Woodstock town officials are seeking ways to improve pedestrian access and connect to popular recreational trails as part of its Complete Streets initiative.
“We already have a lot of Woodstock residents using the new Ashokan Rail Trail. And they have to get into their cars to do that,” Complete Streets Committee chair Grace Murphy said during an April 13 presentation to the Town Board.
“What we would like to do is to work on things to link it so that people do not have to get in a car,” Murphy said.
“You could use a bike, for example, to get from one path to another and to get from the village to the regional path.”
The committee is also trying to address the lack of convenient parking and how improved planning can alleviate it.
“We feel that the act of parking a vehicle is inextricably linked to where a person is going and what they’re going to do after they park. Therefore, we feel that parking can’t be improved without also improving where and how people move around outside their cars,” committee member Rahm Rechtschaffen said.
An accessibility, parking and sidewalks subcommittee will examine conditions in the commercial district and make recommendations for improvement, he said. As part of that, a parking inventory is in the works.
“We’re still in the process of completing this map. But eventually we hope to identify all the parking in town broken down by types, public and private with handicapped spaces as well,” Rechtschaffen said.
“We plan to make a similar map showing sidewalk conditions and that also includes crosswalks, curb cuts and other relevant features,” he added.
“After the mapping is complete, we will identify the best ways to make upgrades. We plan to create recommendations that we can present to the Town Board for improving parking and walking in town.”
A paths and trails subcommittee will evaluate the existing network of trails and make recommendations for improvements.
“We will identify individual projects that will most improve our trail network and research ways of bringing those projects to fruition. We plan to bring potential projects to the Town Board with timetables, potential parks, partnerships and funding options,” Rechtschaffen said.
“Some examples of the types of trails we are looking at are a trail connecting the hamlet of Woodstock to the hamlet of Bearsville so that people don’t have to walk on Route 212 and a trail connecting Woodstock to the Ashokan Rail Trail.”
An outreach and communication subcommittee plans to hold community meetings to engage the public and gain information, Rechtschaffen said. “We also plan to create a complete streets pamphlet for distribution and to use newspapers and social media to engage with the community.”
Councilman Lorin Rose recalled such a trail existed between Woodstock and Bearsville, but it was back in a time when private property owners were a bit more forgiving.
“There was a trail that went from town, all the way up to Bearsville and came up along the Sawkill,” Rose said. “And it came out right up past the dog park and to Rick Volz field. But that was in the days when people weren’t afraid that if somebody crossed their property, they were going to fall down and get hurt and sue them, so I think that’s in the past.”
Murphy said the committee is trying to revive some of the old trails.
“Maybe people will be willing to, if it seems like something the whole community is doing, to allow people to move around more freely,” Murphy said.
“Oh, I think that would be great. But I’m not optimistic,’ Rose said.
“You know, as kids, we just followed the deer trails. We never went on the road. But I don’t see it happening again. But I’m hoping I’m wrong.”
Committee member Kevin Smith said he is aware of the old social trails, or legacy trails that Rose remembers. He said as properties have changed hands, many of these old trails have been lost because the new owners don’t feel the same way about people crossing their land.
Rechtschaffen noted funding is available for recreating such trails and it would be worth researching.
“So our job is to research the feasibility. And if a trail like that is feasible, we’ll bring it to the Town Board with a plan for how to go out to try and make it happen,” Rechtschaffen said.
“If it’s something we find isn’t going to work, then we’ll move on to a different one.”