Sunday, June 5, 2011

Day 4.146: Albany County Rail Trail

Yesterday afternoon, an hour or so after the opening Saturday festivities had wound up, we drove to Slingerlands to walk the first section of the Albany County Rail Trail. We had a very nice walk along the western two-thirds of the trail and then the kids and Exile #2 went into Delmar to get a cold drink while I walked back for the car.

Converting disused railroad lines into walking/cycling routes seems an obvious choice. They are fairly flat and straight, tend to have good road and river crossings and most importantly they have (theoretically at least) no motor traffic on them. We spoke to one local resident who said her realtor had mentioned this particular conversion when they looked at a house that backed onto the track. That was eleven years ago.

So, it has taken a long time - was it worth it?

Well, let me take that in three parts. First of all, it is a nice walk - it passes some surprisingly wild places and has plenty of interesting plants and animals along it - enhanced for the opening weekend at least by some interpretative signs.  I even spotted a railroad tie (i.e. 'sleeper' for UK readers) even though most evidence of the trail's past has been removed.

(The pictures are all on Flickr)

Secondly, we love the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy who have spearheaded this effort. We have visited several of their plots (Wolf Creek, Phillipinkill and Bennett Hill) and always find them to be appealing and well tended. They have, with extremely limited resources, managed to get this thing off the ground and for that they deserve a huge thank you.

The less good part is that, as local places to hike go, this is not an obvious choice. There are better places nearby to go for a two or four mile hike than here. Unless you live along it, there is little reason to visit.  What this trail would really work as is as a part of a cycling trail network, maybe in time allowing Bethlehem residents to cycle all the way into downtown Albany without fighting for road-space with all the cars. Alas, for now at least, the bicycles have to be left at the entrance.

I hope in time that will change.

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