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Foss: Amsterdam planning some exciting projects

Foss: Amsterdam planning some exciting projects

Foss: Amsterdam planning some exciting projects
The Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook pedestrian bridge.
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ

I remember the first time I visited the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook pedestrian bridge in Amsterdam. 

I could see the bridge ... but I couldn't quite figure out how to get to it. 

I made the mistake of parking downtown, thinking there would be some way to access it from there. 

But a quick stroll down East Main Street disabused me of that notion. I got back in my car, drove to the other side of the Mohawk River and parked in the small parking lot available to visitors. 

I had a great deal of fun wandering around the bridge and nearby Riverlink Park, but the lack of access from downtown was clearly a problem. Rather than make it easy to check out downtown and visit local shops and eateries, it actually called attention to the poor urban planning that can make Amsterdam such a nightmare to navigate. 

Happily, this could change. 

Amsterdam is the recipient of a $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative state grant to be spent on projects aimed at injecting new life into the aging and cash-strapped city. 

The award represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the city of Amsterdam to remake downtown into a more vibrant, pedestrian-oriented and family-friendly place -- to rectify some of the urban planning mistakes of the past and chart a bright new future. 

To that end, the steering committed tasked with finding ways to spend the $10 million has come up with a list of 20 projects that will be submitted to state officials at the end of the month. 

It's a good list, filled with promising projects that are guaranteed to have a positive impact on the heart of Amsterdam. 

One of them is a $5.3 million bridge connector that would link Veteran's Park -- a large downtown park with a baseball diamond and pool -- to the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook pedestrian bridge. 

Once the connector is built, the pedestrian bridge will no longer be cut off from downtown, which will help the bridge realize its full potential as a community gathering place and link between the city's north and south sides. 

Another highly promising project is a community recreation center -- something downtown currently lacks but would certainly benefit from. (The city's YMCA shut down in 2015, citing a lack of financial resources due, in part, to a waning membership.) 

Under the city's proposal, the community center would be run by the Boys & Girls Club in partnership with Centro Civico, a non-profit organization that serves Montgomery County's Latino community. 

It would serve a maximum of 100 children at a time and employ 10 people, and I would expect it to quickly become a very busy place, providing local youth with a positive and stimulating place to hang out.  

One of Amsterdam's prized assets is its public library, on Church Street, and the city plans to use DRI funding to establish a business incubator and STEM education center there. 

This is an intriguing idea -- one that could make the library an even livelier and more dynamic place. 

The city also proposes using Downtown Revitalization Initiative funds to develop the Chuctanunda Creek Trail. 

Right now, the Chuctanunda Creek Trail is an informal pathway that takes people past waterfalls, old industrial buildings and walk formations etched with fossils. 

I walked the trail with a knowledgeable guide a few years ago, and I've been hoping the city would obtain funding to turn it into a more formal trail, with signs and easy-to-follow footpaths. A more accessible trail would be a draw, bringing in visitors interested in discovering what I consider one of Amsterdam's best-kept secrets. 

All in all, it's an exciting time for the city of Amsterdam, and I'm eager to see the next phase of this process unfold. 

Ten million dollars is a lot of money, and Amsterdam is poised to spend it well. 

Reach Gazette columnist Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper's.      

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