Schoharie Gateway Rails to Trails Project Begins Today

Hiking Path to Encourage Tourism, Promote Future Efforts
November 30, 2009
Today, Assemblyman Pete Lopez (R-C-I, Schoharie), Mayor John Borst and a host of other project supporters joined to mark the official trail breaking for the Schoharie Gateway Rails To Trails Project.

The trail project, which starts today, will build a pedestrian/biking trail (greenway) along a part of the abandoned grade of the Middleburgh/Schoharie railroad, in the area known locally as the Schoharie Gateway.

A multi-year volunteer effort, the project was initially pursued through a grant written by Assemblyman Pete Lopez and Nancy Kelly to the NYS Department of Transportation. With the active support of Senator Jim Seward, Supervisor Martin Shrederis and the Schoharie Town Board, Mayor John Borst & the Village of Schoharie, Matt & Terri Fagnani, Schoharie Main Street Committee, Schoharie Land Trust, Schoharie County Soil & Water Conservation District, Schoharie County Chamber of Commerce, DEC Region 4 Open Space Advisory Committee, and the Schoharie Recreation Commission the proposal was successfully approved, along with a project to improve the Schoharie Village downtown core – the Village project was completed in the fall of 2009.

“The trail project is an amazing grassroots effort which will make use of donated lands and volunteer services to serve as a demonstration project for opening up the Schoharie Valley for recreation and tourism”, said Assemblyman Pete Lopez, who has worked on the effort for almost five years as the project coordinator. “We’ve learned many lessons in moving the project to this point, and are hopeful it can serve as a model for future efforts in Schoharie County, and across the region.”

Schoharie Supervisor Martin Shrederis and the Town Board serve as sponsors, and have worked steadily to advance the project. Working with Matt and Terri Fagnani, the Town secured conservation easements offered to the Town as part of the original approval of the Schoharie Business Park.

“This has been a long time coming - almost five years from the day we awarded the grant on December 30, 2004, to reaching the point of being shovel ready on November 30, 2009”, said Schoharie Supervisor Martin Shrederis. “I’d like to thank those involved from the start of this project, those donating their time, and the Fagnani’s for giving the easement. This will be a great walkway for the people of the Schoharie Valley.”

The project originated from broad-based planning efforts sponsored by the Schoharie Main Street Committee, which continues to pursue a regional strategy to strengthen tourism and recreational opportunities along the Schoharie Creek Corridor. This initial effort focused on the Schoharie Valley Gateway off of the Central Bridge/Schoharie Exit of I-88, and is a follow-up to work recently completed in the Village of Schoharie’s downtown core.

“While different in scope, both the lighting and pedestrian improvements in the downtown core and this project are related,” observed Schoharie Mayor John Borst. “Improvements like this add up. The more we can offer along the corridor, the more folks we’ll be able to attract, from both a quality of life and a local tourism perspective.”

Both the trail and the Schoharie Village sidewalk & lighting project (completed last year) were based on the Schoharie Comprehensive Plan, the recommendations of the 1998 NYS Open Space Conservation Plan, as well as targeted studies conducted by the NY Planning Federation and SUNY Albany’s Graduate School of Geography and Planning, which highlighted the community’s desire to maintain the historic and scenic character of the region, while opening up recreational opportunities along Schoharie Creek.

Critical project support also was provided with funding from the New York Power Authority, as well as professional and technical services from Lamont Engineering, Snyder Surveying, Attorney Raynor Duncombe and Delaware Engineering for archeological reviews, wetlands mapping and flood plain delineation.

The project will consist of an over one-and-a-half mile pedestrian/biking trail, which will run primarily southeast along the Schoharie Creek following the abandoned railroad grade and connecting the Schoharie Land Trust fishing access point on NYS Route 7 with lands adjacent to the Schoharie Business Park, including a planned community garden.

The trail will be 10 feet wide with a topcoat of crusher run for a hard surface to allow for handicapped accessibility. The Schoharie Recreation Commission will assume maintenance of the trail. No fees will be charged for the use of the trail.

Some of the benefits of the Gateway Pedestrian/Biking Trail include:

  • Preservation of the abandoned railway corridor;
  • Public education through the use of interpretive signs highlighting the role of the Schoharie Valley Railroads in the 19th and early 20th centuries;
  • Prudent use of conservation easements to provide recreational opportunities for local residents and tourists: nature walks, fishing, biking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and boating.

Project Coordinator Pete Lopez, working closely with Town Councilman, Alan Tavenner and Schoharie SWCD Director, Steve Hoerze, has brought on new partners since the project was first proposed. Capital Region BOCES and Schoharie Central School students will be assisting with trail development and signage, the Cave Country Snow Riders, Inc. have donated a single span footbridge, Camp Summit inmates also will be tapped to help with certain phases of the project, and the Schoharie County Conservation Association will be seeking to augment the project by developing a boat launch along the trail.

The proposed trail is an important first step in showing the feasibility of such a project through the Schoharie Valley and encouraging continued support. The community hopes to follow-up with similar projects along the abandoned railroad grade through the Village of Schoharie and into the Village of Middleburgh, possibly connecting with a restored Depot in Schoharie and terminal in Middleburgh.

It’s expected that work will continue this winter as long as weather conditions permit and will pick back up after the spring rains. If all goes as planned, the trail may be open in time to enjoy the fall foliage next year.

“We’re excited!” concluded Assemblyman Pete Lopez. “While there have been many hurdles, we’ve gained strong support across the county and are finally ready to move forward.”