The Waterford Harbor Visitors Center played host to the annual Bicyclists Bring Business roundtable discussion on Monday, September 24
Waterford sits at the confluence of the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers, and where the Champlain Canal and Champlain Canalway Trail start as they begins their run north to Lake Champlain in Whitehall. The Harbor Visitors Center provided a beautiful setting for the discussion, looking out at the setting sun over the Mohawk River, and across the river to Cohoes, where the Erie Canalway Trail leaves the Mohawk Valley and runs heads south towards Albany.
New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton kicked off the slate of presentations with an update on the work the Canal Corporation is doing statewide, including a summary of the annual Canalway Grant Program and the Reimagine the Canals competition. Canal Corporation Trails Manager Sasha Eisenstein followed this with an update on the status of the state Empire State Trail, the 750-mile statewide multi-use trail project scheduled to be complete by 2020, and which, when complete, will be the longest such trail in the nation. The presentation gave highlights on a number of specific projects that will help close gaps in the existing trail and better connect local communities to the statewide trail.
After the Canal Corporation presented, the attendees were treated to an update from the Champlain Canalway Trail Working Group. The 62-mile Champlain Canalway Trail is rapidly developing, as presenters Wally Elton and Dave Perkins noted. Much of the group’s recent success can be attributed to the funding and attention brought by the Empire State Trail project.
The final presentation consisted of best practices in catering to cyclists and cycling tourists gleaned from other trail systems. PTNY’s James Meerdink presented ideas from other popular multi-use trails, including Le Petit Tren du Nord in Quebec’s Laurentian mountains, and the Great Allegheny Passage in Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Rain proved no obstacle to local cyclists and trail advocates, as Tuesday’s planned community bike-a-round transitioned to a virtual ride inside the Peebles Island Visitor Center. Participants reviewed local trails and connections to downtown business districts using Google Streetview and their own knowledge of local routes – a great resource for sure.
Tuesday’s discussions often returned to the Empire State Trail, and the central location that Waterford and Cohoes have. Participants were very eager to create better connections between the two towns, and their respective trails. With better connections and attention paid, the area could become a cycling hub on the Empire State Trail system. Other planning projects that could have beneficial impact on local connection were also mentioned, including the Cohoes Boulevard project and CDTC’s Regional Trails Plan.
Bicyclists Bring Business isn’t confined to the September events. The process continues as participants and local stakeholders provide feedback through an online survey. PTNY is in process of drafting a report including next steps for enhancing the local trail network later in the Fall, and then release the final report in early 2019.
Stay tuned to ptny.org/events/bicyclists-bring-business for more information on the planning process, but don’t forget to get over to the Erie and Champlain Canalway Trails while the weather holds – Cohoes and Waterford have lots to offer cyclists!