SARATOGA & WASHINGTON COUNTIES — The state will be investing $12 million to establish or improve 22 miles of the long-planned Champlain Canalway Trail between Waterford in southern Saratoga County and the village of Whitehall, at the southern end of Lake Champlain.
The spending on three sections of trail between Waterford and Fort Ann is part of the state’s larger effort to establish an Empire State Trail that would run 750 miles statewide, from Buffalo to Albany and from New York City to the Canadian border. That plan was funded in this year’s state budget as a major initiative of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“Governor Cuomo’s initiative will dramatically extend existing sections of the Champlain Canalway Trail, which is a stonedust bicycling and walking trail largely built on the towpath adjacent to both the historic and active canal,” according to an announcement from the Hudson River Valley Greenway, which is coordinating the work.
At the southern end of the trail, the state will pay for two new trail segments between Waterford and Mechanicville, linking what are now isolated trail segments to create a continuous 7-mile trail between the village of Waterford and city of Mechanicville. The towns of Waterford and Halfmoon will contract for the work, with the state providing funding.
The Mechanicville work potentially links the Champlain trail to Saratoga County’s Zim Smith trail. The county has been working for a number of years to extend that trail from Halfmoon into Mechanicville, and is close to starting work.
In Schuylerville, Empire State Trail funding will pay for 1.5 miles of new trail from Ferry Street in the village south to Garnsey Lane. That will connect to an existing trail in the village that runs north to Hudson Crossing Park and the Dix Bridge, where the trail crosses the Hudson into Washington County.
The state Canal Corp. will be contracting to build or improve 12 miles of off-road path between Fort Edward and Fort Ann, including two bridges and a pedestrian tunnel to allow safe passage under state Route 196 in Kingsbury. Some of the route will be on existing low-traffic roads.
All the projects are scheduled to be completed by 2020. The state Department of Transportation will also be involved in the work.
Additional work planned at the same time includes new informational signage directing people to businesses, historic sites and tourism attractions, and on-road bicycle improvements on Main Street in Mechanicville and along Route 4 between Comstock and Whitehall. The total route from Waterford to Whitehall will be 61 miles.
North of Whitehall, the Empire State Trail will be an on-road bicycle trail along 120 miles through the Champlain Valley. There will also be improvements to make it easier for cyclists who reach Waterford to connect to the Erie Canalway Trail through the city of Cohoes, or to the Corning Preserve Trail in Albany, also through Cohoes.