Saratoga Springs is moving forward with a plan to expand a system of bike trails in the city. But not all neighbors are pleased. WAMC’s Southern Adirondack Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports time is ticking on the project.
On Tuesday night, a handful of Saratoga Springs residents against an expansion of the city’s trail network along Geyser Road addressed the city council.
Beth Sirianni is concerned about the busy traffic along the road.
“I’m against the proposed Geyser Road trail as it stands today. I firmly believe the safety of our community is of upmost concern.”
Those opposed to the route being pursued by the city, connecting Route 50 to the Town of Milton, have suggested an alternate route. Two businesses along Geyser Road have said they would let the city build the trail on their property.
Jeff Vukelic of beverage distributor Saratoga Eagle also spoke at the microphone.
“I am therefore asking you to hold on taking any action tonight until we have an opportunity to obtain additional information about the alternative plan, complete a more fulsome engineering assessment, and sit down with the council to finally discuss the option,” said Vukelic.
The companies submitted an engineering study on the alternate route on Tuesday hours before the council meeting, but city leaders are passing on the idea.
Mayor Joanne Yepsen said the city would consider the alternative as a supplement to the Geyser Road trail, which is part of a 23-mile network of trails nicknamed the Saratoga Greenbelt Trail. The city is set to begin construction soon on a downtown connector trail.
On Tuesday, the city council voted to accept the donation and purchase of property along the route.
But three property owners — the Village of Ballston Spa, the owners of the Saratoga Bottling plant, and one family — are holding out.
Outgoing Mayor Yepsen said the parties aren’t budging.
“Finally, a letter was sent saying ‘This is what our three appraisals have offered to us. We must follow this by federal and state law. We can offer you X for this amount of your property,” said Yepsen.
The city reserves the right to make eminent domain claims to seize the land for the trail, totaling about a half acre, if no agreement is reached.
The Geyser Road section itself is being supported by more than $3 million in grant funding. That money runs out if the project is not put to bid soon. The trail has been discussed and debated by city leaders for more than a decade.
But using eminent domain for a bike path doesn’t sit well with some neighbors, including Tara Sullivan.
“I don’t feel that’s an important cause to take peoples’ property.”
Especially, she says, if alternatives are being proposed.
But the city is moving ahead, with construction set to be completed next year.
Mayor Yepsen said she hopes the city can avoid a lawsuit with the hold-outs.
But she emphasized the progress and support from many residents, including several non-profits, on the Greenbelt Trail concept.
“And we’re being extremely successful with funding for this and the Downtown Connector piece of that Greenbelt Trail is going to start this fall, right outside City Hall here. And the Geyser Road trail is one additional piece to that puzzle,” said Yepsen.