Following the completion of a 21-mile stretch of the Empire State Trail through Schenectady County, officials are seeking input on plans that would help those who utilize the trail find their way.
A “wayfinding” study commissioned earlier this year by the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority is now open to public comment after being released earlier this month.
The 22-page plan calls for adding trail etiquette signs as well as interpretive signs that would highlight the county’s history and landmarks. “Welcome to Schenectady County” signs on both ends of the trail — which extends from Niskayuna to Rotterdam Junction — as well directional signage pointing trail users to nearby dining, shopping and other accommodations are also proposed.
Two kiosk stations would be placed in Schenectady that will show a map of the trail and point trail users in the direction of various attractions, according to the plan. Proposed locations for the stations include, SUNY Schenectady and at the corner of Union Street and Broadway. The stations will be placed by Discovery Schenectady, the county’s tourism arm, which has similar kiosks stationed throughout the downtown area.
The plan builds on the county’s Alco Heritage Trail, which runs along the Schenectady riverfront and uses interpretive signs to highlight local history, said Ray Gillen, chair of Metroplex.
Schenectady is planning to link the Alco trail to the downtown area using funds from the Downtown Revitalization Initiative.
“This wayfinding plan builds on the county’s earlier work to build the Alco Heritage Trail along the riverfront with interpretive signs and plans to construct an Empire State Trail Gateway using funding awarded via the Downtown Revitalization Initiative,” he said in a statement. “We are hoping to get feedback from the many trail walkers, runners and riders in our community.”
Construction on the Schenectady County portion of the trail wrapped late last year.
The $8 million project saw the state construct a new bike-pedestrian tunnel under the PanAm rail tracks at the end of Scrafford Lane in Rotterdam Junction and restore a century-old maintenance tunnel that runs under a set of CSX-owned tracks to the west. Three miles of new trail were also constructed.
The county’s portion was once of the last steps in completing the Empire State Trail, a 750-mile trail that extends from Manhattan to the Canadian Border and connects Albany and Buffalo.
Construction costs were covered by the state, but the county is responsible for maintaining its portion of the trail.
Earlier this year, Metroplex contracted Clifton Park-based 2K Design to complete the wayfinding study.
In addition to adding new signage, the plan calls for helping trail users find their way with a real-time interactive version of the Schenectady County portion of the trail that will be accessible by scanning a QR code that will be added to each sign, and promoting the scenic beauty along the trail.
“This serves a more intrinsic wayfinding role — helping visitors envision themselves using the trail,” the plan reads.
The map is still under development by Discovery Schenectady but will be available in digital and pocket format once the wayfinding trail is formally adopted.
“The Empire State Trail is a great recreational asset for our county,” Anthony Jasenski, chair of the Schenectady County Legislature, said in a statement. “Completing the trail has been a top priority for the county Legislature and now that it is finished, we want to make sure that new signage enhances the trail experience for residents and visitors alike.”
Anyone interested in providing comments on the plan or suggestions about bike and hike trails in Schenectady County are invited to send them to [email protected] by Dec. 31.
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.