The move of the barn stirs the imagination for what is possible

To the Editor:

Sometimes the possibility of success seems so unlikely that only blind faith moves us forward.  Such is the story of the move of the historic Hilton barn.

When former New Scotland Town Board member Daniel Mackay reached out to the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy more than a year ago to ask for assistance in relocating the barn, the idea of seeing the 260-ton structure moved anywhere seemed beyond imagination.  The identification of a great location for the barn immediately across the street, adjacent to the rail trail and on land still owned by Hilton heirs brought a glimmer of possibility.

A new job out of state for Daniel took the project’s biggest supporter in new directions.  Negotiations for the land that had begun so positively fell into endless rounds of phone calls and emails. Each time it appeared the effort was fruitless, new energy appeared

Jennifer Hilton, one of the remaining Hilton heirs, offered to donate her portion of the land’s value to the project and a generous New Scotland resident matched her donation with cash. County Legislator Mike McKay worked tirelessly to identify additional funding and the former town supervisor Tom Dolin persisted in trying to find solutions.

As the winter and the holidays approached, prospects again seemed to dim.  Developers, anxious to move forward with construction, had run out of patience.  Supporters seemed to be out of time to secure the land and funding to move the barn.

A last plea to a reluctant landowner accompanied by a copy of a prize-winning essay for the New Scotland Historical Association by Voorheesville student Eliza Jobin Davis praising the importance of the barn helped bring around the remaining landowner.

In January, a newly inaugurated town board, led by Supervisor Doug LaGrange, seized on the opportunity, and momentum for the Hilton Barn project grew exponentially.  Board members Adam Greenberg and Bill Hennessy undertook the project with a vengeance.  Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy and State Senator George Amedore stepped forward to provide funding and the Albany County Industrial Development Agency approved money to literally get the barn rolling.

Town and county public Works crews, under the direction of Ken Guyer and Bucky Ducan set about the work of site preparation all while performing their many regular duties.  New Scotland Town Attorney Michael Naughton worked determinedly with the Land Conservancy to sort out the many details of the land acquisition.

Almost exactly a year after efforts to move the barn began, several hundred people watched as a structure, built in 1898 when hay was still the primary fuel for transportation, was rolled across Route 85A by Wolfe Building movers using remote controls to drive the barn to its new home, adjacent to the Albany County Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail.

It is unlikely that the move of the barn would even have been considered had not the Albany County Legislature and County Executive Daniel McCoy made the commitment to the creation of the Albany County Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail. In 2010, with funding from the New York State Office of Parks and Scenic Hudson the rail corridor was saved from abandonment

Two years later, the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy and its Friends of the Rail Trail committee signed an agreement with the county to open the first sections of the trail to public use. Subsequent agreements opened more sections and the county’s newly paved corridor between Delmar and Albany is now enjoyed by thousands.

It is safe to say that when completed, it will be quicker to ride a bike to Albany from Bethlehem than it is to drive — and more enjoyable.  

There is of course much more to be done on both the barn and the rail trail projects, but the move of the barn stirs the imagination for what is possible.  New Scotland Town Board member Patty Snyder will lead a committee to envision new uses for the barn.  The City of Albany and Albany County are beginning to work to find creative solutions for connecting the rail trail to the Mohawk Hudson Bikeway and Albany waterfront.

The Village of Voorheesville is building a beautiful pavilion to welcome rail trail users and reinvigorate South Main Street, and the town of Bethlehem is exploring improved access to the trail and additional destinations and linkages.

All of these efforts point to the endless possibilities offered by a simple ribbon of trail that connects communities on a human scale.  The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy is proud to play a role in a project that shines a light on so many possibilities for the region.

Mark King, executive director

Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy

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