Schoharie Area Long Term and Schoharie County planners have begun exploring the idea of creating a nearly 40-mile mixed-use trail along the Schoharie Creek.
The trail would connect the village of Esperance to the hamlet of North Blenheim, meandering from the creek to the downtown centers of the communities it passes through, according to SALT project director Jerrine Corallo.
“This idea of a multiuse trail in the valley here has been around for a while,” she said. “We saw it as something that held a lot of potential to assist with the economic revitalization of the area, particularly post-flood, and also to focus on the creek and the assets here in the community.”
The county received a roughly $150,000 grant from the federal Environmental Protection Fund for a feasibility study, which it began early this year with University at Albany graduate students helping to draft a conceptual plan for the trail.
The study is looking at what exactly the community wants from the trails— from kayak access to educational stations— as well as things like financial feasibility and whether the landowners along the route would be willing to cooperate.
Planners held the first in a series of public meetings on Feb. 22 in Schoharie and Feb. 23 in Middleburgh. Another is scheduled for March 14 in Esperance. It will be held at 7 p.m. at the Esperance-Sloansville United Methodist Church.
Feedback from those meetings, as well as other research conducted by the UAlbany students, SALT and Schoharie County Planning and Development will be used to create a “vision plan” — a broad idea of what the trail could look like, Corallo said.
That’s expected to be presented in May. From there, planners will put out a request for professional consultants to draft a final feasibility study by December 2017.
So far, Corallo said, “it does look like the trail is feasible.”
SALT was established to assist with recovery efforts after Tropical Storms Irene and Lee flooded the Schoharie Valley in 2011. Corallo said the trail would assist in long-term recovery by drawing in tourists, keeping locals more active and promoting the development of new businesses.
“There’s lots of evidence that trail users contribute to the local economy,” she said. “I think we also see, in the long-term, opportunity for businesses to develop, whether it’s snowshoe rentals or canoe and kayak rentals and sales, things like that.”