Natural resource for public recreation links communities
ALBANY (Thursday, May 19) – Years of planning by Albany County legislators will come to fruition Monday, when elected officials formally inaugurate a more than three-mile stretch of the Albany County Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail.
Albany County legislators obtained funding and purchased the 9.3-mile railroad corridor from Canadian Pacific Railway in 2009. They have been working with various partners for years to convert the path into a public recreation trail extending from the Port of Albany to the Village of Voorheesville.
Parts of the multi-use trail were completed in 2011 and 2013, but on Monday, County Executive Daniel P. McCoy and others will attend a ceremony to mark the official opening of a newly paved 3.2-mile section of the trail that connects Delmar and South Pearl Street in Albany. Monday’s event will be held at 10:30 a.m. on the rail trail near 309 Delaware Ave., Delmar (press release here).
The finished work on the $5 million project’s most expensive phase means all but a small section of the trail in Slingerlands will be open for bicycling, jogging and hiking this spring and summer, and cross-country skiing when it snows.
“This is a significant milestone that caps years of hard work,” Majority Leader Frank Commisso of the Albany County Legislature said. “I commend all members of the legislature, former member Herbert Reilly Jr., and our private partners for championing a project that the public will love.”
The Albany County Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail takes users through parts of Albany, Bethlehem and New Scotland, along scenic, wooded areas and rail tracks that were abandoned in 2003. It’s a tremendous resource for those looking to relax, exercise or try a non-motorized form of transportation.
County Legislator William Reinhardt, (D-District 33), walked the paved trail for the first time with his wife on Wednesday. They hiked more than six miles – from the Bethlehem Veterans Memorial Park to Albany and back.
“It was amazing,” said Reinhardt, who represents parts of Bethlehem and New Scotland and succeeded Reilly in the legislature. “I was so impressed with it. You feel like you’re out in the woods. It’s a regional resource and we should try to expand its value to the community and region.”
Albany County bought the nine miles of trail with a $350,000 “railbanking” grant it received through the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and a matching donation from Scenic Hudson, a non-profit land conservation organization. The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy manages much of the trail, and volunteers with Friends of the Rail Trail guide visitors and keep the path clean.
County legislators lined up federal funding to cover 80 percent of the rail trail project’s cost, and are working to acquire additional grants.
“We worked years to bring this healthy benefit to Albany County, and I’m proud it’s reaching the City of Albany, which I represent,” said Gary Domalewicz, a legislator who is chairman of the county’s Audit and Finance Committee.
Michael Mackey, a legislator representing District 38 in parts of New Scotland and Bethlehem, praised the rail trail as a great example of inter-municipal cooperation. He said communities along the trail and local groups were working to improve it in phases. Paving and other remaining work on the trail is expected to be completed by next year.
“The Village of Voorheesville and the towns of New Scotland and Bethlehem have made significant contributions to the rail trail’s success, and so have the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, the Friends of the Rail Trail and private donors like the Voorheesville Foundation,” Mackey said.
Trail users can access parking at different locations along the trail, including in a lot on South Pearl Street in Albany, at the corner of Adams Street and Hudson Avenue in Delmar, behind Firefighters Park in Slingerlands, and on Voorheesville Avenue in Voorheesville.
See additional photos of the rail trail here.