by JACK HALEY | MESSENGER POST,. link to original post
Ontario County’s communities demonstrated great vision years ago when they embarked on plans to redevelop abandoned railroad lines into paths for biking, walking and winter activities.
In Victor and Farmington, the old Auburn Trail is a well-used path that connects Ontario County to one of the state’s largest trails: the Erie Canal path (editors note: this isn’t true). Conversely, bikers and hikers in Canandaigua can take the Ontario Pathways trail from the city and head for many miles into the country, traversing Hopewell, Seneca and even Phelps.
But there is one problem: There is no connection from the Pathways in Canandaigua to the Auburn Trail, which ends at Mertensia Road in Farmington, a stretch of about seven miles.
Leaders in the town and city of Canandaigua and Farmington want to change that. The three municipalities are in the initial stages of a study to connect these popular paths. They have created a committee representing respective governments and have hired a consultant, Fisher Associates, at a cost of $85,000 to forge a plan.
Building a connecting path would give Ontario Pathways users access to one of the largest trail networks in the state, one that in theory could take them to downtown Rochester or even Buffalo. That connection could also open the door to the growing bike-tourism industry by allowing those on, say, the canal trail to head south and take in all that Ontario County has to offer.
And it’s a win for county residents as well, by giving them a healthy and environmentally friendly alternative to motor vehicles.
But the path to making this happen is not so clear. Some of the routes envisioned involve private land, meaning access — either through property easements or land sales — could take time to orchestrate.
And then there is busy Route 332. At some point, the trail has to cross this major highway, either through the city or in the town. Possibilities include crossing at any number of traffic lights on the highway, although committee members aren’t sure that’s safe enough for walkers and bicyclists, especially children.
But what about the possibility of going over or under Route 332? Pedestrian bridges and tunnels aren’t cheap, but they’re safe. And if the county wants to create a true alternative transportation network, the money spent would be worth it. If federal funding is available to create traffic roundabouts in Hopewell — not exactly the highest-traffic area in the county — why not money for a fly-over to allow safe access for hikers and bikers?
Either way, the committee, comprised of authorities on everything from planning to recreation to the environment, appears to have the smarts needed to devise a plan, meaning that at some point the not-so-distant future, trail users in either Farmington or Canandaigua won’t find themselves at the end of the line.
Maps and details ion the Auburn Trail, Ontario pathways and many other area trails con be found in the guidebook “Take Your Bike – Family Rides in New York’s Finger Lakes Region.”