FULTON – For the past four years, the city of Fulton has worked to get a system of multi-use trails, and with the pending help from Downtown Revitalization Initiative funding, Phase One has begun.
In an effort to make Fulton more pedestrian friendly, a system of eight trails will connect city parks, points of history and other Fulton landmarks.
“One of the trails, on the East side, is called the Park Trail and that will actually connect all the trails on the East side. But all of the parks in the city are connected in one way or another to the trails,” said Community Development Agency Executive Director Joe Fiumara.
The city had a goal to have more trails in a comprehensive plan from 2003, then a subcommittee resurrected this plan a few years ago.
Brittney Jerred and Marie Mankiewicz, the two main members of Fulton Footpaths, spearheaded the resurfaced plan and worked to get a grant for a feasibility study.
In 2017, Fulton was given a grant to do this feasibility study to develop the eight trails, and it resulted in conceptual drawings for five trails and construction drawings for two downtown trails – Pathfinder Canal Towpath and Bridge Canal View Trails.
“That laid the groundwork for us to be able to apply for Department of State funding through the city,” Jerred said.
Jerred and Mankiewicz were also part of the DRI committee.
According to the DRI application, “A CFA grant of $900,000 was awarded to Fulton by the Department of State and Canal Corporation in December 2018 to construct two multi-use trails. Construction will begin in 2019. With a DASNY grant of $100,000, a stairway from Veteran’s Park to the Pathfinder Canal Towpath Trail will also be constructed in 2019.”
Jerred said a concern about increased drug use on the new trails was brought up during a public meeting, but believes with increased lighting, better access and a larger public presence will diminish possible illicit activities.
“I think right now we’re having that problem more than we would if these were lit up and being used by the public, and you would have more people walking down, you’d have brush cleared so that some activities couldn’t take place so easily,” Jerred said.
The first phase will complete the Bridge Canal View Trail and two-thirds of the Pathfinder Canal Towpath Trail before moving on to the rest of the trail system.
The bidding process is close to starting, but it typically takes some time for bids to return, proposals to return and the Common Council to pass a resolution to accept the bidder. Fiumara said he hopes the construction can start this fall, but a majority of it will not be done until next year.
The cost of seven trail segments is estimated at $5.5 million, according to Fiumara. In the DRI application, it was proposed to give $903,000 of the funding award toward the trails.
“When the state comes in, this might change,” Jerred said. “When you actually have dollars, you have to do things that are going to maximize those investments.”
Although the DRI application outlines proposed projects and how much of the funding could go toward it, a committee still has yet to be formed to evaluate each project and approve it. Fiumara said CDA is preparing for funding gaps in the projects proposed for the DRI by seeking out other grants.
“That could all change based on other funding sources. These are just estimated amounts right now,” Fiumara said. “There may be other types of funding through Empire State Development or through other state and federal funders that offer economic development funding.”
Fiumara said there will be signage along the trails to identify where all the parks and points of interest are, allowing for more awareness and access to hidden destinations.
Friends of Fulton Parks recently built a half mile trail looping around Van Buren Park with some fitness equipment, and the city plans to connect that trail to the system as well.
Kelly Weaver, director for Friends of Fulton Parks, has not seen the construction plans for the system, but thinks the concept of the trails is great.
“[People] can actually get some cardiovascular exercise without worrying about vehicular traffic,” Weaver said. “I think it has a lot of potential to improve recreation and physical exercise in the city.”
The trails system, with benches and lights, will start at Indian Point boat launch and link the parks.
Part of the system, including the trail around Van Buren Park, will be in the sixth ward, where Lawrence Macner is councilor on the Common Council.
He also volunteers some of his time helping to clean up the trails in Fulton. He said they can start to become overgrown, but he and other volunteers trim branches and grass along the trail.
“It’s exciting to me. The city needed something like this,” Macner said. “We’ve got a beautiful resource, this river here. And now we finally have some money to try and take advantage of it.”