Got some spare time? The Kingston Greenline needs you! That was the message at the Kingston Land Trust-sponsored Trail Mixer held last Monday night at Immanuel Lutheran Church. More than 25 people, including city alderwomen Deborah Brown (Ward 9) and MaryAnn Mills (Ward 7), attended. Tim Weidemann, co-chair of the KLT’s Greenline committee, presented an overview and update before signing up volunteers for help with cleaning up and maintaining the trail, as well as for community outreach.
The Kingston Greenline is one of the key projects of the Kingston Land Trust (KLT), a nonprofit volunteer organization founded in 2008 to preserve and rehabilitate some of Kingston’s vacant parcels. Another major project of the trust has been the South Pine Street Farm, a quarter-acre urban farm off Greenkill Avenue.
The KLT has been working with the city to transform a mile and a half section of the former Ulster & Delaware rail bed, which connects Jansen Street behind Rondout Savings Bank to the Rondout Creek waterfront, into a bike and pedestrian path. The city has $1.8 million in mostly state grants to fund the trail’s (as well as pay for signage and amenities, including bike lanes) extension into Midtown Kingston at one end and the Kingston Point Hudson River waterfront at the other. Stone dust was put down adjacent to the functioning trolley tracks at Kingston Point last fall, finally making the rail bed, which offers some magnificent views of the Hudson, walkable.
A big question has been the status of the trail under the administration of newly elected Mayor Steve Noble. Kristen Wilson, formerly a project director and educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension Ulster County, has just been appointed the city’s grants manager and will oversee the funding for the trail. According to an e-mail from Megan Weiss-Rowe, director of communications and community engagement for the city, the city will be working with its numerous partners on the Greenline to prepare an update of the complex project, including its next steps. The surface material for the mile and a half trail, which was scheduled to be installed this year (all the rails and ties have been removed), has not been determined.
While grant money has paid for the removal of the rails and ties, some of the clearing, and planning, much of the work on the trail has been a volunteer effort, from the initial lobbying by Weidemann and other KLT members to create the trail to some of the clearing and clean up. Weidemann explained that the on-going and future maintenance of the trail will be overseen by the KLT and is entirely dependent on volunteers.
The KLT is “the channel to help organize and oversee the volunteers,” an effort that’s gotten a boost from certain groups, including United Health Care employees, a youth group, a group of local realtors, and most especially the Bruderhof, who’ve been overseeing the maintenance so far.
“They have the skills and equipment, but what keeps them motivated are other volunteers,” Weidemann said.
And it’s not just for clearing brush, installing the five counters (machines that will keep track of the number of trail users) as well as downloading the data, removing the broken bottles on the 9W bridge overpass (which has become a popular hangout for teens) as well as other trash and digging holes for signposts; people are also needed to attend meetings in the city that have some connection to the trail. (Weidemann said the Greenline reps should be attending “16 meetings a month and we make about eight of them.”) Also needed are volunteers to contribute to the blog, hand out flyers to residents and help plan and staff events, including monthly walking tours and two bike tours.
A trail of many parts
The Greenline is unusual, at least in Ulster County, in that it is an urban trail, which entails many moving parts. It refers not just to the in-city rail trail currently under construction but also a proposed network of links that would transform Kingston into the hub of Ulster County’s existing rail trails, which have proved to be popular places to hike and bike. Here’s a summary:
As noted, the mile-and-a-half “Rondout Section” is furthest in development. The city-owned trail starts on Jansen Street, goes behind Rondout Savings Bank, passes under an 800-foot tunnel, crosses over Route 9W on a bridge and shimmies past numerous back yards to the east of Delaware Avenue before curving around the Rondout Gardens public housing project and thence down to East Strand and the Rondout Creek. From there, it’s connected by bike lanes and sidewalks to the newly created stone-dust path paralleling the trolley tracks at Kingston Point. The design of the trail, including signage, the redesign of several crosswalks and benches, trash baskets and plantings, is currently being completed by consultancy Saratoga Associates, according to Weidemann.
From Kingston Point, the trail will be extended up North Street to link with a promenade along the Hudson River on land owned by developer AVR (AVR agreed to construct the mile-long walkway in partnership with the city prior to building its development but the terms are apparently still under negotiation).
From its termination behind Rondout Savings Bank, the trail will be extended up Broadway, linking into the “Building a Better Broadway,” the effort to beautify and make more efficient the city’s main drag, for which Ulster County and the city have received $2 million in state grants. The project includes improved street crossings and a dedicated bike lane.
The bike lane has been controversial, due to fears by local business people it would reduce parking; Weidemann said in the latest version, which needs to be approved by the state Department of Transportation, the separate dedicated lane would occupy only the wider, four-lane section of Broadway and would have no impact on parking. Where Broadway narrows, at Grand Street, the bike lane would be shifted into a bike sharrow along Prince, Hasbrouck, Foxhall, Ten Broeck and Cornell, to where it connects with Broadway. Once the DOT has approved the plan, there will be a series of public hearings about the proposal. Construction will begin this year.
Saratoga Associates has also been working on the extension of the trail into Midtown’s side streets. The idea is to encourage pedestrian and bike traffic off the Broadway corridor along the cross streets, of which Cornell, the location of large artists’ housing complexes in two converted factories, constitutes the major corridor. Grants from the states and Central Hudson amounting to $1.8 million are paying for the design and the bike sharrow as well as park benches, plantings, and other amenities. Construction is scheduled to begin this year.
Heading Uptown, Ulster County is spearheading restoration of the abandoned U&D rail bed, which parallels Broadway from Cornell Street and extends under the Albany Avenue/I-587 interchange to Kingston Plaza, following the expiration of the lease of the tracks to the Catskill Mountain Railroad in May. The county is currently acquiring the rights-of-way for the privately owned property. The project, known as the Kingston Rail Trail, is being funded by a $2 million grant from the state Department of Conservation, with construction scheduled for 2017, according to Weidemann.