I’m writing about the bicycle-pedestrian path improvements proposed for Henry W. DuBois Drive (HWD) in New Paltz. Several letters in the August 12 edition of Hudson Valley One and several people cited in an accompanying article make unfounded accusations. While I feel an absolute sympathy for people who see the project as an intrusion on their lives and property and feel their voices need to be heard, I believe their wilder assertions cannot go unchallenged.
• The trees will not be “clear cut.” The proposed selective cutting of trees and shrubs is not an “atrocity.” Public hearings will demonstrate this. The project budget allocates funds to replace and replant vegetation, with guidance from property owners about their landscaping. Hedges will bloom again. Trees will rise.
• A bike-ped path cannot run along Main Street, the major western access to Exit 18 of the New York State Thruway and a sea of motor vehicles during the peak tourist season.
• The trees that will be removed are not worth $2 million. I own 40 acres thick with old hardwoods and softwoods in another state. Over the years, two appraisals of the value of the wood have come in at a tiny fraction of $2 million.
• Neil Bettez is neither “a tree executioner” nor “a sadist.” Unfortunately, in 2020, such ludicrous calumny has to be called for the BS it is.
• One letter refers to the use by “out-of-towners” of New Paltz’s proposed bike-ped amenity. This must be New Paltz-ese for “keep out them there furriners.” The beauty of the Empire State Trail and the network of Ulster County bike-ped trails expanded under Mike Hein’s administration is not simply that they provide healthful access to the outdoors for all New Yorkers and out-of-state visitors, but that it is an economic engine. New Paltz will derive economic benefit from safer bike-ped access to HWD. The path will make walking and biking safer and more pleasant for the residents of HWD themselves. Property values will go up and their owners’ assets will be protected. Just imagine how the listings will tout the protected path as a gem for potential buyers. This is what happened with the Wallkill Valley rail-trail.
I’m qualified to comment about the project because I chaired the New Paltz Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee from 2009 to 2015. I was involved in early planning for placing bicycle lanes on HWD.
Town supervisor Susan Zimet tried to secure funds for this project. She persuaded senator Charles Schumer to speak in front of the North Putt Corners firehouse on Earth Day 2014, in advance of the next round of federal allocations for this kind of infrastructure. I sat in on discussions in advance of applying for that money. At the time, funding went to the final section of the Hudson Valley rail-trail, bringing it to South Road near Lowe’s.
When we didn’t get the grant, on his own initiative highway superintendent Chris Marx installed bicycle improvements on HWD as part of the road’s normal maintenance cycle. Judy Mage, a long-term member of the bike-ped committee, went walking with Chris as he measured the road. One homeowner, having seen too many near misses, told her that he’d even give up some of his lawn to make the road safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
I could cite many other examples of community efforts over years for local bike-ped improvements, not least of which are the widened, bike-ped shoulders on South Putt Corners Road. The proposal for HWD will be even better, with barriers protecting non-motorized users from motor traffic.
I’m also qualified to comment on the signs that read, “Who will speak for the trees?” I’ve read The Lorax aloud innumerable times to my three children. Whenever my wife, my children and I use our bicycles to get from Point A to Point B under our own steam, we speak for the trees.
We finally have the funding for an amenity that communities all over the world take as normal. The recent unveiling of the project means that New Paltz is now at the public consultation stage. All concerns will be heard. Let’s solve these tough problems as a community and not as adversaries.