Off the Northway: Zim Smith may reach Mechanicville

Saratoga County officials are putting some money behind the idea of extending the Zim Smith recreati

Saratoga County officials are putting some money behind the idea of extending the Zim Smith recreation trail into the city of Mechanicville.

Land ownership issues today stop the trail about two miles short of the city, at Coon’s Crossing Road in Halfmoon — a pretty enough spot, but closer to being the middle of nowhere than the middle of somewhere.

There’s long been a desire — “plan” might be too strong a word — to extend the trail southward into Mechanicville, which is definitely somewhere, and much more likely to attract new visitors. The old mill and rail town has convenience stores, restaurants and, maybe best of all from a recreational point of view, access to the Hudson River.

This week, the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors voted to spend up to $180,000 to acquire the rights of way across private land that would be needed to extend the Zim Smith to reach Mechanicville.

Whether that will be enough money is uncertain, since the county has yet to strike any deals with five small private landowners whose property it would like to cross.

“It’s very early in the process,” said county Planning Director Jason Kemper.

But the biggest hurdle — getting permission to extend the biking and hiking trail through the new Pan Am-Southern railroad yard — has already been crossed, at least for now. The partnership between the Norfolk Southern and Pan Am railroads, which is building the yard on the bones of the historic D&H yard, has agreed to allow the trail to cross the southern boundary of its property.

But there are still some private landowners between Coons Crossing and the railroad property, and the $180,000 is to go toward the costs of pursuing those easements.

A clock is ticking. The railroads gave the county five years to get all the arrangements for a trail extension in place, or it will lose their permission. Government moves glacially, and this is already the third year.

Saratoga PLAN, a private non-profit group devoted to land conservation and trails development, praised the county for setting aside some money.

For trail backers, extending the Zim Smith would fit with a long-term vision to connect it with new trails running north and south from Mechanicville, along the scenic Hudson River.

At the northern end, the goal is to extend the trail from Ballston Spa to Saratoga Springs. Saratoga PLAN recently met with various officials to discuss possible routes to Saratoga Spa State Park, and from there into the city.


I hadn’t been aware fake maple syrup marketing was a big problem, but then I’m not a politician.

Our U.S. senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, nevertheless deserve kudos for creativity in naming their new bill that if approved would make falsely claiming to be selling maple syrup a federal felony, worth five years in prison.

They call it the Maple Agriculture Protection and Law Enforcement (MAPLE) Act.

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