Three more miles of rail trail open

The Enterprise –– Michael Koff
Crossing the gap: Hikers on Saturday walk across a newly constructed bridge that spans a ravine in Voorheesville on the newly opened three-mile Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail located at the corner of Grove Street and Voorheesville Avenue. After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, a party followed to celebrate the halfway mark of completing the 10-mile trail that is to run from Albany to Voorheesville.

A work in progress: Albany County purchased a rail corridor from the Canadian Pacific Railroad in 2009 with funding from New York State Parks and Scenic Hudson, a not-for-profit land trust. The Friends Of the Rail Trail (FORT), a committee of the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, working with Albany County, the towns of New Scotland and Bethlehem, and the village of Voorheesville have helped as have businesses and individuals.

Dedicated volunteers have worked on improved bridges, including this one over the Vly Creek, for the Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail. “We are really fortunate that the bridge was structurally sound,” said Scott Lewendon, the project leader, in a release from the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, “and, with the help of a group of skilled volunteers and engineering, we will have an attractive crossing over the Vly Creek.” A newly opened three-mile stretch of trail will be celebrated on Saturday.​

NEW SCOTLAND —The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy has invited the public to celebrate the opening of a new three-mile section of the Rail Trails project on Saturday, Dec. 7, at the Voorheesville American Legion.

“It’s a project that’s been a long time coming, and we’re very excited finally getting off the ground in New Scotland,” said Mark King, the conservancy’s director.  “We want to keep things moving.”

King joined the not-for-profit organization in August. He, along with a number of local officials, will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the entrance to the trailhead, at the corner of Grove Street and Voorheesville Avenue, at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Then, from 2 to 5 p.m., the group will host a reception with food and refreshments while guest speakers make remarks.

The conservancy recently completed work on two rail bridges along the nine-mile trail, which passes over Route 155 and the Vly Creek. The work updated the bridges with safety fencing designed to protect pedestrians and drivers. The safety railings cost about $17,000 to install, with some of the work being completed by volunteers.

In total, a three-mile section of the trail is now open through the town. Though only open for foot traffic, the path will eventually be upgraded for cyclists.  In the coming winter months, King said, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing will be allowed on the trail.

Combined with the 1.9-mile section of trail open in the town of Bethlehem, more than half of the nine-mile trail is now open, but the remaining section lies in the more developed areas, beginning from South Pearl Street in the city of Albany.

The $17,000 to develop the rural end of the trail came from donations, said King. The Voorheesville School and Community Foundation contributed $10,000 and the town of New Scotland contributed $4,500; the rest was from private contributors.

“The next really big step is one the county will have to make,” said King, explaining work on the second half of the project would cost millions of dollars.

He said the county is working on a $3 million grant to cover some of the cost of installing the trail from South Pearl Street to Delaware Avenue. If funds are available, he estimated the project could have a construction contract in place by the fall of 2014 and work could begin in 2015.

When the work is completed, the trail will be paved.

“It’s in the county’s hands to connect the towns’ pieces,” said King.

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