“There will never be a trail coming up here!” This was a common comment made by many residents of Washington County, particularly in the northern half of the county, about the Champlain Canalway Trail (CCT) becoming a reality. But over the years very dedicated volunteers, working closely with the NYS Canal Corporation, local municipalities, Washington County, and the Champlain Canalway Trail Working Group have moved the concept of a trail closer to reality. Now, with the creation of the Empire State Trail (EST), many insurmountable obstacles are being overcome.
One of the most difficult obstacles was trying to cross the Old Champlain Canal/Feeder Canal, traversing Bond Creek, and getting across Route 196, all within the area of Dunham’s Basin in the Town of Kingsbury, Washington County. This EST project will bridge the two water features and build a tunnel under the very busy highway. In addition, a bike path funded by the 2005 Transportation Bond Act will be started later this year, bringing the CCT and the EST to Fort Ann. By 2020, CCT trail may run from the Dix Bridge at the Saratoga County/Washington County border to Fort Ann in Washington County.
The final leg of the CCT, a nine-mile stretch between Fort Ann and Whitehall, will be the most difficult. Volunteers in the Fort Ann-Whitehall area formed their own working group and have worked tirelessly to complete the final leg. The group, applying through a local non-profit, secured a Hudson River Valley Greenways Grant for a feasibility study. With support for the match from local government, the feasibility study will be completed in the next month. One of the key parts in routing this trail is the cooperation of a privately-owned campground and in crossing Department of Corrections property. Adding to the momentum, the Washington County Board of Supervisors has formed a countywide trails committee and received funding to do the final design and planning for the CCT from Comstock (just north of Fort Ann) to Whitehall.
Once completed, the EST will likely follow the route of the CCT to Whitehall where trails from Canada on each side of Lake Champlain will connect, uniting a cross-state and international network of trails.