A few more bits about the present and future of the Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail

Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail 2018-07-11 rail trail sign

The second segment of Albany County's Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail is now paved -- as noted earlier this week -- meaning there's now 9 miles of (almost) continuous pavement from the South End in Albany all the way out to Voorheesville.

We got a chance this week to talk with Albany County exec Dan McCoy about the present and future of the popular trail.

"I go around doing my state of the county every year, people are like rooting us on -- when's it going to be done, when's it going to be done, when are you going to fix the problem with it," McCoy said in reference to the remarkable popularity of the rail trail. "And these are good issues to have."

Here are a few bits about paving, the depot building in Slingerlands, new amenities, bathrooms, bike share, and what's still ahead...

Paving the Slingerlands to Voorheesville segment

Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail segment between Slingerlands and Voorheesville

The four-mile segment from Slingerlands west to Voorheesville has pavement in place -- people are already using it -- but there are still a few spots that need work. So it's possible you might encounter a crew and work that temporarily blocks the path.

McCoy said that work should be finished by the end of July.

Funding and new amenities

Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail 2018-07-11 McCoy press conference

The county exec was at the section of the trail by the Bethlehem Veterans Memorial Park in Delmar Wednesday with a bunch of local officials to unveil one of the new fitness equipment stations for the trail, as well as new benches.

McCoy said afterward that getting funding together to initially pave the trail was a challenge and the county had to start the project slowly.

"Sometimes you can't start with the bells and whistles, so I said let's simplify the process. Let's just get a rail trail first. Let's pave it and then we'll take it from there. And we'll add as we go on. And more people get involved and we get more grants, because once you have a product and you have success it's easier to get grant funding from the state or other areas of the federal government," McCoy said, standing next to a pull-up bar. "[The trail] took off so fast that so many people started utilizing it, we've started to add things. So now, I don't say the luxury things, but as you see these workout areas along the rail trail, these are things that we wanted to do but they weren't necessary at first. So now we're in the process of enhancing the experience."

The Slingerlands trail head and bridge over New Scotland Road

Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail Slingerlands 2018-May
The Slingerlands trailhead this past May. The depot building is on the left in the background.

There's still one piece of the trail that's not paved: roughly 100 yards along the parking lot at the Slingerlands trailhead and the adjacent bridge over New Scotland Road.

The county has been working with the engineering firm Creighton Manning on a design for the Slingerlands trailhead -- you might remember the public meeting to gather input last fall. Albany County public works commissioner Lisa Ramundo said this week that the parking lot and trail segment along it will be paved this fall as part of that project.

The paving of the bridge is still to be determined. Ramundo said the county has been working with various agencies to sort out the situation involving the bridge to make sure both the path over of the top and the area underneath get the treatment they need.

The depot building and the house

The section by the Slingerlands trailhead had been a source of conflict for a few years because of some friction with a property owner there. But in December the county acquired the house there and the old railroad depot building that sits on the opposite side of the path.

That depot building could probably serve all sorts of uses for the trail. McCoy said the county has some thoughts and it's working to be able to announce plans in September.

"I had some ideas and then we got a lot of other ideas [from the public], and so we're trying to give what the people want. It's not so much what I want, [it's] the people that are utilizing the rail trail. So it's been interesting to see their points of view and how they see it."

Bathrooms

Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail 2018-07-11 near Stewarts in Delmar

Bathrooms are a frequently requested amenity for the trail, and McCoy said the county has heard that call. "We're figuring out where we can strategically put out houses and how we can use local restaurants to go to the bathroom."

McCoy said the county has gotten some complaints from business along the trail about people using their bathrooms. He said he understands, and the county wants to work with them. But he also said it's a good problem to have.

"All the businesses [along the trail] have actually increased. Some have complained about the bathroom usage and I'm like, well, you're getting more people," he said. "So it's one of the things, I get it, but it's a good thing for the economy for here in the town of Voorheesville, Bethlehem, and Albany."

Bike share

There's currently a bike share hub at Albany end of the trail, and McCoy said he's like to see at least one more at another spot along the trail.

This week Lauren Bailey -- who oversees the bike share for CDTA -- acknowledged that the system has so far focused on the region's core cities. But now that the system's established and its popularity keeps increasing, expanding the geographic footprint is a possibility.

