Editor’s note: This column was updated at 4:35 p.m. Monday. As proposed, trails would be built in eight Schoharie County municipalities.
When I think of the Schoharie Creek, I think of flooding — a consequence, I suppose, of having seen the damage caused by roiling creek waters during hurricanes Irene and Lee firsthand.
Of course, there’s more to the Schoharie Creek than flooding.
Most of the time, the creek is a good thing — a pretty ribbon of water that winds through a fertile valley known for farming and rural living.
Whenever I visit Schoharie County, my eye is drawn to the creek — to its gentle, wooded banks and scenic contours.
Which might explain why I’m so enthused about plans to build a system of trails along the Schoharie Creek.
If these plans come to fruition, it will benefit those who live in Schoharie County, as well as visitors such as myself, who are always looking for new places to walk, run and bike.
Spearheaded by Schoharie County and SALT Development, the non-profit organization founded in the wake of the 2011 flooding, the trail-building project is a long-term effort — but one that could begin yielding results fairly soon.
Next week the state will announce whether it will fund construction of a 1.5-mile section of trail in Middleburgh using economic development funds.
This section of trail would start on property now owned by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and end at a boat launch. The FEMA property was previously the site of the Valley Bible Baptist Church, which was swept away in the flooding six years ago.
One of the more interesting-sounding sections of trail would connect the town of Esperance to Landis Arboretum, an arboretum and public garden with a sweeping view of the Schoharie Valley.
The hope is to build trails that are between one and three miles long, can accommodate both bikers and pedestrians and are also accessible to people with disabilities. Above all, the goal is to get people outside — to get them moving and using the waterfront.
Which sounds good to me.
Other than cost — and the idea is to fund the trail-building with grants — is there a downside to creating more opportunities for recreating and enjoying the great outdoors?
Not that I can see.
Jerrine Corallo, project director for SALT, told me that Schoharie Creek Trail was originally envisioned as one long, continuous, nearly 40-mile trail, but that building a contiguous path along the river simply isn’t feasible.
“There were landowner issues, and the topography didn’t always lend itself to walking,” Corrallo explained.
In other words, creating a long, continuous trail required getting private landowners to agree to allow the public to use their property, and not all of these landowners were cooperative. And some sections of trail would have been difficult to develop.
As a result, the final trail plan, which should be finalized by March by the engineering firm GPI, will call for separate trails in eight Schoharie County municipalities.
One group that might assist with the building and maintenance of the Schoharie Creek Trail is the Schoharie County Trail Association, a non-profit organization founded in 2013 with the goal of supporting the construction and maintenance of the Cobleskill Creek Trail.
The first section of this three-mile walking trail, which connects the SUNY Cobleskill campus to Cobleskill-Richmondville High School, opened in 2013.
Shane Nickle, the group’s treasurer and a senior planner at the county Office of Community Development Services, said that the Cobleskill Creek Trail is popular — more popular than he ever expected.
“I do a lot of maintenance on the trail, and I see a lot of out-of-state license plates and a lot of locals,” he said.
The Schoharie Creek Trail could attract a similar mix of people, Nickle said.
“I definitely see it as a big draw,” Nickle said.
So do I.
One thing I’ve noticed is that whenever a new trail system opens, people use it. This popularity and interest suggests that there’s a hunger for safe, pleasant trails that are easy to get to and fun to explore.
With any luck, it won’t be too long before the first section of the Schoharie Creek Trail opens, and people can take advantage of the creek and all it has to offer.
To view the proposed trail system, visit the SALT Development website here.
Reach Gazette columnist Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.
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