KIRKLAND — The Kirkland Trails NY committee has now received a permit from the state to go ahead and develop the historic Chenango Canal Trail for recreational use following an effort that’s taken close to a year.
Crews from the Town of Kirkland Highway Department will soon be out mowing and leveling the 2.5 mile trail to prepare it to eventually be covered by stone dust.
“We’re very excited we got the permit,” said Sharon Williams, president of the Kirkland Trails Board of Directors.
Kirkland Town Board passed a resolution back at its monthly meeting June 10 that would allow use of the Kirkland Trails for recreational trails.
It was then that the town board reached an agreement with the state Department of Transportation that would allow the town to use the Kirkland trails for recreational purposes, such as walking, running and biking.
But what originally put a snag in the process was that committee and town officials didn’t realize that the portion of the trail that would be developed is entirely state owned, when originally it was believed they would need to seek landowner permission from owners of nearby property for use and development of the trail system.
At first, “it wasn’t clear what the state owned around there,” Williams said. “But then we realized it was entirely state owned and not owned by the landowners.”
It’s Kirkland Trails’ mission to develop a network of connected multi-use trails, paths and bike lanes in Kirkland to provide the community with safe routes for recreational transportation, as well as opportunities to learn about local history and the natural environment of the area.
Some amenities planned for the trail include benches, mileage markers, a bike repair and air station, pavilion/shelter, solar light posts and historical signage. Williams said it’s the goal of committee members to eventually have the 2.5-mile Kirkland trail connect to the Town of Marshall Towpath Trail. The Kirkland trail, known as the Chenango Canal Towpath Trail, runs from the intersection of Routes 12B and 233 through Dugway Road, south to Route 315.
As for development, “The first step is for the town Highway Department to get the trail in shape — smooth it out and get rid of any low spots where water could gather — and mow,” Williams said. “We want a parking area established at Dugway Road, which is about midway in the trail. We thought about having parking at the Route 12B and Route 233 intersection, but that can be a dangerous curve” with much traffic.
With “full support from the town,” the Board of Directors president said the committee is ready to move forward with forming community partnerships that could lead to the development of historical signage marking the trail, as well as some markers identifying plant and animal life that is known to inhabit the area.
A biology professor at Hamilton College, Sharon’s husband, Ernest H. Williams Jr., hopes to reach out to Matt Perry, conservation director over at Spring Farm CARES, and team up for a study of the trail to identify different species — an effort that may include some environmental studies majors from the college. They also hope for a partnership with Wade Lallier, president of Clinton Historical Society, for signs that would describe a brief history of the land that includes the historic Erie Canal, Chenango Canal and abandoned O&W Railroad (Chenango Railroad) bed.
Now the Kirkland Trails NY committee needs to come up with drawings and a planned site route for a “community adventure” that will connect the town with a network of safe, recreational trails and paths, Williams said. Although funding to support the trail has not yet been received, the Kirkland Trail has received sponsorship from the Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties, she said.
“We hope one day to connect the trail with a network that would lead to the Philip A. Rayhill Memorial Trail (in New Hartford) and Erie Canalway Trail, but that’s years ahead of us yet,” Williams said.
But as the town now prepares for development of the 2.5-mile trail, Williams said the committee hopes that it will be ready and available for use by walkers, runners and cyclists by the latter part of the fall. Eventually the committee hopes the trail would be open to cross country skiing and snow shoeing during the winter months.
“We hope that people can now start to get excited about this, and help us make this real,” said Williams, adding that Kirkland Trails NY has been a fixture at the Clinton Farmers Market for the past two seasons, offering brochures and information about its trail plans. Other members of the Board of Directors are Chip Bassett, vice-president; Chris Ceely, treasurer; Sandy Scofield, secretary; Jim Bramley; Kathy Collett; Assemblyman Chad Davis, D-14, Clinton; Joe Gale; and Gerry Gogel.
Williams said community members who wish to support the trail system can make a tax deductible donation to the Community Foundation, where Kirkland Trails NY will receive 90 percent of the proceeds. Checks should be made payable to the Community Foundation of HOC with Kirkland Trails in the memo. Or donations may be made directly to Kirkland Trails, with the organization receiving 100 percent of the proceeds. Checks may be mailed to Kirkland Trails, c/o The Community Foundation of HOC, 2608 Genesee St., Utica, N.Y. 13502. Donations may also be made online at www.foundationhoc.org/kirklandtrails.