VALATIE—According to the latest update from the Albany-Hudson Electric Trail (AHET), “There is no public access to the AHET Trail at this time.”
But that could change very soon. There is a lot of activity on the 36-mile walking and biking trail that runs through Columbia and Rensselaer counties, mostly along the old trolley rail bed now owned by National Grid.
Empire State Trail Director Andy Beers says construction of the trail remains on track to be completed by mid-November.
The AHET has sections in the county towns of Greenport, Stockport, Stuyvesant, Kinderhook and Chatham as well as the villages of Kinderhook and Valatie. Work is currently underway along a section in the Village of Valatie that includes upgrades to the crosswalk on Main Street. According to the Facebook page for Columbia Friends of the Electric Trail (CFET), a not-for-profit group that helps maintain the trail in the county, the “opening of the Electric Trail from River Street, Valatie, through the Village of Kinderhook to Stuyvesant Falls expected soon!”
CFET President Ron Rich said that the work on the trail is exciting and “folks are chomping at the bit” to get on it.
Mr. Beers said in an email in mid-August, “We are nearing completion on a 5-mile section of the trail in Columbia County” but he said they were weeks out from being ready to announce a formal date for opening the first trail section.
The trail is part of the larger Empire State Trail system that, when finished, will create a 750-mile biking and walking trail from New York City to Canada and from Albany to Buffalo. Mr. Rich said the local trail is technically a state park.
The AHET is a $35- to $45-million state project coordinated by the Hudson River Valley Greenway. In November 2017, the Greenway was granted the right to plan, design and construct the trail by National Grid. Construction was awarded to A. Colarusso & Son for the 19 miles of trail in Columbia County and work started in May 2019.
Representatives from the Greenway held several local meetings in the county and met in person with residents, starting in 2017. Residents in the hamlet of North Chatham, as well as in the town of Kinderhook and the Village of Valatie, held meetings with Mr. Beers and trail designers during the last two years. There was also a public hearing on the project at the Ichabod Crane High School in March of 2018.
At the local meetings, residents expressed concern about the changes to the roadways. In North Chatham the plan included making a T-intersection at the intersection of routes 203 and 32. Work has not started on that intersection. But in Valatie, the intersection of Main Street and Kinderhook Street (Route 9) was changed, taking out an exit lane for traffic that was a problem for the crosswalk.
Other work has included adding signs and flashing lights at several of the crosswalks. A bridge was built over the Valatie Kill outside of North Chatham and a culvert was installed near Stuyvesant Falls. Trail construction in Stockport and Greenport started this January.
As for maintaining the trail once construction is complete, the Greenway “retains financial responsibility for future capital rehabilitation and repairs,” according to the maintenance plan posted on the AHET website. Those may include “resurfacing asphalt and stone dust, replacing safety fencing that is damaged or ages out, maintaining bridges installed as part of the project, replacing missing trail signage, repair of any washouts or culvert failures that may occur.”
‘We are nearing completion on a 5-mile section of the trail in Columbia County.’
Andy Beers, director
Empire State Trail
During the spring of each year, the Greenway will complete an annual “end-to-end inspection of the trail to identify any needed capital repairs, and will also respond to any site-specific capital issues as they arise over the course of the year.”
Although the Greenway is responsible for the cost of the trail’s long-term maintenance, the plan says, “the Greenway does not have on-the-ground trail maintenance staff or capacity. As such… the Greenway is requesting the consent and approval of National Grid to contract with local governments and interested non-profit organizations to assume the Greenway’s responsibility for routine maintenance of off-road sections of the trail.”
The Greenway estimates the annual cost of maintaining those sections of the AHET is approximately $825 to $1,675 per mile.
Mr. Rich said CFET has a signed contract with the Greenway to maintain about 13 ½ miles of the trail in the county. He stressed that the volunteers who will do the mowing along the edge of the trail and other maintenance, will have comprehensive training. The group has equipment and currently 88 members. They continue to meet monthly, vitally during the pandemic. CFET’s funding comes from a grant from the Greenway, fundraising and member dues.
CFET and Kinderhook Rotary are hosting an Octoberfest take-out dinner fundraiser October 10 from 3 to 6 p.m at Samacott’s Garden Market, on Route 9 in Kinderhook. Information is on their website at cfetny.org and their Facebook page.
The former mayor of the Village of Kindehrook, Jim Dunham, voiced the village’s support of the trail and says the village will maintain the section that runs through the municipality. Former Kinderhook Town Supervisor Pat Grattan budgeted for maintenance costs for the trail in the town’s 2020 budget.
Valatie Mayor Diane Argyle says that CFET will maintain the portion of the trail in her village. She said the village still has concerns about the new turning lane at the intersection at Main Street and Route 9, and would like signs on Trolley Lane that say that it is a shared road. The Trolley Lane section of the trail, just outside of River Street Park, is on the road to the village waste water treatment facilities and village vehicles use it as well as walkers and cyclists.
As of 2019, the boards of Chatham, Greenport, Stockport and Stuyvesant had not signed the maintenance agreements with the state.
Information on the trail, with maps and recent updates can be found at https://ahettrail.org
(Reporter and Deputy Publisher Emilia Teasdale owns property that abuts a section of the AHET.)