Bike-hike trail users surveyed for comment

Cyclists and pedestrians enjoying the Erie Canalway Trail may encounter college students with laptop

Cyclists and pedestrians enjoying the Erie Canalway Trail may encounter college students with laptop computers hoping to ask a few questions.

And it might be a good idea for those who enjoy the bike path to stop and answer those questions, because the survey could affect the trail’s future.

Parks & Trails New York is informing residents about an ongoing survey project aimed at getting comments from as many as 800 people in an effort to put solid numbers on the trail’s impact on communities stretching from the Capital Region all the way to Buffalo.

Roughly 30 SUNY-Geneseo students are conducting a study directed by the college’s Survey and Research Center for Parks & Trails New York, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting the state’s open spaces.

The goal is gather and interpret information to determine the role the bike path plays in communities including tourism impact, said Fran Gotcsik, a spokeswoman for Parks & Trails. “It’s extremely important because what we know intuitively and anecdotally is that a lot of people are using the trail,” she said.

These recreational users probably buy an ice cream cone or put gas in their car, Gotcsik said, and that’s the kind of impact that adds to local economies. Some might be using the trail during a longer-term stay like a vacation — and they are staying in hotels, eating at restaurants and buying souvenirs.

“They are spending money in these communities yet we don’t have any good, solid data as to exactly how many people and how much they’re spending,” Gotcsik said.

In addition to asking cyclists and walkers to take about 10 minutes and answer questions, students will be asking local officials and businesses for comment.

Having data in hand describing economic impact can help groups like Parks & Trails advocate for improvements to the Canalway Trail and display the benefits of maintaining these recreational features.

It may also persuade governments to consider some funding to fill in the gaps of the Canalway Trail system. There’s about 70 miles in five different places where the trail doesn’t connect before the state can boast a continuous trail from Albany to Buffalo.

“We need solid numbers, we need to justify how important this is in a very concrete way, and this hopefully is going to help us do that,” Gotcsik said.

The $30,000 study is being funded in part by the state Canal Corp. and the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.

Categories: Schenectady County

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