SCHENECTADY -- Schenectady County and city officials want to complete a bike trail connection into the historic Stockade neighborhood, but not all residents are happy with the details.
During a county-sponsored public meeting Thursday evening at the Schenectady County Public Library, many of the 30 people in attendance said they'd prefer the new trail not run through Riverside Park, which borders the Mohawk River in the Stockade.
"I don't think people realize how precious this park is," said resident Jean Zeggers. "The plan would compromise that for a major bike path."
Currently the park has a paved path through it, but city regulations say the path isn't open to any bicyclists over age 10 -- a rule some who have ridden through the park said they weren't aware of. They say they feel safer bicycling through a park rather than on city streets.
Officials hope residents' concerns can be addressed by having riders use a new separate trail, but they said they will consider the residents' concerns.
"Being sensitive to Riverside, that's our goal," said Ray Gillen, chairman of the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority, which is coordinating the $30,000 study.
The proposed path would extend the new Alco Heritage Trail behind Mohawk Harbor from its end at River Street into the Stockade. Construction may receive state funding as part of developing the $200 million statewide Empire State Trail, a thrust of which is closing gaps in existing trails.
"The statewide goal is to have as much stuff off-road as possible, and as much along the river as possible, because it's beautiful," Gillen said.
The Alco trail is going to become part of the Erie Canalway Trail, which runs from Albany to Buffalo. That trail is a backbone of the statewide system, which state officials see as having major tourism potential.
"We're really starting to view these things as linear parks," said Schenectady City Engineer Chris Wallin. "We are sitting in a terrific spot to highlight the city. We have signs, 'Welcome to Schenectady.' We want to have those on the trails. They are gateways."
The main engineering problem is how to cross an existing CSX-Amtrak rail line.
There are two options: putting enough fill in the river so that a path could be built on the abutment of the CSX bridge over the river, or bringing the trail south to cross under the tracks at the existing bridge over Front Street.
Crossing under the river bridge would require approval from CSX, which would probably do an extensive review, and a crossing there would also be subject to seasonal flooding and ice floe damage.
Residents and county officials prefer the Front Street option, which would also be less expensive."One way, with the railroad is very bureaucratic and time-consuming, and the other is very feasible and year-round," Gillen said.
Gillen said the thoughts of residents will be incorporated into a final report that should be ready in about six weeks.