By Jordan Carleo-Evangelist, Times Union, link to original post
A new 2.3-mile section of the county’s Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail, which follows the path of the old Delaware & Hudson Railroad for about nine miles between Albany and Voorheesville, could be open this summer, officials said Friday.
The wild stretch, which connects Voorheesville and Upper Font Grove Road in the town of New Scotland, will be the second section of the trail to open. A 1.3-mile stretch opened last May in Delmar.
County and local officials joined the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy on Friday to sign a licensing agreement that clears the way for the new section to be made ready for the public, possibly as soon as the end of he summer, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy said.
The idea for the trail dates to the mid-1990s, when the Canadian Pacific Railway, which acquired D & H in 1991, floated the idea of abandoning a 23-mile stretch of railway between the city of Albany and village of Delanson in Schenectady County.
That plan was eventually withdrawn, but it planted the seed for a smaller venture that began in 2003, when Canadian Pacific sought to abandon a shorter stretch of the same rail line, this time between the city and Voorheesville.
The county bought the land — a total of about 117 acres in Albany, Bethlehem and New Scotland — for $700,000, half of which came from a grant from the state Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation that was matched by the Scenic Hudson Land Trust, a nonprofit that works for the preservation of land in the Hudson Valley. Parks and Trails New York, another nonprofit, has also advocated for developing the trail since the idea’s inception.
Waylaid by the recession and the complicated inter-municipal agreements needed to resolve liability and other issues, progress slowed until the opening of the first section last year. “When government works together, people work together, things like this happen,” said Frank Commisso, majority leader of the County Legislature.
The county initially envisioned the improvements would cost $7.8 million, including paving the trail with a hard surface, but cut its investment to zero amid its financial crunch.
As part of Friday’s agreement, signed in sandy section of trail off of Upper Font Grove Road, the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy agreed to do most upkeep and trail maintenance — an effort that will begin Saturday as volunteers from Friends of the Rail Trail start clearing the path.
The full length of the section is about 2.6 miles, but a small stretch — 0.3 miles on the Voorheesville end — will remain off-limits during engineering work and upgrades on two bridges that span Vly Creek and Route 155, officials said.
That work, however, will proceed without the county’s financial aid, with the conservancy, village and town on the hook to find the money for the repairs, county spokesman Mary Rozak said. The next section of trail targeted for opening will be east of Delmar through the Normanskill Gorge. The trail will eventually end just east of South Pearl Street in Albany near the Bethlehem town line.
Voorheesville Mayor Robert Conway called the effort to get the trail open “a real, prime example of people working together for a community benefit.” “When the trail is completed,” Conway said, “it will be a showpiece.”