A river runs through Plattsburgh and joins a lake to a town, and then another town, through our historic city.
It connects our future to our past, and weaves together our county. We have invested much into the Saranac River Trail, and many of us have already enjoyed it for serene walks, pleasant runs or leisurely bike rides.
The Saranac River Trail has just received funding that will allow it to complete Phase II. Mayor Calnon announced that our state has granted $1.6 million to move us closer to the dream of expanding the trail all the way from its current trailhead to Lake Champlain by the MacDonough Monument. It also extends the trail to the Stafford Middle School, which will afford more students the opportunity to safely walk or ride to school.
Eventually, planners hope the trail will go much farther than that. The dream is to bring it beyond SUNY Plattsburgh all the way to the Town of Saranac.
But, that’s not all.
Some committed residents have noticed that the trail could someday allow one to ride a bicycle almost all the way from the Town of Saranac to Grand Isle, Vt. The Route 9 bike trail can take one from the MacDonough Monument to Georgia Pacific along the Fleury Bike Path. Then, from Scomotion Creek, a bike trail extends all the way to the Cumberland Head/Grand Isle Ferry.
We may also have some nice additions along the way.
The bike path would be complete if only cyclists could more easily navigate the short section of Route 9 between Scomotion Creek and the former Lozier luxury car and race car factory on the east side of Georgia Pacific. This short four-lane section of road has a posted speed limit of 30 miles per hour. It is dangerous for cyclists, despite its slow speed, because there are a number of driveways flowing into the street.
Cyclists who move with the traffic are not well seen by cars turning off or turning on to the roadway. And cyclists who illegally use the sidewalk instead are a hazard to the pedestrians who walk into town, or to the parents who stroll with their toddlers on those sidewalks.
The better solution is to create a bike path along that section which could then connect the bike paths on either end of the road. It would probably mean restriping the road from four to three lanes to afford a narrow lane on each side for bicycles traveling north or south respectively. The third middle lane could then afford a safer passing and turning lane for cars.
Of course, those who drive that route regularly and cannot imagine bicycling may take offense at a four-lane 30-mph route that is constricted to a three-lane 30 mph route. Studies would have to be done to ensure that these drivers will still be able to navigate that route even at the most congested times with little or no delay. We function best as a community when we can figure out how to make things much better for one group without making them much worse for another.
Change is sometimes difficult to advocate, though. We often realize the benefits only very slowly as such improvements allow us to become a more active and, ultimately, a more health conscious community. Those who might decide to move here because we have such attractions as an amazing bike bath, a glorious downtown, an exciting Strand Theater and accessible lakefront (someday) are, of course, excluded from the debate. It is up to visionaries who can imagine the Saranac River Trail, or the Strand Theater, or a revitalized beach to enthuse us all about this region’s almost unbounded potential.
I predict we will soon have this complete package, including a Max Moore Treehouse so disabled children can also enjoy the riverfront. A few days ago, I went to one of the gatherings of the Plattsburgh Revitalization Project and I noted that, a few years ago, it might have been difficult to get even a few people out on such a cold night to talk about what might someday be. The room was packed. And the time is right.
Colin Read chairs the finance and economics faculty at SUNY Plattsburgh and has published a dozen books on global and local finance and economics.