In the next three years, a multitude of hikers and long-distance cyclists may join the throngs that already crowd Lower Manhattan. The administration of Governor Andrew Cuomo plans to create a statewide, 750-mile network of bicycling and walking trails that will begin in Battery Park City and reach the Canadian border.
More than 300 miles of this network already exists, including the 11-mile segment that begins Downtown, at the intersection of West Street and Battery Place, reaching northward to Dyckman Street in upper Manhattan. Elsewhere, the Hudson River Valley Greenway and the Erie Canalway both offer hundreds of miles of easement through scenic and historic countryside upstate. But both of these trails are punctuated by large gaps, and even the section of the trail that begins in Lower Manhattan dead-ends at the Inwood section of Manhattan.
Governor Cuomo proposes to stitch together all of these segments, by creating some 350 miles of new paved and graded trails, that will span uninterrupted from Manhattan north to Lake Champlain, and west to Buffalo.
The project, dubbed the Empire State Trail, would roughly follow the Hudson River north to the Canadian border, with a second branch diverging left from Albany to Lake Erie, along the right of way of the historic Erie Canal. (The initiative is prompted in part by the 200th anniversary of the canal’s opening, in 1817.)
The total cost of completing the trail network is estimated to top $200 million, and the Cuomo administration plans to have it finished (in three phases) by 2020, with $53 million set aside for the coming fiscal year. In addition to land acquisition, much of the budget would be allocated to constructing dozens of small bridges and tunnels, pouring pavement, creating drainage systems, and installing lighting and signage.
“The Empire State Trail, once completed, will be the nation’s largest state multi-use trail network, providing residents and visitors alike unprecedented access to New York’s outdoor treasures, driving tourism and economic activity to communities across the state and helping to protect our environmental resources for generations to come,” Governor Cuomo said in his February 15 State of the State address.
In the same speech, the governor also announced plans for a dedicated website and smartphone app to highlight the state’s current trails and offer information such as directions and points of interest near the trails.