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New York is Building the Largest Trail System in the United States: the Empire State Trail


New York is Building the Largest Trail System in the United States: the Empire State Trail

The first thoughts that come to many people’s minds when they hear the words New York are images of Broadway, Wall Street and Times Square. But beyond the towering skyscrapers and bustling streets of New York City are the diverse landscapes of Upstate and Western New York State.

Thanks to a recent $200 million infrastructure investment, New York State has started work on the largest multi-use trail network in the United States, the Empire State Trail. Scheduled for completion in 2020, the Trail will span a total of 750 miles, traveling north form the New York Harbor to the Canadian border and stretching west from the state capital region to Lake Erie.

The completion of the Empire State Trail will also require the completion of two preexisting infrastructure projects in the region: the Hudson River Valley Greenway and the Erie Canalway Trail. [i]

Improving Existing Infrastructure

The Hudson River Valley Greenway and the Erie Canalway Trail are among the most renowned multi-use trails in the United States; however, each suffers from several uncompleted areas that create frustration for people who travel on the trails. As part of the Empire State Trail plan, these paths will be completed and incorporated into the statewide Empire State Trail project.

Currently, improvements to the Erie Canalway Trail are approaching completion, with 80% of the path finished, while the 250 mile Hudson River Valley Greenway is only 50% complete. Both trails will benefit from numerous improvements as part of the Empire State Trail project, including the construction of new paths, bridges and culverts. [ii]

Along with infrastructure improvements, both trails will also benefit from additional funding that will be used to improve public access to local cultural and historic sites, parks and communities. [iii] Some of the grant money for the Hudson River Valley Greenway has already been assigned: $136,000 of the Greenways’ total $254,000 fund has been allocated to 16 projects.

Connecting the Empire State

Both the Hudson River Valley Greenway and the Erie Canalway are proven economic contributors to the communities they pass through. The Hudson River Valley Greenway is credited with generating $21 million in economic impact annually for the communities it touches, thanks to tourists who use the trail and visit local businesses. The economic impact of the Erie Canalway Trail is even greater: 1.5 million people use the Trail each year, generating approximately $253 million in annual revenue for communities in the area.

The economic impact of both trails is expected to grow once the Empire State Trail project is completed, as visitors will be able to travel to many of New York’s State historic sites by foot, bicycle or cross-country skis using the Trail. Some of the sites that the Trail will provide easy access to include:

                On the Hudson River Valley Greenway:

              • Battery Park, NYC
              • Walkway Over the Hudson, Poughkeepsie
              • Olana State Historic Site, Hudson
              • Martin Van Buren National Historic Site, Kinderhook
              • Schodack Island State Park, Schodack Landing
              • Saratoga National Battlefield, Stillwater
              • Fort Ticonderoga, Ticonderoga

                 On the Erie Canalway Trail: 

              • Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Historic Site, Buffalo
              • Buffalo Harbor State Park, Buffalo
              • The Salt Museum on Onondaga Lake, Liverpool
              • The Montezuma National Wild Refuge, Seneca Falls
              • The Great New York State Fair, Syracuse
              • Oriskany Battlefield State Historic Site, Oriskany
              • Fort Stanwix National Monument, Rome

As tourism in the region increases, so will local economic growth. Visitors who come to New York to enjoy the Empire State Trail will be dining at area restaurants and staying at area hotels. Among the largest tourism draws for Upstate and Western New York are the many wineries and breweries in the area that offer tours and tastings. With the increased connectivity provided by the new trail system, small businesses like these stand to benefit from a significant increase in the number of visitors and revenue from tourism.

(Source: New York State. State of the State. State Parks. 2017)

Growing Opportunity across New York

Completing the Empire State Trail and connecting the communities and attractions that neighbor it is a large project. Investments in new and improved infrastructure will be made at both the state and local levels and will encompass a wide variety of projects.

Beyond clearing paths and laying pavement, some sections of the main trail will incorporate disused train tracks, which will require the removal old rails and ties. Signage will need to be designed and installed to guide users of the trail to local attractions and business; lighting, railings and other safety equipment will need to be installed at specific points. Vendor opportunities related to the trail will be ongoing, and the increased visitor traffic and exposure to the elements will require that regular maintenance is performed on trail infrastructure. 

Developing the largest continuous trail system in the United States is no small investment, but the rewards stemming from its completion will be well worth it. People will get to experience the natural beauty and exciting attractions of New York State like never before. As tourism in the region increases, cities and towns will be incentivized to reinvest in their existing infrastructure while also being encouraged to develop new projects to draw more people into their community for years to come.

Kevin McClintock | BidNet.com

[i] State of the State. State Parks. 2017. Governor.ny.gov. Web 27 June 2017

[ii] Empire State Trail. New York State Hudson River Greenway. 2017. hudsongreenway.ny.gov. Web 27 June 2017

[ii] News. New York State Hudson River Greenway. 2016. hudsongreenway.ny.gov. Web 27 June 2017

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Keep up to date with the evolving world of government bidding with tips, best practices, trends, research and observations. Let BidNet’s knowledge and experience work for you.

The Block Island Wind Farm: Renewable Energy in Rhode Island

The Block Island Wind Farm: Renewable Energy in Rhode Island

Just 13 miles off the coast of Rhode Island in the clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean is Block Island, a 9.7 square mile island home to around 1000 people. Named one of the "The Last Great Places" by the Nature Conservancy,
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