Saratoga County

Stimulus won’t fund all of Zim Smith Trail work

The county may spend $550,000 of its own money to finish the last section of the Zim Smith recreatio

The county may spend $550,000 of its own money to finish the last section of the Zim Smith recreation trail, on top of federal economic stimulus money.

The county spending, which received committee backing Tuesday, would pay for trail construction along the CP Rail tracks between Zepko Lane and Oak Street at the southern edge of Ballston Spa.

The move is being considered after state Department of Transportation officials determined that federal stimulus money couldn’t be used for that section of trail because the improvements will be on private property owned by the railroad. The county will lease land from the railroad rather than owning the trail property.

However, the county will still be eligible for about $890,000 in stimulus money to finish the trail between Underpass Road in Ballston and Zepko Lane on a right-of-way the county owns.

The Ballston Spa connection would finish the trail as originally envisioned in the 1980s, running almost nine miles from Coons Crossing in Halfmoon to Ballston Spa.

Spending the county money is worthwhile to get the federal funding and complete the trail, said county Economic Development Committee Chairwoman Anita M. Daly, R-Clifton Park.

“Unless we grab the circumstances, we are going to lose this federal money,” Daly said.

The committee, meeting Tuesday in Ballston Spa, voted unanimously to recommend that the county spend the money. The recommendation will go the county’s Law and Finance Committee today and the full Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

The $550,000 estimate includes construction of the trail from Zepko Lane to Oak Street, with nearly half of the cost going for fencing and other safety improvements required by CP Rail before it will allow a trail near its tracks.

The money could be taken from the available county surplus of about $28 million.

County Planning Director Jason Kemper said there’s so much competition for the federal stimulus money that it will likely be lost to other projects if there are any further delays.

Assuming that the spending is approved, Kemper said that trail construction should start this fall and be finished by May.

He noted that the entire trail — which he estimated would cost $4 million to $5 million to build from scratch — has so far cost the county only $130,000 of its own money.

A $686,000 federal grant awarded in 2002 paid most of the cost for construction from Round Lake to Halfmoon, and the county water line project has paid for more because it is in the same right-of-way. Two state DOT projects in the area also provided paving for the trail, which follows an old railroad bed.

Julia Stokes, chairman of the land conservation group Saratoga PLAN, said completion of the Zim Smith Trail will eventually allow trail connections to Saratoga Spa State Park, the Luther Forest Technology Campus and the planned north-south recreational trail along the Hudson River.

“This connects all over the place,” Stokes said.

She and Kemper said the existing trail sections are heavily used by bicyclists, joggers and walkers.

The trail is named in memory of recreation trails advocate Zimri Smith of Saratoga Springs.

Categories: News

Leave a Reply