Press-Republican

December 18, 2013

Pilot recreation trail in the works

By DENISE A. RAYMO
Press-Republican

---- — MALONE — A pilot recreational trail will be created between Chateaugay and Malone, using easements obtained by the Franklin County Recreational Trails Association.

The project could be eligible for funding and may lead to a county-wide multi-use system within the next two to five years, officials say.

50 EASEMENTS SET

Chastity Miller, director of the county’s Soil and Water Conservation District, is coordinating the effort for the association. She said 50 private easements have been secured for the full-service trail so far.

Those parcels cover 250 to 300 acres, “but we have no trail laid out at this time because we do not have enough easements,” she said.

Those secured so far will allow the group to develop the pilot trail “because a majority of the easements are in the Chateaugay area,” Miller said.

The association knew that securing permission from property owners to allow outdoor enthusiasts to pass across their land would be a tough battle, but it is compounded in Franklin County because “we don’t have any forestland,” Miller said. “That’s why we’re working hard on the private easements.”

EYEING GRANTS

Gaining easements is a key to building the foundation for a full-fledged trail system that would be eligible for government programs.

“We’re funded with private donations and sportsmen’s clubs and are working with Franklin All-Terrain Riders, but we can’t get grants unless we have a trail plan,” Miller said, adding that St. Lawrence County was recently awarded $500,000 for trail development.

A pilot trail would be eligible for such grant funding, but she said the association first has to rough out a sketch showing where its existing easements are, find where adjacent easements are needed “to identify our holes” and then partner with the owners.

ACCESS, TRAIL WORK

The easement agreement gives the association access to map, plan and develop a trail system and permission to make minor changes to the land, such as moving rocks, dirt, stumps, trash, fallen trees or limbs and scrub trees.

Owners would allow trail signage and warning markers on their land, heavy equipment to be used and simple construction to take place, such as adding water fords, bridges and water-flow and erosion-control devices.

The property owner retains full use of the land and is held blameless for damages, liability and the cost of any claims for property damage, personal injury or death.

IMPACT STATEMENT

At the same time work on the pilot-trail plan is starting, the association is developing a general Environmental Impact Statement since it will be part of the process the State Department of Environmental Conservation will require to open a trail.

As the trial mapping starts, it will take into account any sensitive habitats, wetlands and conservation - preserve lands.

Miller said the Trail Association may need help from the County Legislature to become included in plans being formulated by the Tourism Advisory Committee, which determines how allocated tourism dollars are spent in Franklin County.

And she recently worked with the county’s Industrial Development Agency on a consolidated-funding application for $300,000 through the North Country Regional Economic Development Council for tourism promotion.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

“Even though we don’t have any trails in place here, it will be a tourist destination,” Miller said, adding that the economic impact of ATV users alone was $642 million last year across New York.

Local ATVs owners spend an average of $43 a day on their sport, she said, which could add up to $110,000 a year “just from residents.”

And with visitors coming to use a designated trail, Miller said, “the revenue potential is substantial.”

Email Denise A. Raymo:draymo@pressrepublican.com