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Monday, February 15, 2010

Use Issues Continue on NCT/ Link Trail

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by Al Larmann, excerpted from the Central New York Chapter NCTA newsletter, Jan 31, 2010

NY Parks has title to the right-of-way lands of the former Lehigh Valley RR between Bingley Road near Chittenango Falls State Park and a point south of Canastota, except for former RR property in the greater Perryville area owned privately. Following significant planning and related work by us, development of part of their lands as a foot trail was permitted to us in 2001, with the remaining lands permitted to us in 2006. Establishing the North Country/Link Trail was a challenge—both in terms of the value of labor contributed, donations from a number of sources, a RTP grant, and funding from both the National Park Service and NCTA HQ. The total for the 2001-2007 span approximated $296,700, with work ongoing since then for maintenance purposes.

A composite of political pressures we deemed to be without merit and an initiative within NY Parks resulted in their imposing upon us a one year “horse use pilot evaluation” on the trail section between Nelson Road and the trailhead access at Oxbow Road in August 2008. The “horse use” advocates subsequently stated in a wide distribution broadcast letter that weather conditions had limited their use of the authorized trail segment; in addition, they requested access to additional segments of the trail that are demonstratively unsuited for any purpose other than foot-travel—evidence to support this concern was supplied to NY Parks.

In mid December, CNY representatives met with County Planners. The results:
The “horse use pilot plan” evaluation by NY Parks resulted in a no significant impact judgment. Since horse use had been restricted by its supporters by choice, we term the results to be inconclusive and will continue our monitoring accordingly. Available data show that a basic incompatibility exists between significant horse traffic and foot-travel use on single path trails, particularly when drainage is an issue.

Snowmobile use— Several hikers had been told by local sources that snowmobile use was a “done deal”. These reports were reinforced- a use permit had been requested by a local snowmobile club and that a decision would be made shortly. A few days later, we were notified that a permit had been issued to the Tri-Valley Snowmobile Club with an effective date of January 1.

NY Parks set forth stringent conditions for snowmobile usage for the trail segment between Nelson Road and the trailhead at Oxbow Road, including an addendum to the standard snowmobile regulations intended to minimize impact to the trail surface and adjoining properties privately owned. One stipulation, states that “a minimum of 6 inches of packed base must be present for trail to be open for snowmobile use." The section of trail authorized for snowmobile use was inspected on foot on two dates— January 10 and 17. The 10th was a cold day, a modest amount of snow was present— snow depth on the trail surfaces traveled by the snowmobile was only an inch or so in most areas. The 17th was warmer, with air temperatures above 32F. Many areas of the trail had no snow cover at all. Snowmobiles were using the trail. Also, damage to the gates at Nelson Road was extensive. Photographs documenting these conditions were taken and supplied to Tom Goetzmann, our designated NY Parks contact, for his appraisal.

We accept that NY Parks owns the lands involved and can dictate its permitted uses. We also acknowledge that snowmobile based recreation is a major factor. NY Parks and others often cite the benefits of multiple use trails. We concur that compatible uses on trails that are properly sized, constructed accordingly, and used properly offer benefits. However, some uses are not compatible.

Our intent is to continue to perform per the terms of the permit issued to us to provide a foot trail that brings to its users a sense of solitude, escape from the pressures of a noise laden society, and healthful exercise as a bonus. We request that the task of overseeing trail management of those segments with basically conflicting uses and sharply different personal philosophies held by the user groups be pursued on a pro-active basis by NY Parks on an open basis.

This segment is on NCTA map TNY-04

See Central New York Chapter NCTA


Mike Duchek said...

Well not to mention the fact that I think hiking on a trail designated for snowmobile use would be pretty dangerous.

Here in Wisconsin, snowmobiling is very big and a large part of the winter economy in the north woods. I don't object to it per se, although I don't think I'll ever understand the appeal of driving a snowmobile as I can't see how you're enjoying nature (or anything) that way. But in the past years we've had big problems not only with alcohol-related snowmobile crashes and fatalities, but also had a series of incidents with snowmobilers running over wildlife (ducks and deer), and some of these people were never caught. Of course the snowmobiling associations realized how bad this made them look and condemned it, but I am sure some of these guys are still out there.

So it's hard to understand why these officials wouldn't understand how multiple use trails, especially when you're sharing it with motorized vehicles (not just bicycles), could all but negate the enjoyment that hikers are seeking, not to mention presenting a danger.

I will say though that it would be nice to see a greater effort to promote winter hiking, which can be a nice experience with or without snow shoes. I actually hiked a segment in northern WI 2 weeks ago and very much enjoyed it (I put some of the photos up on the NCT page on Wikipedia, which I wish more people would do as there were previously none), but it was clear that I was the last one to have been there in a while. A segment I hiked of the Ice Age Trail in SE Wisconsin, in contrast, appeared to be getting heavy winter use - at a stop along the trail, someone had put little ornaments on a fir tree along the trail, a very nice touch.

Sharkbytes (TM) said...

Hi Mike- Hikers are always at the bottom of the respect bucket. This particular section is one we may just have to share due to it's placement as the only viable route for many users. But it has been very frustrating because the NCT Chapter has done all of the work to create this option and now everyone wants a piece of it.

Thanks for your comment. Hey send me a bit of text and pic and I'll feature it here.

Mike Duchek said...

OK hope you got the email if not let me know.