"We are likely looking at an expansion to the rail trail," she said Thursday, noting that if it does happen, it would be in future seasons.

Input

Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail 2018-07-11 media interviews from afar

This week McCoy encouraged members of the public to keep sending along ideas to the county about how to shape the rail trail experience.

"We'd love to hear back from you -- and we do every time you write about it," he said with a laugh. "But the people that live along it, too. We've got to be good neighbors with the people that have their backyards into the rail trail and to the business owner. So whatever your feedback is, I'd love to hear from you."

If you have a suggestion, call the county exec's office: 518-447-7040.

Art on the Rail Trail

The Art of the Rail Trail initiative -- which organized the creation of a mural at Hudson Ave in Delmar last year -- has another project planned for the underside of the Cherry Avenue bridge. Proposals for the project will be on display at Bethlehem Town Hall Monday (July 16) at 7:30 pm.

Art on the Rail Trail committee members will also be there to take feedback and answer questions.

Earlier

+ The second section of the Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail is now paved

+ The Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail is set to get a new paved section this summer, and a few more bits about its future

Comments

Rode the new section from Slingerlands to Voorheesville last night - very impressed overall! A couple of the intersections are dicey such as Font Grove Rd where the trail converges at a steep angle with the roadway. Hopefully they will add advanced intersection warning signage on the path and roadway. I also wonder if lighting at the intersections is in the works. These are minor quibbles to a gem of a path. The pavement cross section is substantial! There must be at least 6 inches of asphalt on the new section.

One amenity not mentioned in the article - the Hilton barn which was (successfully) relocated to right beside the path.

Definitely do-able to connect up to the Mohawk-Hudson via SR 155 to Vly Road...

Wish they open the old McCormick road between Albany and Bethlehem for walkers and bikers so more people would have access to the trail from the Westmere, Albany, and Guilderland side.

It would be great to have garbage cans for dog waste bags.

@VO1

Excuse my ignorance, can you provide the Lat Long for the area you're talking about? I;'m trying to locate on a map.

-Thanks!

Does anyone know the story of the abandoned bridge over the trail near Hilton Road (heading toward Slingerlands)?

What a great idea, creating a paved, secluded pedestrian/bike highway straight from the worst, high-crime and violence area of Albany right into the heart of relatively safe, high-income suburbs.

I would be so pissed if I was a homeowner there.

Revive the Greenbelt idea of Don Rittner. Connections are all still there. Create more public spaces https://blog.timesunion.com/rittner/the-albany-greenbelt-revisited/4876/

Hey Greg and/or @VO1

I'm interested in the McCornick road reference too. (see, @daleyplanit, you aren't the only one. ha ha)

where was it?
when did it become inaccessible?
does the county or town still own it or was it sold off to a developer? 1,000 questions more!! :-)

@asdf, good point; we should probably rip up all the roads and sidewalks that connect our communities as well.

@daleyplanit, @jsc: I suspect VO1 is referring to this spot where McCormack Road once crossed the Normans Kill. From the little bit of history I can gather, McCormack once functioned as part of the plank road that is now New Scotland Road. (I don't know if this was the original crossing.) It looks like from these old USGS maps that the bridge was there at least as late as 1950.

As VO1 notes, a crossing there could be an interesting addition. People could walk or bike up McCormack on the Bethlehem side and maybe there could be a new path built along the east side of Cherry Ave that connects to the rail trail.

@greg

Thanks

If there were a few trash cans, maybe at road intersections, I am sure the trail would stay cleaner. Dog owners would be more likely to clean up after their dogs and it would easier for others to dispose of tissues, etc. .

In response to Rail Biker: I've also been interested in that bridge. It could have been built to provide access to farm fields, but that would have been an expensive structure.

I wonder if there was mining or a quarry north of the area where the bridge is located? In Google Maps, you can see several ponds that look like pits filled with water:

https://www.google.com/maps/search/google+maps/@42.6473457,-73.9009036,1364m/data=!3m1!1e3

Within that area, there is another bridge that you can see here:

https://www.google.com/maps/@42.6504927,-73.9024577,123m/data=!3m1!1e3

It looks like something was there that went well beyond farming, and may have required a bridge for access.

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