A new accessible and sensory-aided trail and kayak launch will be unveiled at the Hudson Crossing Park in Schuylerville at a 2 p.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday.
The River Walk Sensory Trail was developed to provide an opportunity for visually- and mobility-impaired visitors to experience the beauty of the area.
The project is part of a bigger, ongoing initiative to develop the Lakes to Locks Passage between Saratoga and Washington counties into the Hudson Crossing educational and recreational park.
The 1,540-foot trail is widely paved for ease of access and features river overlook decks, an outdoor “open classroom,” a retreat site that mimics the feel of a tree house without climbing a tree, and hand crank-powered listening stations that provide area histories along the riverfront in Schuylerville.
All along the path, corduroy-textured wooden inlays indicate points of interest for the visually impaired, and the Tour-Mate Eco-Box listening stations tell stories about the history of the Lakes to Locks Passage. Hikers can hear about the “four lives,” or the four historical themes of the area: Natural Forces and Native Peoples, Conflict and Settlement, Corridor of Commerce, and Magnet for Tourism.
Those adjustments provide an amplification of the senses that will generate a deeper understanding of the area’s natural history for all visitors, and is one of the longest trails of its kind in the United States.
“The trail was designed to let people with a variety of limitations experience nature in a way they might not otherwise be able to,” said Mike Bielkiewicz, vice president of commerce and outreach for Hudson Crossing Park.
The park is a collaborative effort, according to Bielkiewicz. The development of and funding for the nearly $370,000 River Walk Sensory Trail project was aided greatly by the state Department of State and its Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, as well as the National Park Service, the Schuylerville Lions Club, local volunteers, organizations and restoration groups.
The sensory trail and canoe and kayak launch were priority projects in the “Old Saratoga on the Hudson Waterfront Revitalization Plan,” an off-shoot of the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan.
“The plan identified a number of projects for enhancing public access and water-based recreation, promoting heritage tourism, revitalizating downtown areas, and developing efficient pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly transportation access,” according to Laz Benitez, speaking on behalf of the Department of State.
Development of the Alfred Z. Solomon Kayak Launch was aided by local paddlers in an attempt to find the safest and easiest point of entry to the longest stretch of the Champlain Canal between Locks C4 and C5. There are plans to increase accessibility of the canoe and kayak launch in the future, but for now it is accessible by a “short-cut” trail from the Lock 5 office and parking lot.
Upon completion of the Dix Bridge restoration, the sensory trail and adjacent launch will complete a nearly circular hiking path around the Lakes to Locks Passage.
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