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And that old depot building in Slingerlands...

Slingerlands rail trail depot

A few possibilities for the next life of that huge barn that stands alongside the Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail

Hilton Barn next to the rail trail

The second paved segment of the Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail -- from Slingerlands to Voorheesville -- is ribbon-cutting official as of this week. And the popular paved path now stretches 9 miles from Albany's South End to the west through Bethlehem and New Scotland.

One of the things you might notice on the new segment -- it's hard to miss -- is the giant barn next to the spot where the rail trail crosses Hilton Road in the town of New Scotland. It is, appropriately, the Hilton Barn.

It dates back 1898, and it's said to be one of largest post-and-beam structures ever built in the county. Multiple people we talked with about it this week described it as being like a cathedral.

And its future could be a part of what you might think of as the second phase of the rail trail, in which destinations pop up along the trail and it branches out to connect with the surrounding communities.

Here are a few ideas that are bouncing around...

If you'd just like to gawk at the barn

There are photos at the top in large format -- click or scroll all the way up.

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Wasn't there something a large barn being moved?

Yep, that was the Hilton Barn. Back in 2016 the town of New Scotland -- with some help -- had the historic barn literally picked up and moved roughly 600 feet across Route 85A to a spot right next to the rail trail at Hilton Road. That cost about $250k, paid for with money from Albany County as well as state grants secured by state Assembly member Pat Fahy and state Senator George Amedore.

The barn now sits on 14 acres of land that belong to the town thanks to the help of the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy and donations from Peter and Barbara Kelly and Jennifer Hilton. The land is to serve as a park -- Captain Joseph Hilton Park.

What's going on now

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Doug LaGrange -- New Scotland's supervisor -- said at the rail trail ribbon cutting this week that the town is focused on getting the barn's roof squared away.

"We've got it secured, we've got it on a solid foundation," he said.

The current roof is slate, and LaGrange said ideally the new roof would be as well. But cost and engineering considerations will play a role in what sort of material ends up being used. He figured the project would probably cost at least $180k. (It's a big barn -- 60 feet by 120 feet.) And Pat Fahy has been working on another state grant to help with the cost. LaGrange said there could also be more money via a George Amedore member item and private donations.

"As soon as we get the roof on, then we can take a bit of a break and go, OK, where do we stand and what's our plan for the inside?"

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Ideas for the future

LaGrange said the barn is generally well preserved, and people have already had ideas about how to use what he described as a "rustic cathedral."

"We had someone approach us to put a restaurant in there. We'd like to put bathrooms in there. Maybe you have a bike shop, an ice cream shop. Things that would tie into the park that we're trying to develop and the rail trail," he said. "Then the second floor up is an area where you'd like to have events with little change to it, to keep it as pristine as it is, as accurate to as it was first built."

Mark King -- the executive director of the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy -- said he's heard people float ideas like a concert venue or a site for a farmers' market. But he noted there are people looking at the barn's future from a different direction.

"I think there's a lot of possibility," he said. "People need to get together and figure out which way to go. Because there is a set of people who really want to treat it more as a museum and a monument to the agricultural past of the town. And there's a lot of merit to that. So can those ideas merge? That's one of the challenges."

King was the other person who used the word "cathedral" when talking with us about the barn. And he said that quality is worth keeping in mind. "It's very majestic and soaring. Can you capture that and still have other uses?"

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After the ribbon cutting this week, Albany County executive Dan McCoy was enthusiastic about the barn potentially being a destination along the rail trail.

"That barn is going to be the focus for a lot of little concerts and things going on that people will ride their bikes up from Albany or Bethlehem and Voorheesville," he said. "It's a big barn. It's going to cost a lot to maintain, so it's something [the town is] going to have to budget for into the future. But I could see a little restaurant maybe, a farmers' market, a place to go to the bathroom."

In the short term, Doug LaGrange -- the New Scotland supervisor -- said the focus is the new roof. Then maybe the next step is a parking lot and a trailhead. And then maybe the town can look at other uses. It could be five or ten years out -- or sooner, if someone steps up with some money.

"It's a progression, we don't have the budget wherewithal to jump in and do it all at once."

The Slingerlands depot building

Slingerlands rail trail depot

Speaking of potential destinations along the rail trail...

Dan McCoy said Wednesday that the county is continuing to look at options for the old railroad depot building the county now owns at the trailhead in Slingerlands. "We're talking about investing in that. I don't want to say now, but we're talking to certain individuals about doing something there."

He said the house on the other side of the rail trail that came along with the depot building would probably end up being demolished. And the county is thinking about how to use that space. "We could just keep it green with a meeting area and picnic tables so people can go off the trail, get a cup of coffee, get something to eat next door at the Village Deli, or just enjoy nature."

If you have ideas, McCoy encouraged people to call his office and offer them up. He said the county's already gotten a lot of feedback from people with suggestions for the rail trail.

And that section of the path by the Slingerlands trailhead -- along with the bridge over New Scotland Road -- is still gravel. McCoy said the county's issued a request for proposals for that project and it's been talking with the state Department of Transportation about fixing up the bridge. "It's structurally sound, but it needs a full facelift in there."

Bathrooms

One of the biggest comments people make about the rail trail: a need for bathrooms.

McCoy said the county is planning to place porta-toilets along the trail next year, and it will be reaching out to the public about the best places to put them.

Earlier

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

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

+ Mapping out the future for an alternative transportation network in the Capital District

Comments

That barn is beautiful & every time I pedal by it I start daydreaming. Thanks for keeping us informed.

Has anyone looked into having City bike rentals, along the trail? For those that don’t own a bike or car rack.
Locations in Voorheesville, Slingerlands and Abany.

The rail trail is great. The barn should be made into something like Shelburne Farms in Vermont. Awesome place that has bakery/deli, educations programs, walking trails and bathrooms.

I really like the idea of a farmers market inside the barn. Handmade soaps, and lotions, candles. Books, old fashioned candy, An old fashioned soda fountain, with stools to sit. Handmade/painted occasion cards. Wreaths in the winter, and garden flowers in the summer. Old farm equipment hanging on the walls. A Christmas market in the winter, with carolers from town. Handmade toys. Fountains and benches. Holiday events. Outside, plants that attract butterflies in the summer, with a trail marking each one, an emporiam. A small lunch counter with specialty salads and sandwiches, soup. Bike rental outside. Sections of the barn named after businesses of the past....LeVies, Kirks Flowers and Gifts, selling the similar items. My brain won't stop! I would love to be a part of this.

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