by the Town and County.

The County purchased the abandoned nine-mile stretch of the old Delaware & Hudson Railway for $700,000 from Canadian Pacific Railway in January 2010. The acquisition was paid for with a $350,000 Recreational Trails grant from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) and matching funds from Scenic Hudson, a Poughkeepsie-based non-profit land conservation organization.

After over ten years of waffling about letting go of the line, Canadian Pacific Railway filed to abandon the rail corridor in 2003. The County and Scenic Hudson immediately began negotiations with Canadian Pacific for the purchase of the property. The County filed a request for Railbanking with the federal government’s Surface Transportation Board, which preserves the entire length of the corridor by converting it to trail use and prevents the property from being broken up and sold piecemeal. The negotiations had stalled many times due to staff changes at both sides of the table and disputes over the value of the corridor, but in the end, a deal was reached and after over twenty years of waiting for a trail, Albany County residents may soon have what they have been dreaming of for so long.

The MHLC’s trail committee, “Friends of the Rail Trail” (FORT), shoulded much of the responsibility for raising support of the trail project and never gave up hope. The conservancy, and FORT were recipients of Parks & Trails New York Healthy Trails Healthy People program technical assistance and the ACRT has been one to the most dynamic projects PTNY has been involved in.

The County and its partners continue to actively seek grants and other funding opportunities to develop the total nine-mile trail for pedestrian and bicycle use.

More information about the project is available at www.albanycounty.com/railtrail.

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